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the Levante coastline Paddling along cliffs, bays and beaches

Guide to the East Ligurian coast From Genoa to Montemarcello

Š 2019

CoastalTouring Editions 1


Nature, history and art along the coast Along the route on the east coast of Genoa there are numerous sites of naturalistic, historical or artistic interest, some of which can be appreciated only from the the sea. Above: the Genovese fortress of Cape Pagana near Santa Margherita. 2


The Genovese coast From Boccadasse to Moneglia

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he east coast of Genoa is characterized by variety and, at the same time, there are unique places of interest. This territory, although densely urbanized in many areas, still preserves areas of great naturalistic value in protected areas such as the Portofino Park, the bordering Protected Marina Area and the Sites of Community Interest (SICs). Equally valuable are the historical and architectural features along this coastal strip, both within the inhabited areas as well as in the isolated, striking natural settings. Towers, castles, palaces, ancient fishing villages, all one after the other starting from the Genovese metropolitan area all along the coast towards the crowded centers of the Riviera that have become famous especially for tourist attractions. The particular climatic conditions in fact have, since the nineteenth century, helped to shape this coast into a holiday destination, once exclusive, which is now very popular. The perspective from the sea, leading an excursion on easy rowing boats, allows us to appreciate this context in a unique, but also fascinatingly ancient way. The uniqueness certainly lies in the possibility to reach cliffs and bays otherwise inaccessible by foot and to enjoy the spectacular views of the coastline. Even now, access to ports and landings is repeated in the same way in which for centuries they were approached by cabotage sailors and local fishermen, that is to say by the stroke of an oar or paddle â–

Rock garden The jagged coast on the way to Chiavari with the offshoots of the Apennines that creep along the sea. The Levante Genovese is characterized by large areas of cliffs interspersed with beaches, often short and pebbly, at the mouth of streams.

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The arc of the Riviera From the outskirts of Genoa to Moneglia, a strip of about 50 km, interrupted by the great promontory of Portofino.

Waves of rock Below, a spectacular twisted rock seems to break against the sea at Moneglia. The coast offers intact natural environments.

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5 1 Levante genoese 2 Golfo Paradiso 3 Promontorio Portofino 4 Tigullio occidentale 5 Tigullio orientale Google Earth

Waterways To the right, in the foreground, the “Roman� bridge of Bogliasco and behind the arch of the railway viaduct. Before the train, the road along the coast was very limited by the contour of the territory: it was therefore easier to move goods and people by sea.

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The watch tower in Nervi This sixteenth-century tower of Groppallo, located upon the cliffs along the footpath called Anita Garibaldi. 6


The Genovese Levante From Boccadasse to Capolungo

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of easy landing places. Paddling is therefore very pleasant along the seven kilometers of coastline and the opportunities for stops and breaks are many. Starting from the characteristic small port of Boccadasse, once a landing place for fishermen, today is more and more a destination for tourists and Genoese to go to the local pubs and restaurants which overlook the beach. It immediately runs along into Cape Santa Chiara, which is dominated by the medieval TĂźrckle castle. It is, in fact, a neo-gothic style villa built by the famous liberty ar-

he Levante Genovese (East coast), despite the chaotic urban development of the 60s, still retains significant environmental and architectural features that can be uniquely appreciated from a different perspective, the sea. The path along the coast, from the inlet of the ancient fishing village of Boccadasse to Nervi, is full of evocative natural contexts, buildings of architectural value and relevant historical sites. The eastern coastal side of the city also allows you to have practical solutions for public transport, services and a number

Risorgimento cliffs Giuseppe Garibaldi, the national hero of Italian reunification and independence (Risorgimento), sailed from the rock of Quarto for his adventure in southern Italy in 1860. On the right is the monument to honor Giuseppe Garibaldi by the sculptor Eugenio Baroni in the early years from the 1900s that can be seen from the sea. The artist was inspired by the initial verses of the Hymn of Garybaldi written by the poet Luigi Mercantini: “The graves are discovered, the dead have raised, our martyrs have all resurrected�. The monument was restored in 2010 for the 150th anniversary of the unification of Italy.

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the 6th of May 1860. The great bronze monument dedicated to Garibaldi, by the sculptor Eugenio Baroni and inaugurated in 1915 by none other than Gabriele D’Annunzio, a statue of whom is up just a little further, dominating a pedestrian square that overlooks the sea. Thereon you will find a series of small bays protected by reefs that serve as easy landing places for boats: the port of Quarto, as well as that of Quinto (terms reminiscent of distance in Roman miles from the center of Genoa) and finally the characteristic small port of Nervi. From the small port, overshadowed by a small castle, starts the famous “Anita Garibaldi” promenade that runs along the rugged cliff up to the small seafaring village of Capolungo, the last small village of the City of Genoa. This stretch of coast is among the most famous of the Ligurian coast and the view from the sea

chitect Gino Coppedè. Just after the cliffs of the ridge you can find a wide beach, which is part of the village of Vernazzola, once also a fishing port. As you continue following the coast, you can find the village of Sturla, which takes its name from the stream that flows through it and into the sea. Beyond the walls of the Aurelia state road is the pediatric hospital “Giannina Gaslini”, works of Rationalist architecture of the first half of the 20th century. Today, the institute is an international center of excellence. The coast is dotted with old bathing establishments spaced with stretches of bare cliffs. An obelisk of white marble crowned with a star stands out on a spike of sandstone: it marks the famous rock of Quarto from which about one thousand Garibaldi volunteers departed for Sicily on the night between the 5th and

Liberty tradition Neo-Gothic style villas dominate the rise of Santa Chiara, which juts out into the sea. The wealthiest Genovese families had holiday residences outside the center along the coast. On the left, the Türckle castle built in 1903 by the famous architect Gino Coppedè, an acclaimed promoter of the Liberty style.

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enhances its beauty. Beyond the cliff and the supporting walls of the promenade and the railway above you can see the foliage of the trees in Nervi Parks, ancient gardens of aristocratic villas now belonging to the municipality, and the barren peak of Mount Fasce which, with its 834 meters, is the highest elevation in the city. Along this stretch stands a beautiful sixteenth-century tower, called Groppallo tower, the name was given to it by the family who bought it in the midnineteenth century, but also known as “hay tower” because of the wet grass that was burned to alert the arrival of Saracen pirates. The villas behind the parks are now municipal property and are not only examples of luxurious mansions, but also the headquarters of important museums and collections: the Gallery of Modern Art (GAM), the Frugone Museum, the Luxoro museum as well as the Wolfsonian collection. Therefore, the nautical trip could also have an interesting cultural detour. As for a stopover and refreshments, the

Boccadasse and the obelisk Above: S. Antonio’s church in Boccadasse Below: the obelisk in memory of Garibaldi’s departure in 1860

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Thousands on the metal plate

Riviera offers abundant possibilities: bars, trattorias, restaurants and the famous, and numerous, focaccerie where the true Genoese focaccia is cooked continuously. The east side of Genoa revels in a particular microclimate since the surrounding mountains protect the coast. In the nineteenth century this climatic feature was particularly appreciated by the affluent international nobility that made Nervi a first rate tourist destination, as evidenced by the large hotels, now mostly homes, and the Art Nouveau villas that surround the parks. The presence of numerous exotic essences in the gardens is further proof of these particular environmental conditions. This is why paddling can easily be planned throughout the year. Taking advantage of a sunny winter day can in fact be particularly pleasant as you can easily arrive to the deserted rocky coves, numerous along the coast, and have no fear of traffic on the coast. Access to the sea is generally quite easy in the marinas along the way. On this

The rock of the Thousand and a view from the monument to Garibaldi where a relief steel plate, installed on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the unification of Italy, shows the names of Garibaldi’s volunteers. The entire coast is full of historical monuments.

stretch of coast you can also see the remains of steps or small piers, now in disuse: they are the old landings of commercial vessels that unloaded food, especially flour for the numerous pasta factories once present in the area. Today, maritime traffic takes place away from the beaches, beyond the 300-meter limit or in marked areas, while mooring is forbidden. Some public beaches are also equipped with free showers and rest rooms. Today, maritime traffic takes place away from the beaches, beyond the 300 meter limit or in the marked corridors, while mooring is prohibited. As mentioned, 10


the coast is easily accessible by private or public means. However, taking a car can become difficult in the summer when the people migrate to the nearest beaches closest to the city center. Public transport is particularly functional with bus lines that follow the coastal road and the railway that connects all the small towns along the seaside. For those coming by train, Nervi station, which is located directly on the cliff and on the promenade “Anita Garibaldi”, is not only convenient, but has a truly spectacular view. As well as the whole trail up to Capolungo, where you can admire the entire gulf, “Golfo Paradiso”, that extends to the east with the Portofino promontory, which encloses it, in the background. Despite being adjacent to the city, this coast is particularly rich from a naturalistic point of view. In fact, it is not rare to see the gray heron, cormorants or gulls. The seabed is just as interesting as it is brimming with patterns of Posidonia Oceanic beds and coral formations. For this reason the area has been declared a Site of Community Importance (SCI) and particularly protected in terms of the preservation of marine biodiversity.

Mountains near the sea Above: the small castle that protects the entrance to the small port in Nervi. Below: the jagged coast between Quinto and Nervi dominated by the first cliffs of the Ligurian Appenines. Ancient fishermen’s dwellings follow modern buildings with an incongruous and anonymous architecture. Beside Monte Moro, which dominates Quinto, you can see the remains of the coastal artillery bunkers dating back to the second world war.

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Crossing this stretch of sea, it will certainly be easy to be alongside or surpass the boats of rowers and rowing companies. Along the coast there are numerous sports centers and nautical bases for hobbyist associations. Sailing with small boats, canoeing, sea or river kayaking and SUP are practiced all year round along with fishing. In particular, the activity of fishing on wooden goiters is still alive, both day and night with dim lighting. In the small port of Nervi, old fishermen often meet, commenting on the last trip at sea in “zenéize” dialect. It is interesting to know that the villages along the way were once separate towns from the city of Genoa: the sense of belonging to the local community, which stands out from the big city, is still a deep-rooted feeling. In fact, the inhabitants of the suburbs declare to be proudly “of Quinto” or “of Nervi” even before considering themselves as Genovese ■

Villas, bathing establishments Above: an ancient bathing establishment overlooking the cliffs in Nervi. Below: the port of Capolungo, dominated by the sumptuous Villa Necchi by the architect Tommaso Buzzi built in the early 1950s.

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Cliff walk The marquis Gaetano Groppallo, owner of the tower, was the creator of the first path of the promenade that in the post-war period was named after Giuseppe Garibaldi’s wife, Anita. The villa is now part of Genoa’s Museum circuit.

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Useful info The east coast of Genoa is easily reachable by car (motorway A12 exit Genova Nervi), by train (Sturla, Quarto, Quinto and Nervi stations), by local bus (line 15 or 17 from the center of Genoa), by boat (seasonal line from the port of Genoa to Nervi). Excellent access points to the sea and stop at the small harbors of Boccadasse, Vernazzo, Quarto, Quinto, Nervi and Capolungo. Free parking along the waterfront or paid parking at Nervi station.

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1 Boccadasse 2 Monument to the Thousand 3 Quinto - small port 4 Nervi - small port 5 Groppallo tower 6 Capolungo Google Earth

Antola rock This sedimentary rock base that characterizes the cliffs in front of Nervi is called “limestone of Monte Antola�, the main peak of the Apennine mountain group behind Genoa. This stratified rock gives rise to suggestive constructions which have been eroded by the sea.

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Paradise is right next door

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Capo Santa Chiara (below) closes the western arch that extends to the promontory of Portofino. The eastern arc of this coast is called Golfo Paradiso.

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Seaside villages and spectacular cliffs The ancient medieval core of Camogli on the islet is now connected to the shore where the rest of the maritime village extends. The village is overshadowed by the 12th-century castle of the Dragonara and the coeval basilica of Santa Maria Assunta, reworked and enlarged several times over the centuries. Today the church exhibits a broad neoclassical facade. On the left is the rock of the “lion� near Capolungo. The whole coast is characterized by jagged cliffs. Although it is densely inhabited, the coast still has some natural features. 16


The “Paradiso” gulf From Bogliasco to Camogli

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beauty of the cliffs as well as for the historical and architectural richness of the ancient inhabited areas that overlook it. The coast, which extends for a dozen kilometers, is in fact characterized by jagged sandstone cliffs interrupted by small valleys from which small creeks flow into the sea. The mountain descends gently towards the coast where Camogli village is characterized by wide terraces with numerous inhabitants on the coast in scattered homes. The eastern side of the gulf, from Camogli to Punta Chiappa, is instead dominated by the Monte di Portofino and is mostly characterized by a high overhanging cliff. This stretch has no shelters on the sea except for the fisherman’s boarding ladder of Punta

The east coast of Genoa, which ends with being enclosed by the promontory of Portofino, is not inappropriately called “Golfo Paradiso” (Heaven). The coastal areas of the municipalities of Bogliasco, Pieve Ligure, Sori, Recco and Camogli are part of this territory. All these villages overlook a small port directly on the sea, except for Pieve, which sits on the slopes of Mount Santa Croce, part of the mountain ridge that encircles the gulf to the north. Precisely this natural protection makes the stretch of coast a real “paradise” due to the mild climate and the exuberance of the vegetation. The coastal navigation is therefore easy, due to the succession of marinas and easy landings, spectacular both for the

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Chiappa and the tiny port of Portopidocchio, just before the tip of the promontory. Bogliasco, the first town and small port you meet by paddling from the west, offers a wide beach partly protected by a well-equipped pier. The river (of the same name as the town) flows through it and is crossed by a medieval bridge just a few meters from the water’s edge. The houses that lean on the two sides of the stream have historical sailors’ homes or, as is the case of the high building on the west side of the inlet, of a defensive castle for the Genoese Republic. As you continue on your paddling journey, you will come across a succession of cliffs, coves and overhanging rocks where you can find overlooking holiday residences and tall maritime pines. The village of Sori surrounds the next short creek, also characterized by a beach of small pebbles in which a creek of the same name flows. The facade of the eighteenth-century parish church of Santa Margherita is located right by the sea, a short walk from the beach.

Overlooking the sea Above: the town of Bogliasco. Among the colored houses, the arch of the medieval bridge stands out. Below: the facade of S. Margherita in Sori a few from the shore.

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After a few hundred meters, paddling to the east, you can see the village of Camogli. This town has retained all the charm and architecture of an ancient maritime village with colorful nineteenth-century buildings that overlook the port, the beach and the medieval castle Dragone clinging to a rock overlooking the sea. Right on the rock of the castle, once an island separated from the coast, arose the first inhabited area of Camogli with its parish church, then rebuilt with a large neoclassical facade and a baroque bell tower. In the nineteenth century, Camogli was one of the main centers for the merchant navy. It came to be known as the city of “one thousand white sailing ships�: the owners owned hundreds of boats sailing routes all over the world. Today, it is a center purely dedicated to tourism, but manages to maintain the

Continuing towards the east the rocky coast becomes even more jagged until it opens into the lower creek of the valley where you can find Recco, the main town of the entire Gulf. Here the beach is protected on each side by two artificial reef brushes: the one on the east contains a small marina and is where the water-bus stops. Behind the modern houses facing the beach you can see the curvy railway bridge rebuilt after the war. In fact, very little remains of the ancient village since Recco suffered heavy bombings aimed at interrupting the coastal railway that at this point emerges from the tunnels and crosses the valley on a long viaduct. The convent of San Francesco (from the ancient settlement), leaning against the mountain on the eastern side, has been saved. Recco has recently become famous among surfers who take advantage of the waves that creep into the bay.

Hunting for pirates On the coast of Pieve Ligure rises the tower of the Cirla castle. Once a sighting tower against Saracen pirates, in the early twentieth century, it was rebuilt in the shape of a villa following the neo-Gothic taste of the time. Today, it is a private residence. The steep cliff is divided by numerous small landing spots once used by local fishermen.

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characteristics of a vital fishing village, including a still rich fishing activity as evidenced by the fishing vessels in port. Sheltered from the pier is a colorful painting of a rowboat with a Latin sail, which has become a symbol for the city. The boat, which bears the name “U Dragun”, is exhibited in rowing events and traditional festivals. It’s possible to land on the beach behind the parish church of Santa Maria Assunta except when it is crowded on summer weekends. An excursion on foot for the caruggi, the narrow streets of the city, or the squared cobblestone pavements is more than recommended. Along the pedestrian street overlooking the beach bars, restaurants and the inevitable focaccerie make the stage certainly pleasant. Since we’re mentioning focaccia, a typical Genoese bakery product, it is important to remember how the tasty cheese-stuffed variant is a specialty of the area, in particular of Recco, as certified by the IGP (Protected Geographical Indication) stamp. Bringing the bow to the east you pass the village and you start to glide past the overhanging cliff, taking care to keep adequate distance from the flaky and unsafe rock.

Villas and parks Above: in Sori, a liberty style tower offered an elegant access to the sea. Below: towards Recco, villas and houses with a seaside view.

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Castel Dragone The castle in Camogli, also known as the Dragonara, was used to protect the monks from assault from pirates, hostile factions and invaders, including the Milanese Duke Gian Galeazzo Visconti in the 14th century. Destroyed and rebuilt several times, it was used as a prison and to host a small aquarium, now it is open to visitors to the village.

Above the promontory among the crowns of pines, holm oaks and hornbeams you can see the houses and the church of the village of San Rocco, an ideal panoramic point of the whole gulf. On the coast, still in the thick of Mediterranean scrub, you can see the suggestive Romanesque church of San Nicolò di Capodimonte, once a Benedictine monastery: a path leads quickly to the church from Cape Chiappa. In this stretch of sea, buoys mark the presence of a small underwater net, a system of fishing with fixed nets, unique to Liguria. It is worth remembering how, after passing the rocky point that stretches out over the sea, you come out of the gulf protected from currents and winds: therefore, caution is necessary in tackling the next stretch of sea exposed and flanked by steep cliffs. At Punta Chiap-

pa, as indicated by signal buoys with the yellow cross, you are already inside the Protected Marina Area of Portofino that surrounds almost the entire promontory and ensures, with areas of differing degrees of accessibility, the protection of a rich Marine environment. From this side of the promontory you can visit the stretch of C and B areas, in which rowing is allowed, while there are limitations for sailing and motorboats. Mooring is not allowed, except under special conditions. The Marine Protected Area is a beautiful accessory to the sea of the Regional Natural Park of Portofino, which extends over the mountain for 18 km2 to the inhabited areas of Portofino and Santa Margherita Ligure. Apart from the promontory, which can only be accessed on foot and by boats, the whole coast of this route is easily accessible by public and private means. 21


Camogli beach The beach in Camogli, dominated by the church of Santa Maria Assunta in the ancient village, is a practical landing place for rowing boats, but it is crowded with tourists during the summer season.

Since Golfo Paradiso (Heaven) is a very popular tourist destination, parking, moving and landings in high season are often complicated by the overcrowding of tourists. The mildness of the climate, however,

makes it possible to enjoy, even in this stretch of coast, pleasant excursions throughout the year ■

The “Tonnarella” Fishing is still practiced although more at the amateur level than at the professional level. Near Camogli there is a small tuna fishery that renews the tradition handed down since the seventeenth century. The tonnarella is lowered from April to September and “raised” several times a day. In addition to tuna, large migrant fish are caught in front of the promontory.

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Useful info The succession of well connected villages along the coast facilitates access to the sea: motorway A12 exits Genova Nervi and Recco, train (stations of Nervi, Bogliasco, Sori, Pontetto, Recco and Camogli), provincial buses (ATP), by boat (seasonal line Golfo Paradiso in Nervi, Recco, Camogli and call at Porto Pidocchio on the promontory). The beaches of Bogliasco, Sori and Recco are excellent embarkating points, as they can also be reached by road. Camogli, on the other hand, has a pedestrian center and access to port and beach boarding is limited.

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The abbey of San Fruttuoso di Capodimonte A medieval jewel, now well of the Italian Environment Fund, the abbey is mirrored in a narrow bay in the middle of the promontory.

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The promontory of Portofino From Punta Chiappa to Santa Margherita

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he promontory of Portofino, which owes its name to the seaside village of the same name, stretches out over the Ligurian Sea dividing the eastern coastal area of the region resting in between the villages of Camogli and Santa Margherita. The mountain, which reaches a maximum height of 610 meters, surrounds the Gulf to the west, while to the east it encircles the Gulf of Tigullio. The wooded northern slope joins the Apennine ridge at the Ruta pass, which splits towards Camogli to the west and towards the wide valley above Santa Margherita to the east. The southern side of the mountain, exposed to the sea, is detailed with high cliffs crowned with Mediterranean vegetation of maritime pines and holm oaks. Much of the mountain falls within the Regional Natural Park, while the sea, which surrounds it on three sides, is included in the Protected Marina Area of Portofino, which extends for over 200 meters from the coast. This spectacular natural environment, together with the seaside villages and the almost intact artistic spots along the way, makes navigation along the coast one of the most satisfying and exciting experiences in the Ligurian Sea, and most likely of the entire Mediterranean. Due to the protruding cliffs, for long steep stretches causing a lack in landing areas, we would advise caution and attention to varying weather conditions. Passing Punta Chiappa rock, which closes the Gulfo Paradiso, your bow is directed

Natural Park The promontory, for most of its existence, has been protected since 1935 and is managed by the Portofino Park Authority.

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to the west to skirt the jagged and high cliff up to the lighthouse of Portofino, about seven kilometers away. Numerous buoys ripple the coast along the way: these are mooring points for boats authorized to assist with underwater activities. The entire marine park is in fact a stunning diving area. Instead, while gazing upwards, the remains of coastal artillery bunkers from the Second World War can be seen sporadically along the route. After less than a kilometer of jagged ridges, opens a wide bay fenced in by yellow signs that mark the park areas. It is Cala dell’Oro, an inlet downstream of a steep ravine, an integral reserve area where access to any boat and even swimming is forbidden. It is therefore necessary to keep outside this area and move towards the cape that surrounds the bay to the east. On the crest of the rocky spur that closes this cove rises a sixteenth-century tower: a point of observation used to warn against frequent raids from Saracen pirates in this stretch of coast in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.

The gray cliff that sinks into the waves has the appearance of a mass of stones, more or less massive, made of granular sandstone. Because of its shape, the rock is known as “puddinga”, or pudding as coined in English. Once passed the cape where there is a small tower, you can find a bigger bay that falls back near the mountain up to a narrow cove that houses a small fishing village called San Fruttuoso: a few old fishermen houses around the medieval Abbey dedicated to the Spanish saint of Tarragona. The view of this diverse area, which is close to the sea yet surrounded by the green of the Mediterranean scrub and

Hard “Puddinga” The promontory cliff is characterized by a particularly hard conglomerate with rounded pebbles cemented by a crumbly finish with sharp edges. In the picture is an improvised landing between the rocks before Cala dell’Oro.

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Guard towers Defenses and observatories were built to defend the town and the Abbey of San Fruttuoso in the 16th century. A turret stands out on the rocks that close the bay of Cala dell’Oro, an integral reserve within the Marine Protected Area. Below: the massive Doria Tower over the cliff in the San Fruttuoso inlet.

olive trees, is truly breathtaking. The facade of the main building, adorned with two levels of Gothic three-light windows, rests on low arches planted on a pebble beach. The abbey church is visible behind the high octagonal nave tower surmounted by a slate-shaped dome. Away yet near the abbey, stands a massive quadrangular tower, built to clearly protect the village. The Abbey was constructed in the twelfth century thanks to the interest of the Genoese Doria family, built on an ancient religious settlement from the VIII century. The Dorias, especially the famous Admiral Andrea, transformed the Abbey of San fruttuoso di Capodimonte into their private shrine in the 14th century, entombing many members of the family. The ownership of this area by the rich and powerful Genoese family is unmistakably manifested by the coat of arms frescoed on the great tower. This area, now brought back to its 16th century splendor, is a heritage of the 27


The Doria Shrine In the bay hidden by the sea, not very accessible from the mountain, but rich in fresh water, a small church was erected which, from the tenth century, expanded as a Benedictine monastery. The rich Doria family, in particular Admiral Andrea Doria, invested in its development and transformed it into their own monumental shrine.

Italian Environment Fund and can be visited entirely, which is doubtlessly recommended. The landing on the pebble beach, formed after a disastrous flood in the early twentieth century, would be easy if it were not for the overcrowding of beach goers on the shore and of the boats at the small pier in late spring and summer. Definitely better to take advantage of the mild climate in the rest of the year and enjoy the view of the bay in complete stillness and serenity. The “Cristo degli abissi� (a submerged bronze statue of Jesus Christ) was placed at the bottom of the sea, not far from the shore, in the fifties, and today is a famous destination for scuba divers and freedivers. While setting off towards the east, you pass by Punta Carega and continue along to see the steep cliff of the white lighthouse of Portofino.

Before paddling around the tip, you can see the profile of the church of San Giorgio, patron saint of the village, looking out from the top of the rock face. After going around the bend, on which the lighthouse stands, you can follow the cliff surmounted here by the massive Brown castle, the ancient Genoese fortress, which protects the inlet of the small and ancient seaside village of Portofino. The reputation of this town, an exclusive tourist center since the end of the 19th century, extends far beyond the Ligurian Riviera. This side of the promontory, with more gentle terraced slopes and dotted with small bays, became and remains today a top international holiday destination, as evidenced by the luxurious yachts anchored in the bay in the summer. The village has however retained its ancient architectural cha28


pubs and small hotels on a beautiful sandy beach. Shortly after, you can see the bell tower of the Abbey of San Girolamo della Cervara, an ancient 14th century monastery, today a luxurious hotel. The village of Santa Margherita occu-

racteristics and a walk, after the easy landing on the marina’s slipway, is certainly recommended.The paddling continues going up the promontory to the north and after about a kilometer you enter the Paraggi bay where you can find

Punta Portofino The white lighthouse is the ancient church of San Giorgio (below) on the foothills of the Portofino mountain. The church of medieval origins was transformed and expanded in 1760. Destroyed during a bombing in the Second World War it was rebuilt taking on a seventeenth-century structure.

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Small sqare for VIPs

pies the basin north of the promontory and surrounds a large bay, today protected by a long pier that borders the busy tourist port. The village towards the sea is dominated by the profile of the seventeenth-century Baroque Villa Durazzo Centurione that rises upon a green hill: the lush garden of the villa itself, which today has become a municipal park. Below the villa are ancient typically colored buildings that face the small port together with the defensive tower built by the Genoese in the sixteenth century. Continuing to the north, there is a wide beach with buildings and hotels dating back to the end of the nineteenth century, witnesses of a very lively tourist vacation spot. The center of Santa Margherita is certainly an excellent base for excursions to the promontory: the railway station and the Rapallo motorway exit make it easily accessible, while the wide range of services for tourism makes it as an ideal place to stay â–

Below: the open space, where once fishermen’s boats were stranded, is an exclusive square with refined local and fashion boutiques. The limited access to the village and the expensive parking areas advise against considering Portofino as a starting point or destination for trips. Better to take advantage of the well connected and not too distant Santa Margherita. However, a stop in this ancient village is a must if only to appease the charm of a destination of international social life.

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Dolphin Port Above the Brown castle, from the name of the old English owners, dominates the marina of the village of Portofino. From the time of the Romans, the then “Portus Delphini� was a safe landing point. Today in high season the mirror of water is crowded with sailing ships, yachts and large speedboats often flying the flag of exotic marinas.

From castle to villa The castle of Paraggi closes the homonymous bay characterized by a large equipped beach on which an exclusicce beach stands. The structure of the castle, designed by the Genovese in the seventeenth century, after various adaptations, is today a luxurious private residence.

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Zone C 1 Cala dell’Oro 2 San Fruttuoso 3 LightHouse 4 Portofino 5 Paraggi 6 Santa Margherita Google Earth

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Under the Genovese flag The rough bulk of the 16th-century Genovese castle is reflected in the large marina of Santa Margherita.

Zone A integral reserve, access only for authorized scientific research.

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or sailing and swimming. Dives allowed only to authorized diving centers. No anchorage.

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Useful info SSanta Margherita is well connected thanks to the nearby exit of the Rapallo motorway A12 and the railway station on the Genoa - La Spezia railway line. The center is served by the provincial buses (ATP) and the boats of the Maritime Service line of the Tigullio (Rapallo, Santa Margherita, Portofino, San Fruttuoso). Access to the sea from the nearby coastal road is also possible in the Paraggi bay, while in Portofino the center is pedestrian and parking limits are strong. San Frutoso is reachable only by boat or on non-driveways.

The Park represents a unique natural environment and a cultural testimony of great artistic and ethnographic value. Numerous sites (from medieval testimonies, to eighteenth-century mills up to the bunkers of the world war) have been restructured for the visit along the 80 kilometers of marked paths.

Protected nature View of the bay of San Fruttuoso with ancient fishermen dwellings with large areas for sheltering boats, today tourists’ kayaks.

Find sites on Google Maps by scanning the QR code above. 33


The castle in Rapallo It rises on a rock connected to the mainland by a strip of land and has an original structure with two opposing circular apses. Its construction was decided in 1550 after the devastating raid by the Saracen pirate Dragout; who destroyed the village of Rapallo and enslaved the population. 34


The Western Tigullio From San Michele di Pagana to Chiavari

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Protected observatory

rom the Punta di Portofino to Capo Manara, after Sestri Levante, the Gulf of Tigullio extends further. The coast, which is divided into a large curve of a total of 30 kilometers, is characterized by jagged loops in the western stretch, a low coast in the middle at the mouth of the river Entella and finally steep cliffs in the promontory that surrounds it in the east. The territory in fact has quite a diverse environment: from natural parks and protected areas to the crowded centers of Chiavari and Lavagna that extend into the coastal flat area or along the bottom of the valley like Rapallo. The coastal itinerary then touches on places rich in history and culture: castles, villas and historical centers follow one after another along the curvy gulf which takes its name from the pre-Roman people who lived there, the Tigulli. From the port of Santa Margherita, parading along the seafront of the luxurious Bell’Époque style hotels, you head north towards Punta Pagana. Crossing the mirror-like waters in front of the ports is always to be done with much attention to the traffic of the boats: you must therefore consider that along this route you meet major tourist ports along the Levante Riviera and that, especially during the summer, recreational boating is very much practiced. The jagged edge, which closes the bay of Santa Margherita, houses a small fortress with a star-shaped plant built by the Genoese Republic in the seventeenth century. Among the maritime pines you

The sixteenth-century Punta Pagana tower is a property protected by the Italian Environmental Fund.

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can see the high fortresses surmounted by watchtowers. Today, the fort and the adjacent villa are the heritage of the Knights of Malta, donated by the old owners. Next you will see two inlets and the small beaches of Prelo and Trelo, separated by a space occupied by an ancient cemetery. Incorporated into the walls of the cemetery area stands a sixteenth-century Saracen tower restored by the Italian Environment Fund, which owns it. Behind that you can see the bell tower of the ancient church of San Michele di Pagana. The small bay of Trelo joins the wider one of Pomaro: both are surrounded by the typical colored Ligurian houses, once fishermen’s homes, which zigzag along the shore. These small tows, which overlook the three bays, make up the village

Impenetrable fortress Carrier of the coastal defense of the gulf, the Genovese peak, Punta Pagana, was built to prevent an attack by the Savoias. But it was never attacked; Abandoned, it became part of a private residence.

of San Michele, part of the municipality of Rapallo to which it is connected by the coastal road that runs above the cliff. While paddling on you arrive quickly to tackle the long boundary of the large tourist port of Rapallo (with a capacity of 900 berths) dominated by the imposing facade of a luxury hotel in Art Nouveau style. Rapallo, famous at the end of the nineteenth century for exclusive hotels frequented by international nobility and 36


for the large villas of rich industrial families, its’ village appearance has been distorted by urbanization in the sixties. To criticize the phenomenon of wild over development and denounce it to the public, the famous journalist Indro Montanelli coined precisely the term “rapallization”. From the sea, however, the modern buildings remain hidden behind the historical center facing the shore where, connected by a ribbon of sand, stands the Genoese castle of the sixteenth century, today the municipal center for exhibitions and shows. The touristic tradition of Rapallo has however remained, as evidenced by the numerous pubs and bars along the waterfront. As you are padding past Rapallo, the coast line bends towards the south-east and features rocks and high walls of stratified sandstone that create unique shapes on the water. You can see, at the top of the rocks, pines of Aleppo villas and more modest dwellings that overlook the sea. This stretch of sea is less protected by the promontory of Portofino and therefore more exposed to the conditions of

Hidden treasures The baroque bell tower of St. Michael of Pagana stands out among the maritime pines. The small church contains valuable works including an altarpiece by the famous painter Van Dyck. Below: the bay of Pomaro with its colourful fishermen’s houses. Today it is a well-equipped beach.

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the open sea. The coast has limited safe landing points: it is therefore recommended particular attention when programming an excursion. Before reaching Zoagli, the next village on the sea, you will come across one of the few landings along these cliffs: the small beach of Bardi Marina created at the bottom of a small valley from the sediments of the stream. After this small creek, the cliff rises steeply, while large boulders, populated by herons, seagulls and bertes, emerge from the sea: it is the most evocative and naturalistic stretch of the route. The village of Zoagli occupies the small area at the mouth of the creek, facing terraced slopes. From the ancient village, behind the railway viaduct that divides the town from the beach, there is not much left after the bombing of the war: two ancient watchtowers and the parish church near the village. However, the town has found a tourist attraction and the view towards Portofino, especially at night, is definitely spectacular. After Zoagli, looking up to the ridge, you can see a large building with curious architecture like a cathedral or an exotic castle.

View of Portofino From the main square in Zoagli, through the arches of the railway viaduct, you can see the Punta di Portofino which closes the Gulf of Tigullio to the south.

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Steep cliffs The jagged cliffs of the coast near Zoagli are topped by a rich Mediterranean maquis. This stretch of steep coast has no moorings and is particularly exposed to the open sea. The approach must therefore be slow and careful.

The town of Chiavari, lying in the flat area and separated by the river Entella from the next town of Lavagna, is revealed through the imposing silhouette of the Fara colony, a rationalist skyscraper from the thirties with a particular rounded facade. Built in the fascist period as a children’s colony, it has had many vicissitudes and has remained in a state of neglect until the recent recovery works to convert it to a residential and commercial structure. In front of the building, to protect the

This is the eclectic style villa built by the eccentric poet and playwright Sem Benelli in the early twentieth century. Here, is where the artist, symbolist author and follower of futurism, spent the last years of his life. Continuing your navigation from Zoagli to Chiavari the coast begins to rise, while the houses on the ridge are thinned out to leave the place to the woods. The bell tower of the ancient sanctuary of the Madonna delle Grazie stands out for its frescos from the 16th century. 39


Castles on the sea

beach, a long artificial reef has been placed that extends out to the large modern marina that can accommodate 460 boats. To the side of the entrance of the port, facing west, there is a large artificial beach, which is an excellent solution when landing boats. Chiavari is a large center with a rich history that is reflected in its civil and religious architecture. Already a Roman city, then passed under the Genoese dominion, it preserves a network of medieval streets characterized by low porticoes. Baroque churches, Renaissance palaces and a castle on the hill behind the town enrich this historic village. Chiavari offers a wide variety of facilities and services for tourism and is well connected to other towns along the coast thanks to the motorway and the railway. Together, with the other large towns of Santa Margherita and Rapallo, it represents a valid reference point on your nautical itinerary.

Above: the Sem Benelli castle stands out on the crest. Below: observation tower incorporated into a villa in Zoagli.

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The extension of the trip with a visit to the historical centers of these towns is particularly recommended and will certainly be appreciated. As with all holiday centers on the Riviera, overcrowding during the summer makes the logistics for organizing excursions more complicated. Here too the climate, particularly mild throughout the year, suggests choosing a beautiful sunny day in low season â–

Colony Fara Designed by the architects Nardi Greco and Castello in the imposing rationalist style of the time, was inaugurated in 1938. The colony, which takes its name from General Gustavo Fara, could accommodate up to 400 children. With the advent of war it became a military hospital, a shelter for German soldiers and allied troops. After the war it hosted Istrian refugees. In the following years, it once again became a holiday colony, then a hostel and finally a school. Abandoned for twenty years, it is now the subject of a recovery project.

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The western Gulf of Tigullio is particularly urbanized housing the main centers of the province after the capital of Genoa. The motorway runs along the coast connecting Rapallo and Chiavari, while the railway passes by Santa Margherita, Rapallo, Zoagli and Chiavari. The settlements are served by provincial buses (ATP) and by boats of the Tigullio Maritime Service line. The marinas of Santa Margherita, Rapallo and Chiavari are among the largest and most frequented on the Ligurian coast. Free and paid parking are present in the major centers.

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Ancient rocks

Find sites on Google Maps by scanning the QR code

The sandstone layers, fractured and deformed during various geological eras, has created a jagged cliff that accompanies the navigation from Zoagli to Chiavari.

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Lookout point in Moneglia Above the ruins of the Genovese castle of Monleone, built in the twelfth century to protect the seaside village of Moneglia, stands the villa liberty “de Fornari� with its characteristic medieval tower. Behind the old railway bridge and at the front of recent homes, we can see the bell tower of the Benedictine church of San Giorgio. 44


The western Tigullio From Lavagna to Moneglia

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he mouth of the Entella river, which separates the settlements of Chiavari and Lavagna, is more or less in the middle of the Tigullio Gulf. The eastern part of the inlet is characterized for a large stretch by a low sandy coastline behind which the town of Lavagna and its districts stretch out. The village, from the ancient medieval center leaning against the slopes of the hills, faces the large marina protected by a long dam. After the port, there are well-equipped beaches and artificial reef brushes, placed to protect the former, which extend for about four kilometers. This stretch of coast is not very interesting: the focus is on the small promontory, which closes the gulf to the east, and the village of Sestri Levante rests at its feet. The Aurelia highway runs adjacent to the coast, along with the railway line. Both disappear into tunnels as soon as the coast rises into a steep cliff just before the valley where the most modern part of the village and its suburbs emerge. The historical center of Sestri Levante occupies the entire neck of the promontory: the baroque palaces and the old fishermen’s houses in the west face the so-called “delle Favole” (Fairytale) bay, while in the east there is one called “del Silenzio” (Peace). The first name recalls the work of the writer Hans Christian Andersen who stayed here in the early nineteenth century and to whom the city dedicates an annual festival. The second name seems to be coined by a local poet. Due to its particular position between two bays Sestri is often referred to as

Marconi’s tower An observation tower has emerged from the promontory over Sestri. It became famous because it housed Guglielmo Marconi’s radiotelegraphy laboratory in the 1930s. The radio beacon activated on the tower guided with precision the Electra, the scientist’s ship, in a path between buoys, thus demonstrating the usefulness of radio waves during navigation. Since then, Tigullio is also named “Marconi’s Gulf”.

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Fables and Silence The western bay of Sestri, with wide sandy beaches on which old wooden boats rest, is called “Fables” (to the side), the eastern one closed off by the ancient convent of the Annunziata (below) is known instead as “Silence”.

the “city of the two seas”. The green promontory, which was once a fortress, houses a medieval-style villa (Castelli Gualino), the Romanesque parish church of San Nicolò with the pointed stone bell tower and the ruins of the oratory of Santa Caterina: circumnavigating the

promontory you can see the roofs of these buildings between the fronds of maritime pines and Mediterranean scrub. Among the trees there is also the outline of a red tower, famous for being used by the Nobel Prize winner Guglielmo Marconi in the thirties for his experiments

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on radio waves. The “baia del Silenzio”, framed by colorful houses, once belonging to local fisherman. Today, there are pubs and bars for tourists, has been closed off by the former convent (dell’Annunziata) currently home to a multi-purpose center for the municipality. Landing on the beaches of Sestri, protected by the harbor pier to the west and the rocks to the east, is easy and recommended for a visit to this traditional village. Leaving the bay begins off the jagged cliff of Punta Manara, end of the great promontory of Monte Castello that rises up to 260 meters above sea level. This solid structure, triangular in shape, is covered with holm oaks, alders, strawberry trees and pines. The whole area is subject to environmental protection and is a popular destination for hikers. Before reaching the tip, we reach a large slab of sandstone bending towards the sea, the so-called “Ciappa du Lu”, where a momentary landing is possible. On the ridge, stands the remains of an ancient Saracen watchtower.

The “pescatorello” in the bay The statue of the contemporary Sestrese artist, Leonardo Lustig, appears on a rock of the Silent bay. Bronze has become an icon of the village since it was placed in 2013. Below, entrance to the bay of Silence.

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technologies, has a long history having been founded at the end of the nineteenth century and represents a piece of the country’s industrial history. Rio beach ends at the “Assêu”, a low rock adjacent to the coast and crowned with a cross. From here there is a high and spectacular cliff characterized by vertical layers of sedimentary rocks. These large slabs of gray rock rise for tens of meters, perpendicular to the coastline, with large fractures and isolated stacks. The effect is really quite impressive. Below the mountain runs the tunnel for the old railway line turned into an alternating way road. From Riva to the next town of Moneglia you can in fact take this road, paying attention that the cros-

Moving along, you can catch a glimpse of the low coast of Riva Trigoso characterized by a deep sandy beach at the sides of the mouth of the stream Petronio, from the town of colorful low-rise houses and, in the distance, see huge cranes in the shipyard. The village of Riva Trigoso, a district of Sestri, occupies the area between the Punta Manara and the high cliff of Punta Baffe to the east. On the eastern side of the beach there are Fincantieri shipyards, a company specialized in the construction of military ships. The sight of the plant and the prows of the great ships that face the sea, is certainly suggestive. The construction site, which today exploits the most advanced construction 48


Manara’s Cape On the left, the tip is characterized by high rock bastions. On the right, the promontory of Monte Castello, with the offshoot of Punta Manara, as seen from the beach of Riva Trigoso. sing times are marked by long stops to allow for alternating traffic. Shortly after the tip, crossing a gorge on a massive viaduct, the path exits outside for a few tens of meters. Here, when the sea is calm, it is possible to land on the big stones under the viaduct. It is important to consider that this whole stretch of coast is particularly exposed to winds or currents and that sea storms are particularly violent, as demonstrated by the broken and damaged artifacts and protective walls along the way. Continuing towards the east, the cliff remains high, jagged and without any landing space along the promontory of Punta Moneglia until the entrance of the village of the same name. The old railway track crossed the valley between Punta Moneglia and the next Punta Rospo on a viaduct built between

Big ships The ships of the Italian Navy are built on the Riva shipyards, and not only.

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stretch, the old railway, passing under the hill, serves as a road link, with alternated ways, between the two towns. A stone roadbed was built along the entire cliff to protect the tunnel today eroded in many points by the sea. The arrival at Deiva is finally sighted through a sequence of modern buildings, a sign of the tourist exploitation of the seventies. Like the previous stretches of coast, the latter, between Moneglia and Deiva, does not offer safe landings or shelters: the coastal navigation must therefore be well planned considering the exposure to the open sea and the few little ports reachable along the route.

the beach and the village. The structure, maintained for road traffic control, hides the front of the houses from the sea. The beach of Moneglia is also protected by artificial reefs, which are parallel to the coastline. The historical center of the town, which today lives purely on seaside tourism, is fairly well preserved and certainly deserves a relaxing walk. Moneglia is the last municipality of the metropolitan city of Genoa, bordering the province of La Spezia: a green hill separates the village from the valley to the east where you can find the populated village of Deiva Marina. Also in this

Rock Millefoglie (a thousand leaves) Mount Moneglia juts out into the sea with the jagged Baffe and Moneglia peaks characterized by sandstone rocks stratified in spectacular naturalistic formations, in particular for the fauna present. At the top of the previous page, the Baffe tip stands out on the horizon as it skirts past Punta Moneglia verticals (left). The mountain is a Site of Community Importance (SCI) due to its aspect

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For travel between towns, in addition to the coastal road in the tunnel, it is worth considering the railway that connects all the centers of the coast in a few minutes. The access to the highway, which

runs inland, is instead practical only for the western inhabited areas of Sestri Levante and Riva Trigoso. â–

Glimpses of history Behind the ruins of a tower rises the bell tower of the seventeenth century church of Santa Croce in Moneglia. On the outer wall of the building there are some rings of the chain that closed the entrance to the port of Pisa, a trophy of the Genovese victory in the Meloria battle of 1284.

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Vertical walls The suggestion of the walls overlooking the sea also attracts climbing enthusiasts, while numerous excursionists face the peaks along the paths. On the left, the madonnetta on the rock in Punta Baffe. On the right, a wall in Punta Moneglia.

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Useful info The eastern Gulf of Tigullio is distinguished in two distinct areas for accessibility to the coast. From Lavagna to Sestri the succession of inhabited areas, the presence of the coastal state road and the nearby A12 motorway (exits Lavagna and Sestri) make access to the sea particularly easy. Unlike in the eastern part the mountain and the high cliffs limit it to the only centers in the valleys. The latter (Riva Trigoso, Moneglia, Deiva Marina) are in any case connected by the narrow road that runs through an old railway tunnel, but above all by the new line (stations at Lavagna, Cavi, Sestri, Riva, Mogullia, Deiva). The Deiva motorway exit is far from the coast. All inhabited are served by the provincial buses (ATP), while the boats of the Tigullio Maritime Service line pass by Lavagna and Sestri.

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Villages set like gems along the coast The eastern Ligurian coast is characterized by wide stretches of rugged cliffs cut by steep valleys perpendicular to the coast where there are characteristic seaside villages, for the most part, still intact in spite of recent urbanization. Photo of Riomaggiore. 54


La Spezia coast From Deiva to Montemarcello

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he eastern part of the Ligurian coast, which largely coincides with the province of La Spezia, is characterized by the presence of an important and articulated orography with which, over the centuries, the inhabitants have had to relate and thus find a sustainable balance. Indeed, in this area, with the exception of the gulf and the plain where the main town resides - both of which have been widely exploited since the nineteenth century for commercial and military purposes - there are no large safe harbors. Here the mountain descends directly into the sea with steep slopes or vertical cliffs. Therefore, if we exclude the commercial port and the large arsenal of the Navy in La Spezia, the nautical activities have been limited to small cabotage or fishing for livelihood. The main activity was in fact the cultivation of the slopes through the technique of land terracing with dry stone walls. Kilometers of stone walls, supporting vineyards, olive trees and horticulture, have transformed the landscape, creating a unique and evocative environment, especially in the famous stretch of coastline called “Cinque Terre” or “the five small villages” along the coast. The recognition of the uniqueness of this landscape was sanctioned by the inclusion of the site in the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites and the importance of its protection was confirmed by the creation of the National Park. Further areas, such as Portovenere, Palmaria Island and Monte

Apennines overlooking sea Along the coast of La Spezia, the buttresses descend to the sea touching the water with steep walls interrupted only by narrow valleys and short beaches. Only in La Spezia the coastline drops, but in that part of the port, infrastructure restricts access to the seaside. 55


Marcello should also ensure the preservation of the natural coastal environment from building speculation and the over-exploitation of tourism. This is certainly not an easy task, especially for the villages and paths of the Cinque Terre, literally stormed in the high season by a multitude of holiday goers. Equally worrisome the possibility of agricultural activities being abandoned, and the consequent maintenance of the terraces, which has led in recent years to serious hydrogeological problems. For these reasons, visiting the coast with row boats allows you to enjoy the beauty and enchantment of one of the most spectacular places in the Mediterranean, while on the other hand avoiding overcrowded routes as well as living a unique and sustainable experience. The view from the sea allows you to fully appreciate the environmental characteristics and to live an intense experience at the pace of the ancient navigators. In addition, many marine areas are protected and access is often restricted except for

The arc of the Riviera From Deiva to the islands, an arc of about 35 km is sketched, followed by the gulf of La Spezia for another 25 km.

Carved Stones Le rocce della scogliera del The rocks of the cliff of Muzzerone has been carved by the erosion of the sea while those of the church loggia of Saint Peter in Portovenere are carved by skillful stonecutters. To the Left: a glimpse of the Ferale cliff on the steep slope near Campiglia.

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bathing or the transit of row boats. Canoeing into a small port of a village in the Cinque Terre or along a jagged cliff, otherwise inaccessible, is therefore a unique and memorable experience â–

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The Malaspina castle in Levanto The Malaspina, feudal lords of Levanto, built a castle in the twelfth century to protect the village, on the remains of that building the Genovese Republic raised the current fortress two centuries later. 58


The Levanto coast From Deiva Marina to Cape Mesco

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he coastal itinerary from the valley of the Deiva river to the promontory of Cape Mesco is characterized by the first number of impending buttresses of the Apennines that descend directly into the sea. For this reason, the communication routes between the coastal villages and the Riviera are tortuous and uncomfortable, as are the connections with the road network that runs high up into the mountains. However, the orographic harshness is mitigated by the green Mediterranean wood and terraces, which, unfortunately, are increasingly left uncultivated. The often high and jagged coast is rich in small bays while, in correspondence to the villages of Bonassola and Levanto, it opens into two wide inlets with sandy shorelines. The spectacular view from the heights is just as spectacular from the wider perspective of the sea. From the mouth of the Deiva river, from which the village takes it name, we proceed east along a high cliff marked by numerous landslides. The fragility of the rock has led to the resignation of the old railway line of 1870 that ran along the coast in stretches too exposed to the sea and in tunnels too shallow in the mountain. One hundred years later, the section was abandoned in favor of a more internal line that finally adopted a double track. At Framura the old track has been adapted, where still usable, to a service road for a campsite. After passing a large landslide front and the cliff of Cape Apicchi, you enter a gulf

The old railway A stretch of wall to protect the old railway line along the coast from Deiva to Framura. Landslides and storms have rendered some lines unusable, while others have been converted to bike/pedestrian routes.

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land, but not to access the road network as it is private property. The rest of the coast up to Bonassola is characterized by an often barren cliff, overlooking the sea, which remains shaded by the lush Mediterranean wood that covers the ridges. The promontory, which closes the bay of Bonassola to the west, offers suggestive views between the fractured rocks and bush, as well as the spectacular view of the entire coast to the east of the mountain of Cape Mesco. Once you have reached the small shrine of the Madonna of the Cape, you will find the bay of Bonassola, an ancient fishing

dominated by an amphitheater with gentle slopes and large terraces. The roofs and bell towers of the scattered municipality of Framura stand out among the treetops: on the ridge the hamlet of Costa, with a medieval clock tower, further below Anzo, with another Genovese watchtower, and Setta. Ai piedi del terrapieno della ferrovia si inAt the foot of the railway embankment you will find a short rocky beach protected by an artificial cliff, then the Framura railway station over the sea which is connected to the village by a road that stops just beyond. The railway is certainly the quickest way to move along the coast from village to village. Before the high cliff of Cape Marble, a dark ophiolite cliff is connected to the coast by an embankment forming an excellent protected landing place: it is a small tourist port in Framura. Continuing on, you pass a narrow natural bay, Porto Pidocchio, where it is equally possible to

The mermaid of the marina Below: the mermaid weather vane indicates the direction of the wind in the marina of Framura which is protected by rocks.

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Limpid water Crystal clear water around the rocks at Framura. The coastline exposed to the open sea is often beaten by wind and subject to currents. Only a few safe landing spots allow you to pay particular attention to the sea conditions in this stretch.

Maria Shrine

village, now an active seaside destination. Here too, as in other towns on the eastern coast, the ancient railway line on a bridge with low vaults separates the centre from the wide and well-equipped beach. At the western end of the village stands the bell tower of the baroque parish church of Santa Caterina d’Alessandria. You can just glimpse, behind the roofs of the village, the clock tower of the Genovese castle built in 1500 to defend against the Saracen crusades. From Framura to Bonassola and from here to Levanto, the old railway line is used for a beautiful cycle path, mostly in tunnels. A last stretch of jagged cliffs (the coast area here is called “La Francesca” probably recalling the name of the ancient Francigena road) accompany the paddling tour until the opening of the Gulf of Levanto at the end of a large amphitheater which is widely cultivated and inhabited. Levanto is one of the main villages on the coast of La Spezia and boasts an ancient history as a fishing village since the Middle Ages, of which there are still valuable remains. Also in this case the embankment of the old railway separates

Below: passage in front of the S. Maria of the Cape Shrine near Bonassola.

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the beach from the town center: from the sea you can see, beyond the retaining wall, the roofs of modern buildings and bell towers as well as towers of the ancient village. On the western side of the lower coast there is a small marina protected by an artificial reef. The beach ends to the east beyond the wall of the railway at the height of the embarkation of tourist boats. Behind the

beach and in a raised position stands the profile of the crenellated castle built in the twelfth century by the Malaspina, lords of this area, to protect the eastern side of the village. The castle dominates some beautiful and colorful villas of the early twentieth century that overlook the seafront promenade. Levanto certainly deserves a stop so you can take advantage of the wide beach.

Capes and Promontories above: the coast of Framura seen from the small inlet of Porto Pidocchio. Right: the beach of Bonassola with a view of the western promontory where the Madonna of the Cape shrine stands.

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Among noteworthy ancient monuments are, in addition to the castle, the thirteenth-century parish church of San Andrea with its characteristic front in white and dark marble, whose bell tower can be seen from the sea, the porticoed Loggia of the City and the Restani Gothic house. The wide and high promontory (summit of Monte Vè or Focone at 487 m) ends with the rock of Cape Mesco separating the valley of Levanto from the first village of the Cinque Terre. The promontory, in addition to the bush near the cliff, is covered with holm oaks and pines interspersed with the remains of ancient crops on mostly abandoned terraces. An interesting work of renovation has been started by the Italian Environmental Fund (FAI) which has obtained Casa Lovara, an agricultural farm on the

Art and nature in Levanto Above: the bell tower of S. Andrea stands behind the houses of the village. Below: waterfall off of the cliff of Cape Gone that closes the gulf to the west.

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coast, now being restored. The hard stratified sandstone characterizes the cliff that, for the whole coast of the mountain, is high and unaccessible. At the top of a small rock (the Black Rock), indicated with yellow buoys is the border of the National Park of the Cinque Terre that occupies the eastern part of the mountain and extends into the sea in the Marine Protected Area. From the next Cape, La Gatta, and beyond Cape Mesco, the signal buoys with the indication of Zone A delimit the integral protection area where bathing and rowing are limited to those with special permits issued on request only to residents. Once past this point, the spectacular view of the Cinque Terre opens up to the islands of Palmaria and Tino. The first village within the park is Monterosso and in particular the most recent village of Fegina where a large beach allows you to land easily. In Fegina there is a railway station and a large parking lot

Cape Mesco Above: boat for sightseeing excursions. Below: Cape Mesco. This protected area is marked by the characteristic yellow buoys topped with the cross.

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created during the summer made from the sports field that occupies an area which extends into the sea. The territory included in the Park of the Cinque Terre is certainly one of the most crowded tourist attractions of all of Liguria, especially considering the difficult access routes, if you exclude the railway, and the necessary reception facilities limited by the constraints of the landscape â–

Jagged sandstone Above: navigation below the coast along the promontory of Cape Mesco characterized by high cliffs with smooth slabs of hard sandstone. Below: a cave that opened in the rifts of the rock at sea level.

Useful Info The coast of La Spezia is well served by the railway that runs a short distance from the coast (stations: Deiva, Framura, Bonassola, Levanto and Monterosso), otherwise the main road is inland and access to coastal villages is diďŹƒcult due to the orographic characteristics. The A12 motorway is connected with the Deiva and Carrodano-Levanto exiting to the local roads. The best access to the sea is through the main villages also connected by a boat service (Deiva, Levanto, Monterosso). The use of the Cinque Terre Park is limited and subject to regulation (see www.parconazionale5terre.it). 65


Fragile Cliff Right: a stretch of coastline is secured with containment nets. The coast is subject to landslides. The abandonment of the terraces is amplified by the hydrogeological problem of the region. Below: The coast of “La Francesca� between Bonassola and Levanto was once a mining site for copper. Today, it is home to the resort of the same name. The rocks of the cliff with their greenish hues are serpentinite.

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The entire stretch of sea in front of the Cinque Terre is part of the Marine Protected Area of the Park with limitations and controls that vary depending on the areas. At Cape Mesco, Area B allows rowing boats to navigate, while Area A is an integral reserve due to its naturalistic characteristics.

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Ancient towers are reflected in the water Above: the entrance to the small port of Vernazza is overlooked by the 9th century Romanesque church of Santa Maria di Antiochia. Its massive octagonal bell tower rests unusually on the arches of the presbytery. Another unique element is the access from the apse. A short sandy beach allows for an easy landing here. Left: Monterosso, the only village in the Cinque Terre with a wide beach. Over the railway bridge stands the bell tower of the fourteenth-century parish church of San Giovanni Battista, once the tower of the Genovese fortifications used to defend the town. 68


The Cinque Terre From Monterosso to Riomaggiore

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mountains with dry stone walls. Due to their particular environmental, historical and cultural characteristics, the Cinque Terre, along with the subsequent stretch of coastline to the islands of the Gulf of La Spezia, are part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site. This title has been given because of the uniqueness of the territory that man has adapted to fit their needs for sustenance over the centuries, settling in villages and terracing the mountains, but always in complete harmony with the natural environment. The protection of this environment is also pursued by the National Park and Marine Protected Area of the Cinque

he territory that stretches, with a jagged arc, between the promontory of Cape Mesco and Cape Montenero on the coast of La Spezia is certainly one of the most famous and attractive stretches of coastline in Italy. The spectacular natural conformation of the coast and the charm of the colorful seaside villages clinging to the slopes of the hills that descend to the sea make it a remarkable sight to behold. As the ancient toponym suggests, there are five villages, or “terre�, that overlook a dozen kilometers of coastline characterized by high cliffs, short pebble beaches and the steep slopes of the terraced

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Monterosso history and myth

Terre, the only one in Italy to preserve, in a historically anthropized land, the balance between a human presence and the natural landscape. The navigation below the coast is the best perspective to enjoy the view of the villages and the mountain arc that surrounds them. This is especially true after the closure of the paths closer to the cliff because of landslide movements accentuated in recent years. The hydrogeological balance of the coast is in fact particularly fragile as dramatically demonstrated by the flood in 2011 that hit Monterosso and Vernazza hard. The Cinque Terre, due to the rugged orographic profile of the coast, are particularly isolated from the Ligurian inland and the main roads with the exception of the coastal railway line that, through tunnels and bridges, connects them to the centers of Levanto and La Spezia. For this reason, the logistics of a trip can be complex, but with a good organization of the stop-offs with the limited landings, satisfaction is guaranteed. Monterosso is the most accessible vil-

Above: on the hill that separates Monterosso and Fegina rises the Capuchin Convent and, on the rock towards the sea, the Aurora tower. Below: the giant statue of Neptune looms over the beach of Fegina.

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lage, equipped with parking, and offers excellent access to the sea thanks to wide sandy beaches. The village consists of two settlements separated by a hill on which stands a watchtower and, further up, the palace of the Capuchin Convent. To the west, the modern hamlet of Fegina unfolds along the low coast with villas, tourist buildings and the new railway station. At the end of the beach there is a bizarre construction: it is the terrace at the sea of the twentieth-century villa Pastine adorned with the remains of a colossal concrete sculpture representing Neptune. The ancient village of Monterosso to the east of the hill is separated from the beach in front of it by a low railway bridge that partly hides the village. On the other side, the ancient medieval tower stands clearly visible beyond the bridge and was transformed into the bell tower of the parish church. Looking up towards the ridge of the mountain overlooking the village, you can see, among the green foliage of the holm oaks, the cusp of another ancient bell tower and the roof of a long building: it is the Santa Maria di Soviore Shrine. The main village of the valley

Stone sculptures Above: steep cliff with waterfalls. Below: view of Cape Mesco.

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once stood near the shrine, the center of Monterosso was the port to the sea. The altitude and the relative distance from the coast were a valid protection then from the invasion of Saracen pirates. Following the coast eastwards, we pass the jagged Corone, where the hard, stratified rock has been shaped by the

sea into suggestive formations. On the cliff you can see here some turrets of bunkers dating back to World War II. Up at the next village, the cliff becomes overhanging with a large cave: one of these, large enough to be covered by a canoe, penetrates the rock for about fifty meters. Vernazza, the next village,

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Spiking over sea Left top: stratifications of rock conceal a cave in the cliff near Vernazza (in the background with the visible silhouette of the tower). Left bottom: on the eastern cliff of Vernazza stands the circular tower Doria, part of a larger fortress used to protect the village. Right: the hamlet of Corniglia with its colourful houses gathered on the rocky outcrop. The access to the sea is a steep ladder on the side of the mountain.

occupies the steep slopes of the valley of the Vernazzola stream. The village retains the character of an ancient maritime village with a medieval layout with loggias, porticos and towers. The Romanesque church of Santa Margherita d’Antiochia, with its beautiful mullioned windows and imposing octagonal bell tower, overlooks the harbour, protected by a pier and artificial rocks. Here the landing is easy thanks to a short sandy beach at the mouth of the stream that flows under the square adjacent to the parish church. Vernazza valley is closed by a cliff which, to the east, looms vertically over the sea and a cove covered with debris and rock waste. A large cave in the rock connects this beach to the village, making it possible to land here and access the village. Navigation then proceeds along steep

rock faces, made up of shale clay and schists, which often collapse on the cliff. The fragility of the coast has made it necessary, for large stretches, to abandon the old nineteenth-century railway line that, with high stone embankments, ran right along the sea. After passing some inlets, with stony beaches embedded in the cliff, you reach the rocky outcrop of the village of Corniglia. This is the only village in the Cinque Terre not to have a small port while access to the sea consists only of a small pier with a steep staircase connecting the village above. From the bay you can see the houses perched on the edge of the cliff and the bell tower of the medieval church of San Pietro. Around the village the mountain is all worked in bands, or terraces, and planted with vineyards. The next stretch is 73


Manarola To the right: the entrance to the marina surrounded by the living quarters on the slopes of the Volastra valley. Below: the cliff range from Manarola (in the background) to Riomaggiore. Right: a stretch in the tunnel of the Via dell’Amore, the path between Manarola and Riomaggiore. Today the section is interrupted by landslide damages. characterized by the cumbersome presence of the railway wall along the coast, while at high altitude you can distinguish the terraces still cultivated among the Mediterranean bush that covers large lands which have been abandoned. The hamlet of Manarola, situated in the narrow valley of the Volastra stream, welcomes sailors with a small port protected by some rocks. The colored houses of the village encircle the small bay in an

arc, while, to the east, they overlook the escarpment that dominates the railway line below on the coast. From this side starts the famous path called “via dell’Amore” that connects, while crossing a steep cliff, the next village of Riomaggiore. The route is now interrupted due to landslides and the necessary restoration work. Lacking the possibility of a view from the ground, the coastal navigation here is the only way to admire this scenic

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coast. The last village, Riomaggiore, has a good road connection with the capital of La Spezia, as well as being just a few minutes away by train. For this reason, it can be considered a good logistical base, even though there are inevitable defects in the parking areas given its location in a narrow valley below Mount Verugola. In reality, the town now occupies the adjacent valley of Rio Finale where the railway station was built. Tradition says that the village was founded by Greek refugees fleeing from religious persecution in the eighth century, certainly passed on, during the Middle Ages, to the Genovese Republic which fortified it as evinced by the castle that stands on the coast that divides the two valleys. This town is also rich in history and valuable buildings such as the fourteenth-century parish church of San Giovanni Battista. Above the village stands the hill of the Our Lady of Montenero Shrine. This hill, which stretches out towards the sea, geographically limits the territory of the Cinque Terre to the east â–

Unique environment The Cinque Terre National Park includes the entire coastal area from Cape Mesco to the border with the nearby Park of Porto Venere and Palmaria to the east. The protection also extends to the marine area in front of the coast. The task of the Park Authority is to safeguard nature, but also to preserve the uniqueness of the environment transformed by man over the centuries, for example cultivation with strips (terraces with dry stone walls) are a characteristic element (see www.parconazionale5terre.it). 75


Safe landings To the left: the beach protected by the pier in Vernazza is an excellent landing place. The coast of the Cinque Terre, being exposed to the open sea, is to be approached with caution considering the weather and sea conditions. Below: entrance to Riomaggiore.

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Protected waters The sea in front of the Cinque Terre is part of the Marine Protected Area of the Park with limitations and controls based on specific areas. Mooring, anchorage and fishing restrictions are typical of Zone C, which corresponds to the maximum extension of the protected area. The waters in front of Cape Mesco and the promontory of Montenero have more restrictive conditions of use. Area B allows rowing boats to navigate, while Area A is an integral reserve for naturalistic qualities.

Zona B Zona A

Useful info The Cinque Terre, historically isolated from the Vara valley and accessible only by sea, were connected to the other towns of Liguria by rail only at the end of the nineteenth century. Even today, the coastal railway remains the fastest access. The road network is still complicated: while Monterosso and Riomaggiore can be reasonably reached from the A12 tollgates (respectively in Carrodano and La Spezia), the remaining villages have to rely on a limited and tortuous mountain road network. Parking is diďŹƒcult except in Fegina (Monterosso). All the villages except Corniglia are connected by boats to Levanto or Portovenere.

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Saint Peter’s Church in Porto Venere century on the ruins of a Roman temple dedicated to the goddess, Venus. Consecrated in Romanesque style in 1198, it was the object of devastation, fire and abandoned until being restored in the 1930s and brought back to its former glory. 78


Porto Venere coast From Montenero to Fezzano F

rom the village of Riomaggiore in the Cinque Terre to Porto Venere, for about ten kilometers, stretches a high, jagged cliff characterized by a spectacular variety of rocks of different colors. Along the coast, there are small cliffs with vertical walls or terraced slopes with famous drystone walls, beaches of white pebbles or rocky fragments that have fallen from the hills. In many places you can see landslides that have interrupted the terraces planted with vines or olive trees and access to the paths. A large part of the former cultivated slopes are now covered with shrubs.

Embarking on Riomaggiore and proceeding eastwards the promontory of Montenero splits and at the top stands the nineteenth-century Madonna Shrine built on the ruins of a medieval church. The promontory represents an excellent observation point on the whole Riviera from Cape Mesco to the La Spezia islands beyond Porto Venere: even from the shore the view in both directions is particularly suggestive. The sea that surrounds Montenero on three sides is an integral marine reserve (Area A). Immediately beyond the promontory you can see the coastal railway that co-

Boarding in Schiara Right: shelters and fishing huts in the small port of call below the hamlet of Schiara. The agricultural products grown on the terraces were transported from here by sea to the markets of the coastal towns. Today, only a few areas maintain the ancient terrace cultivation: spontaneous shrubs and landslides have, in many places, covered the centuriesold dry stone walls.

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Red Rocks

mes out of the tunnels into the valley on a viaduct by the sea. The railway that connects the villages of the Cinque Terre to the town of La Spezia is certainly the quickest and most direct solution to reach the coast while the provincial road twists along the ridge. Continuing along the coast you will come across a series of rocky peaks that stretch into the sea and emerging rocks. In this stretch you can reach several coves for easy moorings, but up to Porto Venere access to the road network and villages is not possible along the coast so it is prudent to approach navigation considering the weather and sea conditions. Some beaches are not safe, being affected by landslides and falling rocks from the brittle slope. Continuing eastwards, you come to a high, isolated pyramid-shaped rock sur-

Above: the spectacular limestone rocks with their intense red color caused by iron oxidation along the coast that extends below the town of Campiglia.

mounted by a cross. This is the rock of the “Ferale” in memory of the fatal accident that happened a century ago to a naval officer intent on carrying out topographical surveys. The rock faces the promontory of the hamlet of Schiara, connected by a steep path to a small boarding area surrounded by fishermen’s huts clinging to the cliff. Beyond Schiara and past Cape Persico you reach a spectacular cliff of an intense red color that stands out in contrast to the surrounding white sand rock (Red 80


Climbing peaks To the right: above the limestone walls overlooking the sea rise white pinnacles. Below: behind the Red Rocks is the silhouette of the Muzzerone, a popular destination for climbers who take advantage of the mild climate even in winter. Beyond you can see the islands of La Spezia.

Rocks). The particular coloring is due to the presence of iron in the limestone rich in fossil ammonites. The wall of Mount Muzzerone, over 320 meters high, is reflected on the turquoise seabed just before Porto Venere. The mountain is used for climbing practice offering a particularly impressive set-

ting to fans of this sport. On the summit is located a fort of the late nineteenth century used as a battery for coastal defense. From that position you could keep under fire both the Ligurian Sea in front of it and the bay of Porto Venere behind it. This strategic position of Porto Venere

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has led to the construction of imposing defences since the Middle Ages. The castle known as the Doria Castle, which dominates the town from one side and from the other is reflected in the open sea, was built by the Republic of Genoa in the twelfth century, but expanded several times until becoming the current structure which dates back to the seventeenth century. The small bay below the castle and bordered by the rocky outcrop of the church of San Pietro is famous for a sea cavity that is said to have inspired the English poet George Byron who in the 1820s stayed in Italy and visited these places. The Romanesque-Gothic church of San Pietro is located on the rocky tip where in ancient times a temple dedicated to the goddess, Venus, stood, from which the village is named. Due to its isolated and prominent position on the sea it is an excellent observation point and at the same time an iconic element of the landscape of the Riviera.

Doria Castle Above: the islands of Palmaria and Tino, aligned with the cliff of Muzzerone, close the arc of the Ligurian Riviera. Below: the imposing Doria castle overlooking Porto Venere as seen from the bay of Lord Byron’s cave.

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On the extreme rock

After crossing the cliff below the church, you enter the channel (Bocche) that separates the coast from Palmaria island. Continuing along the canal and along the medieval walls of the village, you finally reach the port. Porto Venere is certainly one of the most famous and visited villages in Liguria, with an ancient history and recent touristic fame. The navigation below the coast allows you to appreciate all the beauty of the town characterized by a sequence of colorful buildings overlooking the sea. At the beginning of the palace is the large hotel Locanda San Pietro in Art Nouveau style (now being restored), witness to the attraction of the town since the Grand Tour in the eighteenth century and the Belle Epoque at the end of the nineteenth century. Once in the small port you can touch the ground at a small beach near the door of

San Pietro’s church on the rock spur extreme offshoots to the open sea and the island of Palmaria (below).

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Regional Park Much of the territory of Porto Venere and the islands of La Spezia, including the sea that surrounds them, is included in the Regional Park that borders the national park of the Cinque Terre. The current structure and its boundaries were defined in 2001 by regional law. Since 1997 it has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

the village dominated by a high medieval tower. A visit to the seaside village is absolutely recommended. Resuming the navigation inside the bay, we paddle along the coast passing a series of jetties for recreational boats and rows of buoys of mussel farms. Opposite is the wide rocky beach of the Olivo village, an excellent stopover with access to roads and public parking. Continuing on, you enter a wide bay closed by the promontory of Castagna and Cape Santa Maria, both within the military domain: watchtowers and fortified structures recall the function they had until a recent past. Today the military presence is concentrated on the next

peninsula of Punta del Varignano occupied entirely by the buildings of the Navy and in particular by the headquarters of the Underwater and Incursory Group (COMSUBIN), a selected body of the Armed Forces. The buildings on the promontory, once the Lazaret of the Genovese Republic and then the naval school for the crews of the Royal Navy, housed the headquarters of the department of divers in the first pre-war period and finally the barracks of the raiders from the fifties of the last century. Navigation is forbidden inside the bay demarcated by Varignano Cape. After this point you can reach a touristic 84


bay particularly busy with recreational boats: it is the Gulf of Le Grazie, named after the fifteenth-century Our Lady of Grace Shrine, which overlooks, from the southern shore, the wide basin where many boats are always moored. In fact, this bay is protected from all wind conditions and hosts several small shipyards and facilities for the storage of boats. Fish farming in this bay is also practiced as evinced by the large floating cages at the northern shore. At the inner part of the bay there is a short sandy beach, an excellent landing point. The village of Le Grazie, connected by the provincial road to Porto Venere and La Spezia is an excellent logistical base for organizing nautical excursions in the area. The next bay towards La Spezia is occupied by the regasification plant of the SNAM company, which stands on the remains of an ancient Napoleonic powder magazine of Panigaglia. This industrial structure, equipped with a long wharf and large tanks on land, allows for the possibility to take liquefied natural gas

Colored villages Above: Santa Maria delle Grazie Shrine in the bay with the same name. Below: the colorful buildings of Porto Venere overlooking the marina from where boats leave for the isle of Palmaria across the way.

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from the tankers and, after returning it to its gaseous state, feed it into the transport and distribution network. Oltre Panigaglia si incontra il porticciolo Beyond Panigaglia is the small port of Fezzano, a small hamlet in the municipality of Porto Venere. In front of it there is the protection dam of the Arsenal of the Navy of La Spezia and beyond that, the main town. â–

Useful Info

Zona B

The coast south of Riomaggiore (railway station and provincial road to La Spezia) does not offer access to the sea until Porto Venere which is well connected to the town where you can access the motorway (exit La Spezia A15 and connect with the A12) and rail (Genoa - Pisa and Parma). The seasonal boat line of the Consorzio Marittimo Golfo dei Poeti connects La Spezia with Porto Venere. The entire coast is included in protected areas (Cinque Terre Park north of Cape Persico, Porto Venere Regional Park south).

Warriors and Saints San Pietro’s church is included in the defensive structures of the village built during the Middle Ages. Porto Venere, due to its strategic position, fell victim to assaults from the sea and sieges from land. Over the centuries defences have been strengthened by adapting to new war technologies such as the Doria castle renovated in the seventeenth century.

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Cliffs in living color The spectacular cliffs with limestone of eye-catching colors accompany the navigation under the coast

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The Tino lighthouse at the entrance to the Gulf of La Spezia The lighthouse of the Navy at the top of the island of Tino. The island, of military domain, remains inaccessible except for special occasions when you can make visits with environmental guides to the Regional Park. 88


Islands of La Spezia Palmaria, Tino and Tinetto

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he islands of Palmaria, Tino and Tinetto represent the southern offshoot of the La Spezia Riviera, giving continuity to the high cliffs overlooking the sea on the western side. They close the Gulf of La Spezia with a low, jagged coastline to the east. They are also part of the protected area of the Regional Park of Porto Venere and, together with the Cinque Terre, are included among the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Subordinated to the military state property for their particular strategic position to protect the military Arsenal of La Spezia, today these islands represent a natural area of particular value where limited entry has been allowed in order to protect it over the years. The Park also includes the marine protected area that faces the south-west coast of Palmaria and surrounds the other two islands, as well as part of the seabed towards Porto Venere where there are posidonia meadows. The island of Palmaria, the main island of the archipelago with an area of about 2 square kilometers, is accessible and connected to Porto Venere and La Spezia by a public service of boats or motorboats, while entry to Tino is forbidden to the public except with special permits or on special occasions. The small rock of Tinetto is uninhabited. The circumnavigation of the archipelago is easily achieved by embarking in Porto Venere from which Palmaria is separated by a channel (Bocche) that at its narrowest point measures no more than 130 meters. However, al-

From bunker to sculpture A bunker in defense of the beach of Terrizzo has become an original and colorful pedestal for the sculpture of a seahorse in the bathing establishment of the Navy. From the Napoleonic age to the Second World War, impressive defensive works were built on the island, which are now disused or have been adapted for civil use.

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Not far from the shore, mussel cultivations follow one after another, characterized by a sequence of buoys and piling. You soon reach the Cape Scuola, an extreme offshoot towards the Gulf characterized by the rising of the cliff surmounted here by rich vegetation. Actually, beyond the shrubs on the top of the promontory, not visible from the shore, stands a large fortification, the nineteenth-century armoured tower Umberto I, which once housed a battery with giant naval cannons of 120 tons. Bunker and observation posts can be seen along the entire itinerary: the island is in fact dotted with disused or partially reused military structures for civil use, which today emerge among the branches of holm oaks, pines, mastic and strawberry trees. Opposite the Cape stands, isolated on a rock, the ruined tower of the Scuola (or Scola), a defensive bulwark built in the seventeenth century by the Genoese Republic, which later became a lighthouse. The eastern side of the island is cha-

though the islands are quickly reachable, it is not to be underestimated the exposure of their western reef to the open sea: in fact, while the side facing the Gulf is well protected and characterized by numerous beaches, the opposite coast is often beaten by waves and currents with scarce space for landing. With due attention to the marine weather conditions these islands are a must-see destination particularly appreciated from the perspective of the sea that allows you to appreciate the variety along the rocky coast, the rich vegetation and spectacular views of Porto Venere. After crossing the Bocche and reaching the beach in front of Porto Venere, you can head towards the eastern side of Palmaria and follow the arc of the wide bay of Terrizzo. Along the low coast there are two bathing establishments of military domain and few civilian homes, some in a state of neglect. The center of the bay is equipped with a small marina and the port of call for scheduled boats. 90


Muscoli e torri Left: for generations, the mussels (here called muscles), clams and oysters have been bred by the mussel farmers of La Spezia in the stretch of sea between Porto Venere and Palmaria. Right: The seventeenth-century tower of the School protects the southern side of the gulf. Below: cliff at Cape Marinella on the east coast of the island. racterized by a succession of bends with beaches and stretches of high cliffs. After Marinella you can paddle south into the wide bay of Pozzale where there is a campsite near the shore. The southern tip of the island is characterized by a great quarry from which a precious variety of black marble with golden veins was extracted. It was cal-

led Portoro or Marble of Porto Venere. The quarry was certainly used since the Romans, who drew slabs and columns to decorate palaces and temples. Many more recent examples of this marble can be found today in church decorations in Genoa and Rome, but also in France and even in some buildings in the United States. At the foot of the vertical walls of

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the quarry, there are small service buildings and the remains of a loading dock. A stretch of sea of about 400 meters separates Palmaria from the wooded island of Tino characterized by high cliffs to the south and east. At the top, at an altitude of almost 120 meters, stands the military lighthouse. The northern coast is occupied by a series of military

posts now abandoned that were built up around the twenties up until the Second World War. Si nota in particolare una imponente caHere there is an imposing casemate of German construction that protected a piece of artillery of a large caliber. Entry is forbidden in the whole area, while remaining part of the military property,

Quarries and cannons Above: The marble quarries of Pozzale on the island of Palmaria. Left: the battery named Admiral Ronca with the menacing German bunker. The island was used as a set for the 1961 American war film “The Guns of Navarone�. Above left: the cliff of the island of Palmaria facing Tino. 92


even though it is part of the Regional Park. In front of the high cliff wall south of Tino emerges from the sea as a large rock with sparse Mediterranean shrubs on top: it is the uninhabited island of Tinetto, frequented, however, by a large colony of seagulls. Once it housed a monastic hermitage and a small church of which the remains of the apse are left. After the destruction of the religious center by the Saracens in the eleventh century, the islet was no longer permanently inhabited. Continuing the navigation to the north, we return to Tino and then to Palmaria, always skirting a high cliff. Going up the western side of the main island you pass two bays (Cala Piccola and Cala Grande) and a rocky prominence, Cape Pittone. Just beyond that point you need to be careful to find a slit in the rock that represents the entrance to a deep sea cavity large enough to allow the entry of small boats. This is the Blue Grotto, called so because of the blue reflections of the water on the white rock walls. The high cliff of Palmaria hides the view of Porto Venere up to a few tens of me-

Stella Maris A statue of the Madonna stands atop the island of Tinetto, at the top of which you can see the remains of the monastic building.

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ters from the channel that separates the island from the mainland. Almost suddenly, in fact, the church of San Pietro appears perched on the last rock of the mainland. The sight is absolutely surprising from this particular perspective.After Cape Beffettuccio you finally enter the Bocche to access the bay of Porto Venere and then close the circumnavigation of the archipelago after a dozen kilometers â–

Jagged cliff La falesia del versante meridionale di The cliff on the southern side of Palmaria hides cracks and caves. Some, such as the Blue Cave or the Volcanic Cave in Cala Grande, are at water level and accessible to small boats. The Grotta dei Colombi, famous for its prehistoric finds, remains halfway up the coast above Cala Grande and can be reached by foot. The whole island is crossed easily by paths that connect the ancient military structures. On the ridge covered with Mediterranean shrubs you can see the Semaphore Battery.

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Useful Info The island of Palmaria can be reached by boat from La Spezia and Porto Venere. The most practical embarkations are on the beach of Olivo to the north of Porto Venere and Le Grazie. A parking area is available in Porto Venere in Cavo.

Area Tutela Marina

1 km 1 Terrizzo 2 Torre Scuola 3 Pozzale 4 Tino 5 Cala Grande 6 Blu Grotto

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History and nature S. Pietro and behind the cliff of Muzzerone appear at the end of the navigation along the west coast of Palmaria.

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Guarding the Gulf of La Spezia The imposing bulk of the Lerici castle dominates the bay from the spur of Mount “Illicis�. The sixteenth-century structure built by the Genoese is superimposed on an older medieval structure. The castle has often passed from hand to hand: Genovese, Pisan, Genovese, Aragonese, Florentine and Genovese once again who have contributed to its transformation from a watchtower to a mighty fortress guarding the Gulf of La Spezia. 96


Easterly Gulf of Poets From San Terenzo to Bocca di Magra

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he northern part of the Gulf of La Spezia is protected by a long barrier that extends longitudinally for more than two kilometers, separating the inner basin, characterized by commercial and military port infrastructure, from the touristic resorts. The dam, made up of large outcropping stone boulders, extends from Cape Santa Maria on the west to Cape Santa Teresa on the east, leaving two passages on its sides free for the transit of boats. The easterly stretch of the Gulf coast, which begins at the end of the barrier up to Cape Corvo in the south, is particularly relevant for its landscape and historical features, home to ancient villages and a protected natural area. Coastal navigation allows you to appreciate an evocative myriad of environments: from fine sandy beaches to steep cliffs, from ancient castles to luxurious villas of the late nineteenth century. In 1910, in one of these villas, the playwright Sam Benelli described this stretch of water as the “Gulf of Poets�, mindful of the many artists who vacationed there and appreciated its beauty. Navigation can start from the coast at the outer breakwater and continue south. Immediately you will find a cove with a beach, then the hill that stretches out to sea with the rocky point Galera, delimits the bay of Lerici, one of the most famous places on the Riviera. This wide inlet is greeted by the small castle of San Terenzo, an ancient fishing

Under the Genovese flag The fifteenth-century San Terenzo castle, which faces the fortification of Lerici at the end of the bay, was built by the Republic of Genoa, first, as an observation tower against the Saracens, then it was expanded to be used as a defensive element of the Genoese garrison in the East.

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Fine sand Right: from the beach of San Terenzo you can see the village of Lerici and its castle (below). The bay, once the residence of wealthy entrepreneurs, aristocrats and artists, is now the destination of a more popular tourism.

village, which became a touristic destination of international appeal as early as the nineteenth century. From the fifteenth-century castle, dominated by a high tower, the houses and villas follow one after another along the coast until they join those of Lerici at the other end. The entire arc of the bay is characterized by a succession of beaches of fine sand protected by artificial cliffs. In front of the village of Lerici, while on the other side,

recreational boats at the mooring are crowded. Lerici castle dominates the bay from the top of a rocky spur. The mighty structure with massive ramparts and a high central tower dates back to the 13th century, but it was renovated several times up to the present 16th century structure by the Genoese. For a long time the castle represented a barricade in defense of the Genoese Republic to the east against

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the threat of the maritime republic of Pisa. Today, open to the public, it’s considered one of the most representative and spectacular examples of medieval military architecture. Once past Lerici and the rocky promontory of Maralunga, you can find a succession of bays with extremely jagged steep cliffs: the Cala di Maramozza with outcropping rocks, the Seno di Mezzana with a sandy beach and the rocky Seno delle Stelle. Between the last two coves, stretches a rocky outcrop, topped by villa Percy Lubbock, with an impressive natural gallery called the Scafari. In the small beach of Seno delle Stelle you can see the tower of a bunker from World War II: like other war artifacts of the coast, it was part of the defenses of the Ligurian Wall against a possible unloading of Allies, which actually never occurred. As paddling continues among the outcropping rocks of the Seno di Treggiano below the village of Fiascherino, the cliff of the colorful houses of Tellaro appears, a characteristic fishing village with an ancient history. The village per-

Caves and villas Above: the perforated wall of the cliff below villa Percy Lubbock. Below: cave at Cape Maralunga. The entire east coast of the Gulf, rocky and jagged, is rich in caves and crevices.

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ched on the rock overlooking the sea has medieval origins as evinced by the narrow alleys, stairs and underpasses. The only access from the sea is a small staircase that leads to a small square with age-old public washhouses. The bell tower of the church of San Giorgio is reflected in the small inlet where you can land. Due to its evocative location

and characteristic architecture, even this small village has been chosen as a place of choice for poets and writers, thus confirming the name, the “Gulf of Poets”. Beyond Tellaro the cliff rises in a succession of steep walls, landslides and twisted rocks: it is the long cliff of Mount Caprione that extends into the sea like a promontory being separated from the

Sea Villages Above: the little church of San Giorgio is at the tip of the cliff where the village of Tellaro stands. Left: the small bay between rocks and houses with a steep access for fishermen’s boats. Top right: caves on the cliff of Tellaro.

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Luni plain by the wide mouth of the Magra. From the sea, the ridge above the rugged cliff appears to be covered by dense vegetation consisting of Aleppo pine forests and Mediterranean shrubs. Much of the mountain is within the boundaries of the Regional Natural Park of Montemarcello-Magra-Vara, which, in addition to the promontory includes, to the east, the lower bed of the Magra and its tributary. The birdlife of the park is particularly rich: it is easy to come across cormorants, gulls, stuffets and sea urchins that fly over the cliff. The most spectacular aspect of the stretch, however, is given by the rich and complex geology. The rock walls have a stratification of rocks with different structures and colors that generate striking contrasts as at Cape Bianca where the white limestone comes close to the green volcanic coils.

Mount Caprione Below: towards Cape Corvo you can admire the stratifications of different rocks, from dark metamorphic to light calcareous, of the cliff of Mount Caprione that closes the Gulf of La Spezia to the east.

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Between the green of the slope stands a neo-Gothic palace in the shape of a castle surrounded by more recent buildings. It is the nineteenth-century villa built on the ruins of the monastery of Santa Croce del Corvo, an important place of devotion, culture and defense in the Middle Ages, today, in its modern form, residence for religious hospitality. It is said that the poet Dante stayed there, while it is certain that Petrarca mentioned the place. Continuing the circumnavigation of the cape, you enter the mouth of the Magra, which for a long stretch is navigable. The upstream side of the estuary is occupied by the small port of Bocca di Magra, while the eastern side, characterized by a long brush of rocks, borders the beautiful sandy beaches of Fiumaretta.

Along the coast some beaches, formed by the landslides off the cliff, can offer a landing if the sea allows it. This stretch is particularly exposed to currents and storms. Above Punta Bianca you can see the large bunker of the coastal artillery battery “Dante de Lutti� which began in the twenties in order to defend the advance of arsenal of La Spezia which, was then modernized during the war. Its cannons were used by the Germans in 1945 to stop the American advance against the Gothic Line, the fortified line of defense that passed along the ridges of the Apennines from Massa to Pesaro. Once past that point, the relief slopes down to the sea more gently, with wide stretches of olive groves or maritime pine, Turkey oak and downy oak woods.

Stone colors Right: the spectacular cliff of the Caprione promontory. Top Left: the green metamorphic rocks of serpentine stretch out over the sea at Cape Corvo. Bottom left: you can see the massive coastal artillery bunker at Punta Bianca. The cannon shooting range spanned from the beaches of Massa and Carrara to the entire mouth of the Gulf.

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On both sides it is possible to disembark, while along the river the embankment with walls and parapets makes it difficult to access the shore. This section serves as a river port for tourist boats, so you should be careful when crossing it.

Behind the beaches rise the sharp peaks of the Apuan Alps, with their slopes of white Carrara marble, framing the horizon in a spectacular setting â–

Useful Info The eastern coast of the Gulf of Poets can be reached from La Spezia (motorway exit A12) by public and private transport. The coastal road connects the villages up to Tellaro. There are many access points to the sea from the ports and beaches on this side of the mountain. The eastern side of the promontory can be reached from Sarzana (exit A12). Lerici is also connected by boat (Consorzio Marittimo Turistico Golfo dei Poeti) with La Spezia and, in summer, with Marina di Carrara.

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1 2

3 5

1 San Terenzo 2 Lerici 3 Tellaro 4 Punta Bianca 5 Bocca di Magra 6 Fiumaretta Google Earth

4 1 km

Find sites on Google Maps by scanning this QR code

Paddling along the village To the left: paddling along the village of Tellaro with its brightly colored houses above the cliff.

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Santa Croce Right: view from the sea of the Monastery of Santa Croce del Corvo on the slopes of the promontory near Bocca di Magra. Below: in front of the beaches of Fiumaretta with the panorama of the first spurs of the Apuan Alps in the background.

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The area once marshy was reclaimed in the nineteenth century. Today, it is a popular bathing area.

Montemarcello Magra Vara Park The Regional Park has extremely varied environments: from the wetlands near the Vara and Magra rivers, to the cliffs of the coast, to the thick woods around the village of Montemarcello on the promontory of Caprione.

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Fortresses and rocks Above: the Lerici fortress on the rocky spur Right: the Scafari cavern along the Lerici coast

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Safety first! Whatever the rowing boat used in the excursion - from sea kayak to SUP (Stand Up Paddle), from the open canoe Sit on Top to the traditional rowing boat - some warnings are always to be considered very carefully: •

consider their capacities according to the length of the stretch and weather conditions on the sea;

evaluate and adapt the route to the weather forecasts (wind, wave on the coast, currents);

study the itinerary by identifying landing points and coasts exposed to the open sea;

equip yourself with suitable protective clothing (technical or suits, boots, caps, goggles) and rescue gear (buoyancy aid jacket);

bring sufficient supplies of water and foodstuffs;

communicate the planned itinerary and the scheduled timing to your land contacts;

preferably make a group trip or at least in a pair.

By observing these simple rules of behavior, one can safely experience the adventure of coastal tourism by sea ■

Browse the ARPAL site and check the weather forecast for Liguria by scanning the QR code alongside

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Planning The itineraries proposed in this guide provide a navigation along the coast, at sight and always in the vicinity of landings and populated areas. Therefore the preparation and management of an excursion in good weather and sea conditions is certainly facilitated. However, this does not exempt us from facing the excursion with adequate planning to be able to enjoy an experience in peace and safety. It is essential to always calculate the distances of the itinerary that must be commensurate with the capacity of the participants and time available. Always keeping in mind, as a reference, the least prepared and slowest person in the group. By tracing the route (following the irregularities of the coast) on a topographical or nautical map, you can measure the overall distance and then calculate the possible stages. The distance must therefore be divided by the average speed of the group to which the times for any stops must be added. Always carefully consider the speed based on the experience, the physical shape of the participants as well as the state of the sea, for example the presence of waves, wind and currents. Other elements to be evaluated are the number of participants (which normally slows down the progression) and the possibility of making small stops along the way. For example, an expert canoeist in fair sea conditions can easily hold an average hourly speed of 3 kn (knots) or 3 nautical miles (1 NM = 1.852 km), then travel 5.5 km in a hour. If, on the other hand, you are in a group or if you want to stop and admire the landscape from time to time, the route you have taken in one hour will be significantly reduced. In a day of navigation it is therefore

Maps and tracks Above: large-scale nautical chart. On the right: detailed IGM 1: 25.000 card. Below right: processing of the route on Google Earth. possible to cover large distances, but it is always advisable to calculate a good margin of time available to manage unforeseen unforeseen circumstances. A day trip can therefore be planned, considering all the environmental variables, over distances from 15 to 25 km, which are naturally reduced in the case of beginners or conditions that are not particularly favorable. • Coastal nautical charts are an excellent tool for pleasure boating, indicating the characteristics of the coastline, landings and foundations.They are perfect in case of shallow sea and tide. However, due to their large scale (1 cm to 100,000 or 50,000 for the most detailed) they offer limited information on the hinterland. The distances measured on these cards are in nautical miles (1 = 1.852 km). 108


• The topographic maps representing the terrain are instead perfect for identifying the relevant points on the coast, accesses and characteristics of the territory. They can have very small scales (1 cm to 25,000, 10,000) and therefore useful for visualizing the hinterland as well as being perfectly prepared for planning the logistics of the trip. These maps use metric measurement.

online is today extremely diverse: from maps available on sophisticated apps, on hiking or road maps. As presented in the pages of this guide the use of this map can be particularly useful and easy. For example, the Google Maps service www.google.it/maps (with the connected Street View displaying panoramic photographs) lends itself easily to the organization of logistics (identifying routes to reach the coast, access to the sea, services to the ground). The use of Google Earth go-

• Digital cartography that can be used

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Orienteering

ogle is equally practical. it/intl/it/earth that, in addition to offering an interesting 3D photographic view, allows you to trace the planned path, thus having a precise comparison of the actual distances â–

During navigation it is important to know your position in order to always have clear the distance traveled and the distance to be traveled. The particular elements on the coast are certainly useful for orientation, but it can happen to skirt high cliffs or indistinct stretches of coastline. For this it is recommended to have available on the boat a copy of the map used for planning that can help to interpret the coast. Taking the time into account and estimating one’s speed is used to approximate the distance traveled and therefore to find one’s position on the map itself. A compass can indicate the precise direction of our progression at sea, especially near bends, heads and islets. Furthermore, the compass allows us to define the position through the map on the map of

In water safely Well equipped, aware of the itinerary and the weather conditions to be faced, the only surprise being the beauty of the coast!

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the known points identified on the coast. A good preparation on orientation techniques and the use of the compass is therefore appropriate.For orientation it is certainly easier to have the availability of a mobile device with a GPS signal that can indicate the position on a digital map. However, relying too heavily on these technologies depending on limited batteries can be risky: it is better always to have an alternative. This short guide aims to inspire you to experience a nautical experience full of emotions and new stimuli: it is in fact to be considered as an invitation to be aware of the natural, historical and architectural environment that you encounter while paddling along the coast. For this reason it is suggested to read up further on the naturalistic and cultural aspects of the coast you intend to explore. A good source of information is from local tourist agencies, the sites of

the park authorities and the tourist hotel associations â–

Useful info Online resources in the territory: www.lamialiguria.it www.beactiveliguria.it

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CoastalTouring Editions Genoa © 2019 Copyrights

The author and his friends

Copyrights for reproduced maps and online version: © 2018 Google LLC, used with permission. Google and the Google logo are registered trademarks of Google LLC. Google Earth Data SIO, NOAA, US Navy, NGA, GEBCO. Image Landsat/Copernicus. For images: © 2018 Paolo Ghelfi

The author Paolo Ghelfi, journalist, lives in Genoa and paddles in Liguria, but also around Italy and in the world. Translation in English has been made by Julia Delgado. For the realization of this guide we thank our paddling friends: Andrea, Adriana, Claudia, Giuliano, Elena, Luisa, Marco, Nicola, Salvatore.

Printed in Italy, Genoa

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The Levante coastline  

A guide to the eastern coast of Liguria by kayak

The Levante coastline  

A guide to the eastern coast of Liguria by kayak

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