Monday, April 03, 2006

(Somewhat) Hidden Gems of Liguria...

I have always "tooted my horn" about Liguria, but it's only because it has so much to offer! Most people who think of the region, know of Le Cinque Terre or Portofino. Yet beyond these picturesque (and often crowded!) destinations, Liguria is rich in charming seaside villages, interesting and important history and all around gorgeous scenery.

This weekend we ventured to the remarkable archaeological village of Luni. Dating back to 177 B.C., Luni served as an important and strategic Roman colony whose port was used primarily of for the shipment of the Apuano marble (better known today as Carrara marble). It also was home to a large Forum (for commercial use, think of it as a Roman Empire Mall!), a fairly well in-tact amphitheater (believed to have been visited by Julius Cesar), a Temple to Diana and an incredible "house of the mosaics". The site houses several different small museums filled with statues, artwork, coins and many other interesting artifacts with which you could easily fill up your afternoon. You learn how they Lunese people lived a very civilized life in a time considered barbarian. Even how they used "basilico" (basil) as both a food ingredient as well as a "health" herb - a traditional that is still carried out today in Liguria.

After our "lesson in history", we decided to take a different route back home to Lerici via the mountain to sea pass that winds through a national park plus the lovely fortified medieval villages of Ameglia and Montemarcello. Ameglia faces east toward the Apuane mountains and the Versilia basin. Montemarcello opens to the Mediterranean Sea, the Gulf of Poets to the north and the coast of Versilia in the south. They are "resort" areas for many Northern Italians, therefore are well kept-up, have nice little cafes, restaurants and pleasant pedestrian streets to explore. Once you pass Montemarcello, you drive cliff side along the coast with dense green pines and olive trees to your right and the open sea to your left. (In addition, there are also many trails for those who love to hike.) Once, you turn the corner in the village of La Serra, you have the entire Gulf of Poets in your panorama including Portovenere, the three islands and the back side of the Cinque Terre mountains.

What a wonderful way to spend the afternoon. So much so that we are turning it into a tour! If you plan a vacation in le Cinque Terre or Southern Liguria, make sure to visit a few of the "less traveled" areas such as these in order to fully experience the area. And if you would like someone to guide you through, you can always find us at