Thursday, April 20, 2017

We return to Tellaro on a normal day to find that it is far from a normal vacation destination

Shhh! Don’t tell Rick Steves. We went back to Tellaro on Thursday, after the crowds from Easter Monday departed, and it’s truly a paradise, everything that the Cinque Terre were before the world discovered them. We heard about it from my brother, Roger, who had done some research while making plans to visit us. Tellaro is less than an hour from Lucca, on the coast south of La Spezia—whereas the Cinque Terre are just a little farther north.

Tellaro has rocky hillside cliffs, with houses and patios overhanging them. It has hiking trails in the hills. Views of bays, islands, peninsulas, sailboats. Old stone buildings attached to each other in willy nilly patterns with flowers in the window boxes and laundry hanging out the windows. Stone streets slanting this way and that. Dark narrow alleys overhung with random arches. Rocky beaches and a lovers’ lane—though it is not named as such—that is not closed for construction.
Rosemary contemplates Sleeping Dragon Island (the name she gave it).

It does not have a train station, though, which might be deemed a negative aspect. It is only reachable by bus or car, and the road from La Spezia south to Tellaro is a dead end. However, this may be the best part of Tellaro, in my opinion, because it renders it off the beaten tourist track, making it truly very much like Vernazza and the other Cinque Terre cities were 30 years ago. No kidding, we had the beach and trails almost to ourselves on a mild, sunny spring day. I’m sure it is somewhat more crowded in the summer, but even then I’m sure the crowds are nothing like they are at the Cinque Terre.

We had no problem parking up above the main street at about 10:30 a.m. It took about 15 minutes to walk to the beach, and we went straight out to a rocky protuberance, where we enjoyed the sun and view of the peninsula of Portovenere, the island of Palmaria and the port of La Spezia. A narrow and rugged 1650-foot-long island rose out of the water only about 30 feet away, separated from the mainland by a deep channel. It made us think of a sleeping dragon, and we watched the waves lap against the shore while we took pictures of each other and the landscape. For the 20 minutes that we enjoyed this section of the shore, which was right in the heart of the town, we were the only ones present.

From there, we walked past colorful rowboats waiting to be launched and enjoyed coffee and hot chocolate at the outdoor tables of the Bar La Marina. The tables were about half full, but we heard no English, German, Japanese or anything but Italian being spoken—and this was the liveliest part of the town. We walked south past the Chiesa di San Giorgio on a 10-foot wide trail overlooking the sea. We could have easily climbed over the railings and accessed the huge boulders that
made up the beach, but we were content to stay on the trail. Near the end, we sat on a ledge and munched on cheese, crackers, chocolate and apples that Lucy had packed. While the trail only extended about 360 feet before coming to a dead end, we later discovered the city streets above went much further and offered a higher vantage point. During our half hour stroll and snack, we did share the trail, viewpoints, benches and boulders with, oh, about a dozen other vacationers. While the coastline in Tellaro is not made for swimming, one can easily walk to the sandy beaches of nearby Fiascherino—or if sandy beaches are more of a priority, one can just stay in Fiascherino instead of Tellaro. They are only five minutes apart by foot.

When we walked up higher, we found some fascinating narrow alleys, hidden piazzas, breathtaking overlooks and more old churches, walls, doorways and ornate doorknobs. And once again, very few people. We could see trails on the hillsides that begged us to follow them.

‟It’s definitely worth a couple or three days, easily,” Roger said. ‟It reminds me of my first visit to Vernazza many years ago. It would be especially great for people who like hiking, because you could stroll without crowds of foreigners coming up behind you making impatient noises because they want to pass.”

We only explored the town for about two hours, but it was enough to convince us to book some rooms next time for more extensive exploration. One can easily take a bus from Tellaro to the more bustling resort town of Lerici (only two miles away), which has sandy beaches, castles to explore, a cinema and the Scuola di Mare Santa Teresa, where one can take lessons in surfing, sailing, windsurfing, kayaking, stand-up paddleboards and kite-surfing, as well as rent all the equipment. I also read online that in the summer there is boat service from Tellaro to Lerici.

The town is small, so any place inside the city limits is near the water, bus stops, restaurants and other services. We saw plenty of advertisements for rooms available to rent, so I’m sure that with some advance planning, one should have a good choice of places to stay. Just don’t take our room, because we’re coming back for a much longer stay next time!

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