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Situated from La Spezia, a beautiful port city in Liguria

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La Spezia and the Cinque Terre

For the tourist a walk through the Vara Valley from La Spezia to Varese Ligure is like stepping back into the past. In the lower part of the Vara Valley one encounters an industrial town such as Ceparana, while on the other hand Calice al Cornoviglio is a picturesque pleasant surprise with its massive castle. The higher and central parts of the Valley are one continual green oasis with countryside houses, little villages and medioeval hamlets all immersed in silence crossed by the river Vara which marks the itinerary.

Leaving La Spezia along the Aurelia road one passes through Riccò del Golfo which is surrounded by groups of villages on the hillside. Shortly after the Aurelia, a provincial road goes off to Pignone (a hamlet with historical remains) and then leads on to the Sanctuary of the "Madonna di Soviore" and after ro Levanto and Monterosso. Going back to the Aurelia road one comes across Padivarma and Borghetto Vara, at this point it is worthwhile leaving the Aurelia road to visit Brugnato, the diocesan seat with the famous Cathedral with the two naves.

From Brugnato one can get to Rocchetta Vara then go up to Veppo and by another road to Suvero, a hamlet with a notable Malaspina Castle and now a popular summer holiday place in the area where the Casoni Pass looks over towards Mulazzo and the Lunigiana of Massa. A little beyond Rocchetta Vara another road leads one into the Zignago Valley scattered with picturesque villages.

From Brugnato yet another road takes one to Sesta Godano and from there to Varese Ligure where one can see the restored Fieschi Castle, paintings in the parish church and the unusual circular village centre from where the roads for Emilia spread out towards the two passes (passo di Cento Croci and passo del Bocco). While in S. Pietro Vara one passes an 18th century Sanctuary on the Passo di Velva before arriving at Sestri Levante.

Going along the Aurelia road towards the Passo del Bracco one comes to Carrodano and Mattarana and an inland road takes one to Carro where one cannot but be fascinated by the luxuriant greenery and undisturbed landscapes. Apart from hotel accommodation, one can also take advantage of agrotourism in local farmhouses, and luxuriant woodlands particularly in the upper part of the Valley offer ample opportunities for horseriding fishing and sooting.

Throughout the Valley, the traveller and tourist alike can enjoy savouring the traditional food of the area in restaurants and trattorias together with the excellent white wines from Brugnato, Sesta Godano and Varese Ligure.

Even two thousand years ago, the venerable poet Ennio invited his fellow citizens to visit the port of Luni, and ever since, poets, writers, notable visitors and lovers of the sea have admiringly passed along the roads of our land.

It is just this, that we propose to would be lovers of new panoramas, secret alcoves and secluded resting places; the same dream to discover in the fairytale Cinque Terre, where one can revel in the delights of the sunsets and Genovese style churches. Or why not go on to sundrenched Lerici, and later to the magical stone land of Lunigiana.

We propose a journey of neverending variety, from the remains in Luni, around the alluring "Golfo dei Poeti" anticipating the Cinque Terre and the sea beyond as far as the rural peace of the river streaked Vara valley.

Repeating the ancient invitation we offer a warm welcome hoping that many will return.

La Spezia is a modern town which as developed since the buiding of the naval dockyard (1860-65) conceived by Cavour and planned by Domenico Chiodo.



It is pleasant not only for its position in the centre of the Gulf, but also for its panoramic beauty and very mild climate.

The city has a splendid seafront and a modern cathedral (Architects Libera and Galeazzi).

In the Church of Santa Maria Assunta, one can see a stained glass window depicting the Coronation of the Virgin by Andrea della Robbia not forgetting paintings by Flasella (the Assumption of the Virgin) by Lomi and (the sharing of the bread) by Casini.

The city's museums are of exceptional interest. In particular, the naval one founded in 1870 following the transfer of the Genovese Naval Museum to La Spezia. Further additions such as model ships both ancient (Egyptian and Roman ships) and modern (Italian and European naval vessels) have together with a collection of artistically interesting figureheads made a museum unique.

The archeological section of the Civic Museum (Corso Cavour) holds authentics pieces from the Bronze and Iron Age: the famous stele statues, funeral urns and ancient Roman statues. The sight of the stele statues surrounded in mystery is a costant attraction for many visitors.

To have an overall panorama of ancient times in the area, the Roman villa at Varignano gives the visitors witness of the presence of the Romans in the Gulf.

The National Transport Museum - in preparation - sited in the A.T.C. depot at Canaletto, holds a collection of trams and buses representing a panorama of the history of Italian Public transport.

The hills surrounding the town provide magnificients walks, and the characteristic hamlets of Biassa and Campiglia are well worth a visit for their enchanting views enveloped in silence. The village of Marinasco boasts an historical parish chirch reconstructed in the 18th century.

Local dishes: Mesciua (made from pulses and wheat9, Torta d'erbe (a vegetable tart), Lattuga ripiena (stuffed lettce leaves), Frittelle di baccalą (stookfish fritters); wines: Bianco di Biassa (White from Biassa), Bianco di Campiglia (White from Campiglia), Bianco di Marinasco (White from Marinasco).

La Spezia offers good accommodation. A pleasant trip to take, is the trip around the Gulf and the islands (the bus and ferry service depart from the Morin promenade, (passeggiata Morin).

The Gulf Of La Spezia

The first village one encounters going westward is Le Grazie situated in a delightful natural bay, where the Olivetan Convent (Convento degli Olivetani) is well worth a visit to see the 15th century frescoes and the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Graces (Nostra Signora delle Grazie) in late Gothic style.

A visit to Porto Venere is a must on account of his beauty. It is a small picturesque 12th century hamlet of Genovese architecture (see picture on the right). The church of San Lorenzo consacred in 1130 and completely reconstructed in the period from 1931-35, holds a number of notable works of art (the marble ancon attribuited to Mino da Fiesole) the 14th century image of "La Madonna Bianca" and a triptych from the 14th century to be seen on the main altar. There is also a magnificient treasure in the coffers in ivory which are arab-phoenician and bizantine. On the extreme point of the promontory the aancient church of San Pietro rises proudly. It was built in 1277 on the foundations of a pre-existent building of the sixth century.

From Porto Venere one can visit the island of Palmaria and see the island of Tino where there are remains of the Monastery of San Venerio. Also on the small islet Tinetto there are important rimains of the fifth century church. The island of Palmaria is a splendid natural park, offering both rocky and sandy beaches to anyone wanting an "away from it all" holiday amongst natures greenery. All round the Gulf facilities for water-sports can be found. Visitors are well catered for in Porto Venere for both accomodation and bathing and in various restaurants serving typical dishes: Date shells (datteri di mare) and an infinite variety of fish.

Just as interesting for the variety of its scenery is the era on the other side of the bay. Leaving the city you can go through the industrial and mercantile area of the Port. The large an smaller industries and shipyards stretch as far as Muggiano. However, once through the tunnel (galleria degli Scoglietti), one comes across the delightful bay of Lerici (See the picture). Passing through S.Terenzo the Genovese castle cannot be missed with its surrounding 17th century parish which houses a painting by Flasella (1629). The villa Magni remains an historic record of its illustrious guest Shelley. One also sees the magnificent Villa Marigola (ex Villa Pearce) where Sam Benelli composed the "Cena delle Beffe", and where other world famous personalities have been given hospitality.

The villa is owned by the "Cassa di Risparmio della Spezia" and is now used for conferences and cultural activities. A short distance away, Lerici offers us another Genovese castle which is an extension of a pre-existent medioeval castle, where one can see the ancient chapel dedicated to S. Anastasia dating back to the 1250. The Oratory of San Rocco (a baroque church built on the remains of another church) has various point of interest, there is a notable painting by Flasella and a bell tower and the tombstones from 13th century. The parish Church of San Francesco which was reconstructed inside in 1632, after the complete destruction of the previous church, contains some notable artistic records: two canvases by Flasella and a marble triptych by Domenico Gare (1529), the Dead Christ from Maragliano and remains of primitive church. The mild climate in Lerici allows its citizens and visitors a pleasant stay all the year.

The green of the hills and the surrounding vegetation characterise the landscape of Lerici across to Fiascherino where D.H. Lawrence stayed and on to Tellaro (see picture) with its charming architectural plan. Green is predominant colour across the Gulf as far as Bocca di magra. Above Lerici one can see Barcola and the beautiful villas: De Benedetti (now Picadi), Cochrane (now Carnevali) surrounded by sweeping park; there from La Serra a delightful road winds through thick pine woods leaving us panoramic-viewpoints from time to time. From Montemarcello the road descends towards Ameglia (Castle 16th century and church) and the mouth of the Magra. Lerici offers good hotels of all categories and various restaurants offering local dishes bathing estabilishments nad discos. Local dishes: Date shell soup (Zuppa di datteri di mare), Local fish, Spaghetti Lerici style.

The Magra Valley

Itineries amongst a different type of nature can be discovered from La Spezia into the Magra Valley.

Climbing up towards Buonviaggio from La Spezia, the visitors will be surprised by the hillside towns seen from the road, Valeriano and above Vezzano Ligure, the antique town renowned for its resdents, which slopes down to the river Magra, and after Bolano which is rooted on a singular hill and has a view of the Lunigiana.

After the descent from Buonviaggio one can get to Calice al Cornoviglio with its famous Castle of the Malaspina family.

Crossing the bridge over the Magra along the Buonviaggio road the visitors arrive at S.Stefano Magra with its 17th century church and then along the ancient Cisa road to Sarzana.

The other side of the Magra Valley follows the river flow as far as its mouth where it joins the sea at Bocca di Magra.

Shortly after leaving La Spezia one encounters Arcola with its turreted castle (now the town hall) and pentagonal tower. Then Trebiano the diocesan seat and after,, the Magra widens towards its mouth where one can see numerous villas and campsites along the river.

In picturesque surroundings on the borders with Carrara. Castelnuovo Magra, one comes across the remains of the Malaspina castle where Dante who was the procuratore for the Malaspinas in 1306 signed a peace treaty with the bishop of Luni Antonio Da Camilla. The parish church is renowned its painting by Brueghel of "La Salita al Calvario".

Ortonovo with its narrow medioeval streets and then of course ancient Nicola where the nearby "Santuario del Mirteto" was an aim for piligrimmages. The most renowned artistic and historical memories are to be found at Luni with its Roman Amphitheatre where classical productions are still shown, to enthralled audiences.

The size of Roman Luni can be seen from its Basilica and the remains of the ancient city and the Archeological Museum renewed in 1988, particularly in the religous architecture section. Outside one can see a number of sites of excavated Roman town and excavations are still underway where numerous archeological finds can be seen and studied.

The charming town of Sarzana also harbours a wealth of artistic and historical memories, in particular its splendid Cathedral which itself constitutes a collection of the history of art (a Romanic portal, a Gothic pediment and inside the Baroque altar and ceiling). Inside the Cathedral there are also a number of paintings by Flasella known as "Il Sarzana" (1600), paintings by Solimena, 2 ambos by Riccomanno, San Gerolamo by Andrea Della Robbia, and a Crucifix from the Lucca School by Mastro Guitelmo (1138) which is the oldest existingcrucifix paited on wood, in the world.

It is also worthwhile to stay longer in Sarzana to visit the other churches namely: S. Andrea, San Francesco and la Chiesa dei Cappuccini. In the S.Andrea church recent digshave brought to light remains of a pre-existent church, and in the S. Franceso church one can admire some remarkable sculptures and further in Palazzo Picadi, the imposing wrought iron gate should be noticed. The Castle of Sarzana leave memories that last (the Firmafede Fort and the Sarzanello Castle built by Castruccio Castracani) and also the high towers (Torrioni).

The town is well known for its artisan workshops and antique shops. In fact, in August two antique fairs take place in the open air along the street of the town. Tourists are well catered for in the Magra Valley, above all in Sarzana and Marinella. All the costal area from the mouth of the Magra to the borders with Carrara are well equipped with hotels of all categories, camsites, guest houses and restaurants. The numerous beaches in the area are well equipped for water sports, and the local nightspots offer good entertainment.

The wines: Vermentino Dco from the hills around Luni, white and rosè from hillsides af Castelnuovo Magra and Ortonovo; red and white from Bolano (Tirolo), Aleatico from Sarticola, whites from Vezzano and Arcola (Tocai). The Magra Valley borders with Tuscany and because of its position road and rail services are good. There is also a well equipped airport catering for tourist at Luni.