A Day of Sailing
Helm pointed toward the Golfo dei Poeti and Cinque Terre
One of the most beautiful stretches of coastline between Tuscany and Liguria, where immense satisfaction awaits every sailing enthusiast, and where visitors will be captivated by the beauty of the villages built on the cliffs (who knows how). And the very best view is from the sea, a true paradise for photography enthusiasts. If the wind is behind you, a day-long sailing trip from Versilia is an unforgettable experience...
The first pearl you come to is the village of Tellaro overlooking the Golfo dei Poeti like a panoramic terrace: marinated olives and anchovies are served on the terrace of the Bar Marina in the port, and one can buy Mariuccia ‘s bright marine paintings in the village square. Just a few steps away is the Boriassis’ Underground bar where organic Vermentino can be tasted along with piping hot focaccine from the bakery next door. Lerici, which is even more enchanting at sunset, has shops that stay open late, and has hosted the greatest English poets of the eighteenth century including Lord Byron, Mary Shelley and Percy Bysshe Shelley. Here, a visit to the castle is a must, a hop away from Siamo Fritti (where absolutely everything is fried. Try the mixed cone and you’ll thank us), and also a swim at Venere Azzurra, a wonderful little bay.
Porto Venere, elegant, poetic, scenic, with its beautiful San Pietro church, striated and overhanging the sea, is a splendid in-between land (on the one side, the Levante that becomes Tuscany, on the other, Cinque Terre) a place you’ll want to revisit. Just like Steven Spielberg and the celebrities who moor their yachts in front of Grand Hotel Portovenere, you can too, with the assurance of absolute peace. For a seaside lunch, head straight for the bohemian O chi o a ca toa, for a gourmet dinner overlooking the sea, directly to the local evocative cuisine of the Palmaria Restaurant, realm of young Francesco Parravicini. After a dip at the Spiaggi del Secco on the Palmaria Island, which overlooks Porto Venere, you unfurl the sails and pass the Cinque Terre: Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso al Mare. Sailboat paradise, this stretch of the sea is part of the so-called Cetacean Sanctuary, an area where one can easily spot dolphins, whales and other beautiful specimens of cetaceans. Where should you stop? The landings in Cinque Terre are small, crowded and shallow, and mostly for local boats, but the port of Vernazza is the only suitable one, and you can moor in what is considered one of the most beautiful villages in Italy. There is no car traffic, and it has remained, in appearance, a fishing village. You can climb to the top of a promontory surrounded by terraced vineyards where the so-called ‘heroic viticulture’ is practiced. Go back down with your tender and take some hours to visit the village calmly and enjoy the typical Ligurian focaccia at the Ristorante Gambero Rosso. For shopping, pesto is almost obligatory (Cinque Terre’s is very fragrant) and a bottle of local Sciacchetrà passito, white, very special. You can find them at the Enoteca Sotto l’Arco. To eat at a place with a really breathtaking panorama go up to Belforte, built on the upper floors of a fortress dominating the port of Vernazza. But don’t leave until you’ve had a swim in the marvelous water of one of the best coves in the Cinque Terre, only reachable by boat: Canneto Beach. On the way back, between Lerici and Tellaro, after the bay of Maralunga, located in a heavenly cove is the beach club Eco del Mare, a special unmissable place where you can finish a day of sailing at sunset with a plate of oysters and some good bubbly.