Monday, August 25, 2008

Learning to Love La Spezia: Mornings

Although only live 15 minutes away by car,  La Spezia can seem very far away from our little house on the hill overlooking the village of Lerici.  The Bay of La Spezia does a very good job at hiding it.  Yet,  "just around the corner" is a small city of about 100, 000 inhabitants that is slowly but surely is having some wonderful growth spurts.  

It has long been a starting point for people heading into Le Cinque Terre, Portovenere or Lerici - but finally the Spezzini are getting through their thick (and sometimes backwards) skulls, that the city has the potential to be a real hub for visitors.  Many of the old liberty style building have or are in the process of being restored to their original splendor, the port has been cleaned up and a new resort port is being built, new and quite good restaurants have been popping up (at a fraction of the cost in any of the destinations listed above), nice stores have arrived and two very fine museums are worth visits. 

My favorite time to visit La Spezia is the morning.  The city comes alive.  There is a positive energy in the air, plus it smells good: caffe, fresh pastries, flowers, produce and fish from the open air market (yes, fish can smell good!).  The morning market is held Monday-Saturday from 7am-1pm at Piazza Cavour.  On Fridays there is also the weekly market on Via Garibaldi where you can buy all sorts of fun stuff including gorgeous, inexpensive ceramics from Vietri and any household items you could possibly need.

It's all very exciting and I am looking forward to the continual growth of this uncovering gem!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Festa della Madonna Bianca

On August 17th, my favorite village in Liguria (Portovenere of course!) celebrates its patron saint, which happens to be the Virgin Mary. It's official name is "La Festa della Madonna Bianca" or Festival of the White Madonna. One of the many urban legends behind the day goes something like this..

"A private washed up on shore with a bottle containing a crude drawing of the Virgin Mary. The priest from San Lorenzo found the pirate and brought him up to the church to sleep. The next day the pirate was gone but what remained was a gold inlaid fresco of the White Madonna..."

The true story is also hearsay, but the painting dates back to the 16th century - and it is quite lovely. So every August 17th, the town is lit with torches (in places you can't even imagine they can get!) and the villagers transport the Madonna from San Lorenzo through the tiny streets ending up at the 13th century Gothic church of San Pietro for the rest of the evening.

The town comes alive in burning torches. The bay is filled with boats and yachts. Horns blare, music is everywhere and people celebrate another wonderful day in this fairy tale like seaside village. It is a setting that photos (especially mine which did not turn out anything like I'd hoped!) do no justice. You'll just have to come see it for yourself...

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

What's Up with the Boots in Summer?!

I know Italians pride themselves on being at the "forefront" of fashion, but have to say it goes both ways - good and bad (and sometimes just down right ugly). This summer the "rage" seems to be boots, flat ones in suede and leather with a hint of Pocahontas to them. Ragazze, it's 90 degrees out with 90% humidity! It's August, not November. I can hardly stand to put on my Nikes to work out and cannot wait to peel them off afterward. 

Flip flops, sandals, open toe shoes, even flats...anything but boots.

Sometimes fashion is just plain stupid as well...