LIGURIA : THE PARADISE BETWEEN MOUNTAINS AND SEA
This time I've exceptionally decided to write down something about not my trip but the place where I live because I'm really sure that it could be interesting and a nice tips to travel in Italy.
If you don't want to make the usual trip to Rome, Florence and Venezia; if you have already been to Italy and now you want to discover a different Italy, Liguria is a great option =)
Liguria is a coastal region of north-western Italy, where Genoa is the capital. Mountains and cliffs rise loftily out: this is the fascinating landscape that will impress people on their journey through this historically rich and dynamic region. Every single part of this region has numerous historical treasures but I'll just tell you about the part of Liguria where I live and the nearby.
I grew up and I at the moment I live in Chiavari, a town on the Italian Riviera and part of the Tigullio Gulf. The beauty of the city is much enhanced by the churches of the Madonna dell'Orto, San Francesco, and San Giovanni. The historical centre is characterised by typical narrow streets of the town, exactly called caruggi, full of bars and shops and very frequented by young people during the week-ends. No wonder if here you can always find a cheerful and frisky atmosphere ideal for those who are going to amuse themselves.
Furthermore, there is a good promenade, everybody loves going here and chilling out, see the sunset, have a good aperitivo (in summer all bars are open till late) and eat a delicious ice-cream...speaking on which...strongly suggested the Gelateria La Spinola, I think that is one of the best ice cream that I've ever tested in my entire life...trust me!
To be honest, Chiavari is a really pleasant city during summer time rather than the other seasons because it is a quite a safe town where people live quite good, so one day wandering around it is enough to enjoy the beauty of its.
Just 40 km from here there is Genoa: capital of the region, one of the most important ports in the Mediterranean and home to Christopher Columbus, was already a powerful maritime state in the Middle Ages. Today one can find impressive buildings, elegant mansions, and wonderful churches, all of which bear witness to Liguria's glorious past and which blend in perfectly with the modern city.
Genoa is an inviting city, in bloom throughout the year. Its mild climate and favorable location, between the sea and the Apennines, are conducive to a rich, variety of plant life, from the typical Mediterranean shrubland on the coast to beautiful gardens in the city, as well as the oak and beech woods on the mountain tops. On the hillsides and in the parks, olive trees and grapevines coexist splendidly with flowers and herbs, including the region's famously aromatic basil, used to make exquisite local dishes of universal renown, such as pesto sauce.
What should you have to visit in Genoa? First of all: the historic centre!
One of the largest in Europe, Genoa's historic centre unwinds in an intricate maze of alleyways that open unexpectedly onto small squares; the soul of the city lives here in these alleyways, where smells, tastes, and cultures have combined throughout history.
In this dense urban landscape, where the windows are so close they almost touch, architectural styles are layered over one another, with a medieval wall serving as the base of a 14th-century building and Gothic loggias becoming trendy bars: this is a place where the past forms the foundations of the present. In the centre, where time seems to have stood still, noble palaces and splendid churches alternate with historic shops that have been in operation for over 100 years, where local specialities are still prepared according to ancient recipes and handmade objects are crafted with timeless skill.
I suggest you to visit the Cathedral of San Lorenzo, inside which are preserved the Ashes of St. John the Baptist, the patron saint of the city, while in the adjoining Museo del Tesoro - a superlative museum of international fame - sacred treasures tell wonderful stories that border on the legendary: from the Sacro Catino, a grail-like relic from the Last Supper, to the dish on which - so legend has it - the head of John the Baptist was presented, as well as the priceless Croce degli Zaccaria cross and a number of outstanding processional chests.
This is one of those buildings in Genoa that have a distinct Byzantine character and this one combines all the qualities of this type of design and construction. Corkscrew pillars alternate with round and the usual pinkish hues of the stone sometime seem deep and then light and then look like ochre.; depending on the position of the sun. It truly is a remarkably constructed building in a fabulous City. Very rarely open so do not feel disappointed if you miss out. If you like churches, as I do, you will enjoy the beauty of this one.
You can visit Genoa by foot because is not a huge city and than wandering around is pleasant to keep the real italian atmoshere and enjoy all the details of the city!
You can easily reach Genoa's main square, a meeting and gathering place for important city events, is dedicated to Raffaele De Ferrari, the Duke of Galliera, a generous benefactor who donated a considerable sum of money in 1875 towards projects to expand the port. In the centre is a monumental bronze fountain, Piazza De Ferrari is bordered by the side façade of Palazzo Ducale, Teatro Carlo Felice, Palazzo della Regione Liguria, and Palazzo della Nuova Borsa, one of the finest examples of Genoese Art Nouveau (1912). To sit in this Plaza of an evening and gaze at the magnificent Borsa Building that lies at the entrance to the wonderful promenade of Via XX Settembre, is a relaxing experience. There is a helpful tourist office here and myriads of interesting things to do; like checking out all the book stalls that line the off-shoot streets, or have a beer at a bar or a scrummy snack at one of the squillion little outlets that lie in the off streets. This place, like most of Genoa, is for relaxing and taking in the ambience of it all.
Genoa's Palazzo Ducale (Ducal Palace) is one of the city's most prestigious symbols. Its construction began in 1298, when Genoa was asserting its economic power throughout the Mediterranean. The adjoining Palazzo Fieschi was incorporated into the new building, having been purchased by the Republic in 1294; part of the mediaeval building, to which the "Torre del Popolo", or Grimaldina, belongs is still visible today.
Today it has become the beating heart of cultural life in the city, offering a splendid venue for major events and quality exhibitions, as well as housing retail and entertainment facilities.
Teatro Carlo Felice is Genoa's opera house, takes on board the concept of a covered square, with a surface area of 400 square metres in which the theatre provides a perfect link between Galleria Mazzini and Piazza De Ferrari. Traces of the original theatre are evident in the original columns, pronai, a Latin inscription and the terrace overlooking Via XXV Aprile, which can be reached from one of the foyers; the modern-day building has a very compact, geometric shape, over which looks the fly tower, soaring up to a height of about 63 metres in order to house all the stage machinery and set designs. The exterior is built in stone, plaster and iron, while the interiors are adorned with marble and wood. Over the years, the stage of the Teatro Carlo Felice has been graced by the most important conductors and orchestras from all over the world, as well as prestigious dance companies and the stars of international contemporary jazz and easy listening music.
If you have time don't miss to visit the Porto antico area, especially by afternoon or night: Redesigned by Renzo Piano in 1992, Genoa's Old Port area has now become a mecca for tourists, who come here to enjoy an aperitivo, dine, shop, take a trip to the cinema, ice skate, or go for a swim at the pool. At the end of the pier, home to the Magazzini del Cotone, with the city's Lanterna (lighthouse, the symbol of the city) rising up nearby, you can admire Genoa and its Gulf in all their beauty. The hills form a backdrop to this impressive panorama, brightly coloured by day and lit up at night.
Furthermore, the area offers a host of attractions, such as the scenic Bigo lift (reminiscent - in both shape and name - of the port's old loading cranes), the Biosphere, La Città dei Bambini (a fun, interactive museum for children aged 2 to 14), and the Museo Luzzati, housed within the ancient Porta Siberia defensive bulwark and dedicated to the famous Genoese set designer. In 2013, two new attractions were added: the WOW Science Center, dedicated to popularising science, and the renovated Museo Nazionale dell'Antartide, which tells the story of Italy's expeditions to Antarctica, the world's most distant, mysterious continent.
The Aquarium of Genoa is the largest exhibition of aquatic biodiversity in Europe, with 71 tanks housing over 15,000 animals belonging to 400 species, against the incomparable backdrop of the Gulf of Genoa. It welcomes over one million visitors every year and offers visitors the chance to take a trip through the seas of the world in order to admire dolphins, sharks, penguins, manatees and Antarctic animals: it is the only facility in Europe to house jellyfish, tropical fish, seals and much more, in environments that faithfully reproduce the natural habitats of the different species represented. Ticket for adults costs 24 euros, for children the price is 15 euros and the entrance is from 8 till 20, even if in some periods of the year it is open until 24. For further information have a look here http://www.acquariodigenova.it/en/
But Liguria is also and above all Cinque Terre Gulf of Tigullio: an intact and luxuriant Mediterranean vegetation exists in the mountain from Portofino to Portovenere, a small jewel on the Mediterranean coast. The beautiful Sestri Levante merits special attention and of course a pleasant stop. This city is probably the most well known tourist destinations on the Italian Riviera, and it is becoming quite a favorite among Italians. This once quiet fishing village is slowly turning into a tourist hotspot, developing an old and a new town...
Between Baia del Silenzio and Baia delle Favole, it is called “the city of two seas”, Sestri Levante is a magical place, fitting for youngs and families. Strongly recommended an aperitivo here to enjoy the view and the peaceful atmosphere especially during the sunset. The tiny but pretty historic centre is full of boutiques and caracteristic shops where to purchase some souvenirs will be not so cheap!
Not so far from Baia del Silenzio, just few steps over it, I suggest to you to visit the Chiesa dell'Immacolata, a complex of Capuchin friars, it's so special and inside there is a big and animated nativity scene all the year.
Sestri Levante is the ideal point of start to do some exursion to Cinque Terre. But I will talk about them in my next article ;)
Keep reading my friends!!!
TIPS ON WHAT AND WHERE TO EAT:
Liguria is where pesto is originally from, one of the most popular sauces in Italian cuisine. Stop in a any bar or locanda to order a dish of troffie al pesto or pansotti al sugo di noci (both a special kind of pasta)...and please, go to a backery to buy a slice of focaccia (even better if it's hot): very typical and delicious...people from liguria eats focaccia everytime! =p
I suggest you the restaurant Zena Zuena, It´s not a tourist restaurant, so you have to order the english menu, it offers a repackaged traditional eating experience, there are some tables to eat outside, crowded especially at lunchtime, the price is very little...you will not disappointed!
Have you ever heard about Focaccia al formaggio di Recco? ok, if you are chees lovers, this focaccia delightfully -- nay, libidinously -- cheesy variation on the focacce you'll find in many parts of Liguria: It's made by extending a thin sheet of dough, dotting it with a creamy cheese, covering everything up and baking it. The result is simply wonderful.
But, I'm honest and I always give you tips to eat something good and not expensive, if you go to Recco, where the Focaccia al formaggio was born, all the restaurants make a great focaccia but they are costly =(
My advise? I've found in Chiavari e pizzeria named LA PIAZZETTA, where pizza is exquisite but focaccia al formaggio is mouth-watering!!! strongly suggest if you want to taste it for a very good price!
MOVING THROUGH LIGURIA
Dear Friends, hopefully Liguria has a good railway system, get on in a city and get off to another is very easy and at quite affordable price. Trains run every 10 minutes (more or less) but I have to say that they are not very reliable because of the strikes and inexplicable delays. So just bear with that you are on holidays =) For example a ticket for 40km on a regional train costs 4 euros, remember that you have always endorse the ticket before the leaving if you don't want to get a fine ( I've seen this a lot of time).
Buses are also a good choice, but are always crowded and not fast...you can buy the tickets in a tobacco shop or newsagent, the price of the ticket is 1,50 euros for almost 2 hours you can go everywhere, back and forward with all the buses you want.
Even better if you really want to feel like an italian, rent a scooter! everybody use it, especially because is fast and it's easy to find a park and you don't have to pay for that.