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Enjoy a region of Italy known for its mild climate, charming port towns, beautiful landscapes and fresh local cuisine. The narrow strip of land known as the Ligurian coast is home to the UNESCO World Heritage site "Cinque Terre," a stunning national park free of vehicular traffic and perfect for romantic getaways or fine culinary experiences. Self Drive tour.
Accommodation will be provided in 4* Hotel Firenze & Continentale or similar. This 4-star hotel is in the city center and very close to the central station. Located in a renovated historic building, all the rooms are equipped with air conditioning, satellite TV and unlimited Wi-Fi internet access, mini-bar, and in-room safe.
Check-in at the booked hotel or guest-house/apartment. Upon arrival, you receive a welcome package containing information about the territory and the proposals for your visits in the next few days. The package also comes with all necessary vouchers regarding the services included in the tour.
Instead of going to a restaurant this evening, you might find it more interesting to take part in a food and wine tour. Together with other food lovers, you will taste and smell your way through the city trying the typical kitchen of this town. The food guide will bring you to historic shops, delis, and restaurants where you will try six typical Ligurian dishes. The guided walk starts at 5 pm and ends at around 8 pm in a cozy restaurant where an original aperitif is served.
This morning, you will be traveling by motorboat from La Spezia through the Gulf of La Spezia in order to visit and learn about one of the main activities in this area: fish and mussel farming. The Gulf of La Spezia is famous for growing mussels, called cozze or muscoli, which are a particularly flavorful breed, briny and delicious. The farmers look after the harvesting, treatment, and distribution of more than six thousand tons of mussels, with a total turnover of about 6 million euros. If you have never tried them, this is your chance. After having seen where and how these mussels are produced, you will now taste a delicious lunch prepared with local mussels.
Usually, mussels are prepared in two ways: either as spaghetti alle cozze (or similar pasta) or as stuffed mussels. The mussels are opened, the meat is split, and a savory spoonful of stuffing made of vegetables, bread crumbs, ground mussels, and sometimes minced mortadella or pork is placed in the shell. Then they are reassembled and simmered in tomato sauce.
After lunch, the motorboat takes you to the nearby town of San Terenzo where you can relax on the sandy beach or walk over to Lerici and have a look at its medieval castle overlooking the picturesque fishing village. In the afternoon, you will take the ferry boat to beloved Porto Venere, located on a rocky peninsula in the Gulf of Poets. This enchanting little sea town was once popular with poets and writers such as Byron, Shelley and Lawrence. The small harbor lined with colorful houses, its narrow streets leading up to the castle and the church standing on top of the rock are perfect for a romantic stroll.
Try the homemade ice cream in the shop your guide will indicate, it is worth it. This ice-cream parlor offers some unique flavors, such as “chocolate with pears and grappa” or “white chocolate with whisky and peach” and many more. From there, the ferry boat takes you back to La Spezia in only about 30 minutes. Dinner on your own.
The Cinque Terre is UNESCO world heritage and a cultural landscape of great scenic and cultural value. The layout and disposition of the small towns and the shaping of the surrounding landscape, overcoming the disadvantages of steep, uneven terrain, encapsulate the continuous history of human settlement in this region over the past millennium. The Cinque Terre ("the Five Lands") are the five villages: Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso al Mare. Five little jewels between sea, rocks, and vineyards.
The first stop this morning will be Levanto, the northern gateway to the Cinque Terre. During the morning, you will learn how to prepare the legendary pesto sauce, starting to know all about the basil harvest and the assembling of the necessary ingredients. You will learn the insider tricks of how to make the true pesto sauce, using mortar and pestle just like the Italians do. The results can be tasted right after the small cooking lesson together with a glass of wine.
Then, you travel on and in only five minutes by train you will reach Monterosso, the largest of the five lands and famous for its wine and anchovies. In a local Enoteca in the ancient town, you can taste the wines made exclusively in Monterosso, the traditional white wine of this area, and the precious sweet wine Sciacchetrà. You also acquire information about and taste another local tradition: the famous Monterosso Anchovies.
The preservation of food with salt is an ancient technique traditionally entrusted to women: the men go out fishing while the women are engaged in preserving the catch. The crates of anchovies arrive – the peak time is the June-July period – and within three days the fish has to be placed in the “arbanelle”, this being the name given to the pots in which they are preserved.
You can then spend the afternoon discovering the other villages of the Cinque Terre. Using your train day ticket, you will be able to move between one and the other in only a few minutes' time. Enjoy the colorful houses in Riomaggiore and Manarola, hike up to Corniglia, the only village without a marina, and finally relax in Vernazza, the most romantic one of the five lands, ideal for picture and coffee time, before taking your train back to Spezia. Farewell dinner in a local restaurant in La Spezia.
Check-out and departure. Or extend your stay if you wish.
The regional cuisine of Liguria is based on seafood, fresh vegetables and herbs, such as in the famous pesto alla Genovese. In a few days you will be able to explore this region, its history, culture and culinary highlights always taking your time and doing everything at your own pace.
Today, you get to know a fantastic and truly unique world - the marble quarries of Carrara. You will discover the beauty of the precious marbles, the challenging environment and the struggle that for centuries men had to endure against nature so that master artists like Michelangelo could find the raw material for their masterpieces. The guided tour will take you into one of the marble caves, explain the various quarries, extracting techniques, and all tools used during the ages, from roman period until today.
However, there is another precious item, a regional specialty: Lardo di Colonnata is made using two great Tuscan products: the white marble from the Apuan Alps and pork, the main type of livestock in the region. The best lardo of Italy is undoubtedly produced in Colonnata, and you will certainly taste it.
To make lardo, a trimmed piece of lard is placed immediately in marble basins that have been rubbed with garlic. The meat should not be refrigerated before curing. Salt, black pepper, rosemary, and garlic are placed in between the layers of lard. Some producers also add sage, star anise, oregano, coriander, or even cinnamon, cloves or nutmeg. The aging occurs naturally in fresh caves. It takes a minimum of 6 months, during which the amount of liquid released by the salt-covered lard is measured regularly. It is an extremely effective curing and aging practice because it does not require any additives or preservatives.
In the early afternoon, you are welcomed in one of the most important wine-growing estates in the Val di Magra area. The Magra Valley marks the border between Liguria and Tuscany and produces “Colli di Luni” DOC superior wines: Vermentino, white and rosè wines from the hills of Castelnuovo Magra and Ortonovo, and red wines from other areas close by. The visit includes the wine cellar, vineyards and the private museum. A tasting of the wines and some typical snacks will follow.
In the afternoon, you can relax on the sandy beaches of Marina di Carrara or discover the charming medieval town of Sarzana.
Sarzana is located in the Ligurian hinterland and its position on one of the most important Roman trade roads to France, the famous “Via Francigena”, made it a town that has been coveted across the centuries by the Florentines, Genoese, and Pisans. Exploring Sarzana, you will admire the fortresses and Piazza Matteotti, the center of life in the town surrounded by a good number of interesting shops and buildings, that tell about the medieval past of the city.
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