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Mouth watering Liguria: question about Lerici

Mouth watering Liguria: question about Lerici

Apr 15th, 2010, 10:16 AM
  #1  
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Mouth watering Liguria: question about Lerici

I'd like to head to the Gulf of La Spezia on a Friday in late May, but I am having second thoughts that I should rearrange my schedule and come during the week to avoid crowds.
Should I venture inland during the weekend, and then come to the coast during the week to maximize my time? Do the trails around Montemarcello get pretty popular on a May weekend?
My plan is to stay in Lerici for a few nights and do things like hike the surrounding area (not CT) or take a boat to Porto Venere during the day, but stay put in the evenings (no car). Since I am there a short time, I am thinking there will be plenty of restaurant options. Or, is there a town of similar size in the gulf that I should consider instead?

(If you have followed my other thread, I have decided to visit Garfagnana {Barga/Castelnuovo--or possibly head to Pontremoli} and the Pisa/Lucca (visiting Prato and Pistoia) area for the remainder of my time in Tuscany. I'm trying to work in a circular route that includes La Spezia.)
yorkshire is offline  
Apr 15th, 2010, 10:49 AM
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Between Lerici and Portovenere you should be fine.
Wish I was there now.
bobthenavigator is offline  
Apr 15th, 2010, 11:04 AM
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That's a relief, as I have the naive notion that a few days might make a difference, making it cooler on the coast, and warmer in the mountains. Plus, after an overnight flight, it should be slightly easier to get to the coast from Pisa.
Thanks!
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Apr 15th, 2010, 01:23 PM
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Topping my thread before I sign off for the day in hopes of getting more opinions on weekends on the Ligurian coast and eating options.
yorkshire is offline  
Apr 15th, 2010, 01:25 PM
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I stayed 2 nights in Lerici in 2000. It is beautiful & there are quite a few restaurants. I wish I had gone to Portovenere - I took a ferry to the CT & it stopped in Portovenere. Have a great time!
cobbie is offline  
Apr 15th, 2010, 02:20 PM
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You should be OK on the weekends. May is not really high season, and you aren't headed to any towns that get overwhelmed by tourists.
tuscanlifeedit is offline  
Apr 15th, 2010, 04:04 PM
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Lerici is a wonderful town. You'll be fine there on a May weekend. It's not high season. I'm not sure if the boats will be running from Lerici to Portovenere at that time of year. If they're not, you can certainly take the bus to La Spezia and then transfer to a bus to Portovenere. It's about 15 minutes from Lerici to La Spezia and then another 30 from La Spezia to Portovenere. Enjoy!
Susan__H is offline  
Apr 15th, 2010, 04:08 PM
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If you have the time or the weather is not nice you can also consider a visit to nearby, lovely, non-touristy Sarzana. You can take the train from La Spezia (~15 minutes) to the center of Sarzana. Or, I'm sure there is a bus from Lerici.

http://www.terredilunigiana.com/eng/sarzana.php

The hiking along the coast just south of Lerici to Tellaro is beautiful. Late May should be perfect!
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Apr 16th, 2010, 03:10 AM
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yorkshire,

I hope you're still checking in. You definitely have the right idea to avoid Lerici and other coastal towns on a nice weekend in May if you dislike crowds. Also, be aware that Portovenere is now a cruise ship destination, so any day of the week you could find yourself in the small town overwhelmed by tourists.

Your naive notion is wrong: It will be cooler in the mountains and warmer on the coast -- if it is warm. It can rain in May.

For food recommendations, invest in a copy of David Downie's Food and Wine for the Italian Riviera and Genoa, which has many recommendations for your target destinations except for the Garfagnana. Alas, neither Portovenere or Lerici are great food destinations, although restaurants abound, although your chances of eating well improve in Lerici if you walk uphill.

If you are serious about food, and plan to spend all your days outside your base, you might consider staying right in La Spezia, which has some of the very best food in the region. Also, without a car, staying in a town that isn't on the train line (neither Lerici or Portovenere is) means being the prisoner of bus schedules or taxis to get you to a train station for day trips.

Does your plan include a trip to Castelnuovo Magra, which seems to have nothing but good restaurants, plus wonderful views, a castle, a fine church and in general just a charming ambience -- ?

Zoecat's recommendation that you check out Sarzana is a good one.

But I do recommend you come to the coast during the week, on a weekday, if the weather is nice, not the weekend.
zeppole is offline  
Apr 16th, 2010, 04:00 AM
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According to Food Authority Fred Plotkin, who lived in the area, Tellaro, Montemarcello, and Ameglia--all close to Lerici--are also top-notch food destinations. I drove through the area in September a year or two ago (as Zeppole know so well!) and it is gorgeous. Sadly, I did not stop to eat.
ekscrunchy is offline  
Apr 16th, 2010, 08:22 AM
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Fred Plotkin is a great guide to all things Ligurian, and his updated Italy for the Gourmet Traveler is due to be published in May -- and I encourage yorkshire to get it. I am hoping it is coming out in Kindle form as well, since it is a fat bible.

I think Montemarcello is a beautiful hiking destination. It's best to have some guidance about restaurants in that area (and Ameglia), because some are really VERY expensive. Tellaro is an exceptionally charming pinspeck village, a true Ligurian fishing village. Sadly, the one day I was there the most highly regarded restaurant, Miranda, wasn't open for lunch. I ended up with a so-so lunch in Lerici.
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Apr 16th, 2010, 08:23 AM
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PS Yorkshire,

Fred Plotkin's updated guide will not only give you great tips for Liguria, but for every other place you are going in Italy as well. It is worth its weight in gold.
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Apr 16th, 2010, 10:25 AM
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Thanks so much to you all!
I am considering a visit to Sarzana, and I will look up Castelnuovo Magra as well.
The past thread you mentioned (ekscrunchy and zeppole) has been extremely helpful--Downie's Food and Wine for the Italian Riviera and Genoa should be in my mailbox today, and that is fantastic news that the Plotkin book is being released in May. (The back issues are dearly priced).
Another book I am enjoying is A Culinary Traveller in Tuscany: Exploring and Eating Off the Beaten Track by Beth Elon (for my Garfagnana visit).
Before I am off to ruminate over Lerici vs La Spezia, one last question: if I reverse my itinerary, and end up in La Spezia area last, would it be advised to stay there the night before my departure from Pisa? The flight is late afternoon, and the trains appear to be frequent, so I am assuming this would be safe.
yorkshire is offline  
Apr 16th, 2010, 08:44 PM
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Dear Yorkshire, Your query about the area of my beloved Liguria known as the Golfo dei Poeti came to my attention. While I don't know your preferences, I can tell you that it is fine to base yourself in Lerici and then use it as a base for travel. Anything you see in the area will be lovely. My particular favorite is Tellaro --and I stay there-- because it is a bit above the fray and was the setting for a story by DH Lawrence. But it is a bit out of the way while Lerici will give you access to more things. Portovenere is pretty but most locals take a small boat from there to a facing island (Palmaria) for a day at the beach. Just close to Lerici is San Terenzio, which has nice beaches and fewer crowds. Don't hesitate to visit La Spezia, which has raffish charm and a great food market with nice places to eat just nearby. And I do like the towns of Sarzana and Castelnuovo Magra. All of this is in the new edition of Italy for the Gourmet Traveller, which will be published in the UK on 6 May. And I heartily endorse David Downie's book. There are frequent trains from Pisa to La Spezia and vice versa. If you have more questions, you can reach me via my Web site at www.fredplotkin.com
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Apr 17th, 2010, 03:58 AM
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Yorkshire,

You will be fine staying your last night on the coast if your departure from Pisa is not until the afternoon. While basing yourself in Lerici without a car will necessitate a short bus or taxi ride to catch the train in La Spezia for Pisa, the buses are frequent and so are the trains. Pisa airport is served by a very easy train connection from the central station.

Regarding Lerici vs. La Spezia, I would only recommend La Spezia as a base to those who are either very dedicated foodies or very dedicated day trippers -- since the industrial port of La Spezia doesn't offer the same seaside attractiveness of Lerici. Plus, as Fred Plotkin mentions above, Lerici is just a stone's throw away from the smaller villages of San Terenzo (walkable) and lovely Tellaro (a 15 minute bus ride tops) for the feel of a true Ligurian fishing settlement.

But as you can see, there is no end of enjoyable destinations, and if you've a yen to hike in Montemarcello, I wouldn't give up that thought. It has shady pines which can be quite nice once the sun starts beating fiercely in late May.

And I will also say that were you to simply go hide out and hang out in Tellaro for a few nights and do minimal or no day tripping, you would find that rewarding and revealing, too, and get a true feel for what makes the area so beguiling. One of the reasons I tend to pull back from Lerici, especially on weekends, is its bigness. It's hardly huge, just bigger than the villages. But if you are hoping to accomplish many day trips from your Ligurian base, Lerici has better transport options out and back in every day.

have a great trip!
zeppole is offline  
Apr 17th, 2010, 04:12 AM
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PS: I note that zoecat mentions she has hiked between Lerici and Tellaro.

here's a map

http://mappery.com/Tellaro-Trail-Map
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Apr 17th, 2010, 08:10 AM
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One more, PS, yorkshire:

I wanted to say that I have followed Fred Plotkin's footsteps to many small places in Italy seldom if ever mentioned in guidebooks, sometimes in lieu of the guidebook recommended places, and I have always -- without fail -- been glad that I did, and not just for the food, which is always tasty if you follow his guides. I go for the ambience of the places he likes As Fred Plotkin himself said in his post, we don't know your preferences, and since travel is so expensive and for many people all too brief, nobody would want to dissuade you from basing yourself in the place most convenient to lots of sightseeing, activities you enjoy and for satisfying your curiosity about a great many things. That said, I just couldn't resist adding that if Fred Plotkin personally told me he preferred staying in Tellaro while in that area, that's where I'd go, because it's proved so many times such a very rewarding way for me to travel in Italy.
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Apr 17th, 2010, 09:24 AM
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Fred, welcome to Fodors! I found the "What is a Pleasure Ativist?" article on your website very interesting.
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Apr 19th, 2010, 08:00 AM
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Thanks to you all for your additional replies. And Fred, the book is making me ravenous! I was initially enamored by photos of Tellaro--I think that was what drew me to investigate this area further. I know it is perfect for us in terms of hiking, but I wanted to make sure we will eat well in the evenings.
Because like you said zeppole, travel is so expensive--and I am unfamiliar with Italy as a result, it is nice to hear I am making the right decisions as I plan the trip.
I will let accommodations be my guide now, when I find the perfect place, I will just know.
By the way, does anyone know if I can walk from Lerici to Serra or Tellaro safely at night? (Meaning I won't fall down on a dark trail and break an arm). If armed with a torch, would my husband and I be fine making our way back to a b&b in either of those villages near Lerici?
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Apr 19th, 2010, 09:15 AM
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I think a walk to/from Serra at night is doable, ~2 km each way (I've never done it), but not to/from Tellaro, ~2.5 miles each way.
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