Sunday, July 15, 2007

Going Local in La Spezia

We woke up to the sound of thunder, howling wind and flashes of lightning against the mountains of Liguria. Our plan to go to Cinque Terre (five lands) was definitely off. The temperature has plunged to 15 degree Celsius / 62 degree Fahrenheit and rain came in waves up the mountain. To make the best of a bad situation we decided to go down to the city of La Spezia and just walk around. After all, we do have umbrellas.

It is a well known fact that to know a city better, a stroll on foot brings the most satisfaction. After Silvano, our host, dropped us off in town, we decided to “go local” and we spent a good two hours perusing and shopping at the marcato locale, the city’s marketplace on Piazza Cavour. It is mainly a produce market, but flowers, meat, fish and cheeses are also sold at the market. I purchased all the ingredients for tonight’s dinner (pasta with tomato and fresh porcini mushrooms), some freshly baked bread and a good helping of Parmesan (for the pasta) and some unknown cheese (for the bread.) In Rome and Florence nearly everyone speaks or understands English, but I never heard anything but Italian at the market, so concluding the purchase transactions were a case of pointing what we want and using the little bit of Italian I learned beforehand. It was fun. All part the “travel experience.”

When the market closed at 1 PM (and all the other stores in town also closed at that time to reopen again at 4 PM, nice siesta hey, but that’s how it is done in smaller Italian towns) we walked through another massive marketplace, really a flea market, along Viale Garibaldi, where they sold anything under the sun including a kitchen sink. Yes, I’m not lying, there was one stall that was selling plumbing supplies and among the goods was a kitchen sink. Thereafter we rested our tired feet in one of the few open trattorias on Corso Cavour where I sampled the local trofiette pasta with a pesto sauce. Pesto is Liguria signature dish and trofiette pasta is unique to Liguria and was specially designed to be eaten with pesto. You can use it for other flavors too, but it does go well with pesto. Pesto is the simple yet delicious paste of basil, garlic, pine nuts, Parmesan cheese and olive oil. After lunch we strolled all way to the train station to purchase tickets and reserve our seats for the train trip to Venice on the Sunday and then took the taxi back to our apartment.

Late the afternoon I went for a walk to take some photos of the landscape. I walked with the paved road until it became a mountain trail. Along the way, growing wild, I saw herbs, blackberries, figs everywhere. I even saw some peach and pear trees, bearing fruit, but was overgrown by rankers.

The day turned out to be a very relaxing day, a vacation within a vacation, just as planned. Tomorrow, Republic day in Italy, all the shops and most services will be closed. Hopefully the weather will hold, no rain, and we can go down to the harbor and take a boat out to Porto Venere then onto Cinque Terre. Hopefully!

The Bay of Poets. So called because several 19th century romantic poets came here and fell in love with the beauty of the area. Among them were Lord Byron, D.H. Lawrence, and Percy Bysshe Shelly, who died here when his boat sank in 1822.
This photo was taken from the "stoep", porch, of our apartment in La Spezia. In the front left one can see the vineyards and on the right the olive trees of the small farm we stayed on. Behind the house there were 200 more olive trees.
A beautiful apartment building in La Spezia and more details of the building.

A La Spezia church.

While out walking in the hills above La Spezia I saw this lovely church, one of many that was built through the ages in the moutains of Liguria.

Another old church in the hills above La Spezia. I can only assume that when the current owners bought the property and erected the houses they decided to keep the chapel and not to demolish it. The house on the left built in a typical Italian style fits in well with the chapel. Unfortunately I cannot say the same of the house on the right, a no-specific-style-city-dweller montrosity, as foreign to the environment as a fish on dry land.

Some of the wild flowers and fruit trees while out walking the hills above La Spezia.

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