Words and photos by Costa Estate
Anna & Cecilia, two sisters, two sides of the same coin. 100% made in Liguria, curious travellers and slow living supporters. Whilst they work in other industries, in 2016 they founded Costa Estate aiming to transform their family properties into a new kind of hospitality that mixes top quality standards with authentic experiences, creating a bond with their guests that’s intended to last forever.
UNCONVENTIONAL LIGURIA, THE VIRGIN LAND BETWEEN PORTOVENERE AND CINQUE TERRE
When thinking of Liguria the first thought usually goes to Cinque Terre, five folkloristic villages perched high on the Eastern side of the region. They are simply magical and we definitely recommend a visit. Besides Cinque Terre, we would love you to explore a very hidden gem of this land. Indeed, this coastal area of Liguria is much more than that and there’s a reason why many writers and literature people entitled La Spezia area the Gulf of Poets.
This beautiful destination literally sits between mountains and sea and during winter you can often enjoy the snow in contrast with the sea view. However, thanks to the winds brought by the sea, here the weather is usually spectacular. Any season is good and warm, but – visiting off-season – in late spring and early autumn you will be able to enjoy the most fantastic nuances of nature.
The coastal area starting from Riomaggiore and ending in Portovenere is a REAL experience for the eyes. The hills here reach over 400 mt above sea level and most of the beaches are reachable only by boat or through a pretty steep hike from the tiny towns located on the top of the mountain. Believe us when we say that, however you reach them, you’ll enjoy a little slice of heaven.
Here are some tips for an unconventional weekend in the gulf of poets and some ideas to enjoy Liguria at its most authentic.
Wherever you decide to stay, make sure you book one of Costa Estate properties.
For shorter stays, we recommend the beautiful Via Chiodo Luxury Apartment: a fully equipped flat located in the most historical part of La Spezia downtown, just 2 min away from ferry departures.
If you are up for a “sea-view weekend”, then Villa Bianca in Portovenere is what you need: a true pearl with a private pool and a garden with a view over the Mediterranean Sea, where you can chill after a day spent by the sea or on the hiking trails.
Villa Bianca, Porto Venere
Reach Campiglia – a small village located on the top of the hill – by car/taxi/bus with a 10 min ride both from La Spezia and Portovenere. From Campiglia, take the hike with direction South to go back to Portovenere through a trail lasting approximately 2 hours for a walk among the Mediterranean scrub with a view over Tino and Palmaria Islands and an unforgettable landscape. A pleasure for your eyes.
Halfway you will find La Gitana, a local girl with her truck offering a tasty break with homemade focaccia or pies.
When approaching Portovenere, the greatest beauty, treat yourself having the delicious muscoli alla marinara (steamed mussels) and other specialities at Antica Osteria del Carugio. They serve fresh vegetables from their garden and seafood from the local fishermen. Definitely a must!
After a deserved rest, enjoy the sunset over Byron Grotto and a spritz at the breathtaking Torre di Venere in front of San Pietro, a legendary church perched on the rocks and overlooking the sea.
Once you have seen the coast from above the mountain, it’s time to look at it from the sea, taking a boat trip to the beaches located between Portovenere and Riomaggiore. Before leaving, make sure you get a packed lunch like a true local would do: focaccia and erbazzone (a traditional salted pie made with fresh spinach and other veggies) at Il Forno Del Porto – if you are staying in La Spezia, or at Forno De Ma in Portovenere.
Wherever you will depart from, soon you will be amazed by sailing through Le Bocche the tiny marine canals between Palmaria Island and San Pietro Church. Quickly you will also reach what locals call Le Nere beach – natural black rocky beach, Le Rosse beach – with natural red rocks, Le Piscine beach – getting their name from their clear waters, Il Persico, Monesteroli and so many other natural coves. A dive there is not to be missed!
Looking up to the mountains you will see many tiny narrow steps which are part of the spectacular (and tough) hikes to get to these beaches from the land, starting in Campiglia and in other tiny villages perched on the hills. The name of one of them is Tramonti or Sunsets…just think about the orange nuances of the sky here at dusk.
On the way back, we recommend sailing to Palmaria Island and drop off for a quick tour, it takes less than 1h walking around the island and it is definitely worth it. This is a virgin paradise: no cars, no noise, less than 10 people living here, wild rabbits running through the scrub and hidden spots overlooking the Mediterranean Sea and the beautiful Portovenere’s palazzata the picturesque local houses facing the harbour.
For dinner, in Portovenere you can taste the freshest raw seafood at Trattoria Tre Torri. Here, Milly and her amazing team will delight you with local recipes revisited with a glamorous twist.
If you are in La Spezia, Osteria della Corte is a must. Treat yourself to the most delicious Cappun Magru, a very ancient fish salad recipe traditionally served on low-middle classes tables (magro means lean) who used to mix seafood leftovers, like mussels, cod and prawns, with vegetables.
Liguria is this and so much more, so make sure you discover it like a local by staying at Costa Estate properties Via Chiodo Luxury Apartment or Villa Bianca Portovenere.
Typical lunch at : Antica Osteria del Carugio, Via Cappellini 66, Portovenere
Best focaccia in Portovenere : Forno de Ma, Piazza Bastreri 9, Portovenere
Best focaccia in La Spezia : Il forno del porto, Via Domenico Chiodo 131, La Spezia
Sunset aperitif at : Torre di Venere, Piazza Spallanzani 3, Portovenere
Traditional dinner at : Osteria della Corte, Via Napoli 86, La Spezia
Seafood dinner at : Trattoria Tre Torri, Piazza Bastreri, Portovenere
Via Chiodo Luxury Apartment, La Spezia
Villa Bianca, Portovenere