16 September 2014

italy | pietrasanta

I had never even heard of Pietrasanta before the day we boarded our spiffy bus to actually go there.  Funnily enough, this medieval town, which is located near the coast of northern Tuscany, is actually in the province of Lucca, so it was very near to where my little trip began (and incidentally, I think that it would make a great day trip from Lucca; it's only around 30 kilometres away).

At the risk of sounding completely repetitive about every place that we visited, Pietrasanta was lovely.  The town is known for its artisans and the main square is, unexpectedly, full of modern sculptures, which somehow seem to work despite their ancient surrounds.  The square and surrounding side streets are full of colour, beautiful little details and, very importantly, fabulous boutiques - vintage stores, clothing, shoes, jewellery, homewares, art ... I could have done a lot of financial damage there but was reasonably restrained (thank goodness that I have photography to distract me from spending all my money!) :)

After a free afternoon, we all met up for dinner at Il Lunedi' De Lo Studio - a little bit hidden, but so worth seeking out.  We had planned to eat in the courtyard, surrounded by lemon trees and fairy lights (so very pretty!), but a giant thunderstorm and pouring rain put an end to that.  Nevertheless, the food and wine were amazing, although some of us may have had a little too much of the latter and accidentally set a menu on fire (I thought that only happened in the movies, hehe).

All photographs © Natasha Calhoun

Il Lunedi' De Lo Studio
Piazza Giacomo Matteotti 38, Pietrasanta

12 September 2014

cinque terre | monterosso al mare

After lunch in Vernazza, I hopped on another train to visit the largest of the Cinque Terre villages, Monterosso al Mare.

Monterosso consists of an old town and a new town, and I will admit that when I exited the station (which is located in the new town), I was slightly underwhelmed.  But after wandering along the main promenade for a bit and spending some time watching the very stormy sea (courtesy of the still-crazy winds) along with what seemed like half the town, I spied a tunnel and wondered "ooh, I wonder what's through there?"  As it turns out, it was the old town ... narrow, winding streets!  Colourful buildings!  Hooray!  I did really want to get that quintessential photograph of the beach with its neat rows of blue and white-striped umbrellas, but 'twas not to be.  I got Deserted Beach and Frenzied Ocean, instead :)


 I loved, loved the Oratorio della Confraternita dei Neri "Mortis et Orationis" (Chapel of the Brotherhood of Death and Prayer?).  It was small and starting to fall into disrepair, but just so beautiful to me.

One thing about the trains in Italy is that they do tend to live up to their reputation for running late, so you might spend more time than you expect just hanging out at stations, but with views like this, you can't complain too much ...

All photographs © Natasha Calhoun

10 September 2014

cinque terre | vernazza

One extremely blustery morning, we hopped on the train to Vernazza.  In 2011, this beautiful town was devastated by massive floods and buried in more than four metres of mud, killing three people and causing over a hundred million euro worth of damage.  Thankfully, the town has largely been rebuilt and, these days, is as busy (and lovely!) as ever.

After exploring Vernazza's streets for a couple of hours (and photographing/patting a number of its feline residents), I climbed Castello Doria, which is perched on a hilltop with stunning views of the town and coastline (it also dates back to the year 1000, can you believe it?!).  And then, our group reconvened for yet another awesome meal, this time at Ristorante Belforte (best. octopus. ever, by the way!).

Incidentally, I loved all towns of the Cinque Terre - each one is very charming in its own way - but I do think that Vernazza was one of my favourites :)

All photographs © Natasha Calhoun

Via Guidoni 42, Vernazza

Castello Doria
Via San Francesco 19018, Vernazza
Admission: 1.50


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