Tellaro… If it hadn’t been for my friend sending me a picture he accidentally found of it on Facebook, I would have probably already forgotten the place even existed. I’d read the 4 lines in my guidebook mentionning something about a fishing village with pink and orange houses, narrow streets and tiny squares, but that’s nothing more than the description of pretty much every little town along the Ligurian Coast. Yes it sounded pretty, but that just added Tellaro to the long list of possible most beautiful village in the area… It was no reason to pick that particular place for a visit above all the others.
But than I saw that picture…
The day before I’d met Julia watching the sunset in Manarola, Cinque Terre, and while we were having take-out pizza and talking about life together on a bench overlooking the water and picture perfect town, she told me about how much she loved the Ligurian Coast and especially Portovenere. She lived in La Spezia, between Cinque Terre and Portovenere, and it was her personal favorite place along the coast. She thought it had something special. Something that made her love it even more than the others. “It’s not that far from Tellaro, you can combine both in 1 day”, she said. And so that’s what I did…
If you’re staying in Cinque Terre or further west, take a train to La Spezia central station. Go to the information point to buy bus tickets (they’re about twice as expensive if you buy them on the bus and some busses don’t even have tickets), exit the station at the front side and walk down the stairs you’ll see more or less in front of you. The bus stop is on the other side of the road, slightly to your right. Bus L will take you to Lerici within half an hour or so. Get off once you see the water and continue on foot until you reach the central square (the bus also goes to the central square but you might as well walk a bit along the water, right?!).
Lerici’s a mixture of living ‘la bella vita’ and that luxurious feeling you get in the south of France, and it’s lovely. I decide to not just leave right away but walk around for a bit and sit down for a drink on one of the otherwise empty terraces. There’s plenty of them but I obviously pick the one with the red and white chequered table cloths and kitchy Italian decoration.
Slowly sipping from my glass of Spritz, I ask the waiter for the road to Tellaro. “Over there”, he answers, pointing at the road leading away from the square.
So I ask “OK, and once I’m there, what do I do next?”
“Aaah you take the bus signorina…”, he replies, with this rrrrrraw sexy Italian accent.
But I didn’t want to take the bus. I wanted to walk to Tellaro on the path along the water. Because that’s what my guidebook said…
“Oooh no signorina, don’t do that! I did it once… and I lost myself!!”
I admit I got a little bit scared – I mean it had to be pretty horrible for someone to LOSE themselves just because of a walk, right?!? – but I felt adventurous so I insisted anyway – after all it was only 4 km! It was only when I was already halfway that I realized what he’d actually wanted to say… He didn’t lose himself… he just didn’t speak English that well… and probably meant that he GOT LOST… Which might sound just as scary to some people, but to me, it actually did sound a hell of a lot better!
So I walked. The 4 km to Tellaro. Because that’s what the guidebook said. And now I ask myself: “Why the hell am I always telling people to drop the guidebook?!?”
My jaws drop open wider each time the view stops hiding behind the trees. The perfectly turquoise water blends together with the clear blue sky as if it was meant to be, crashing into the rocks that rise so roughly out of it shortly after. My skin starts to burn (who brings sunscreen when the weather forecast says 11°C, right? It turned out to be 20°C during my whole stay! Not that I’m complaining…) but the path is flat and the walk really pleasant. I don’t rush, stop from time to time to enjoy the view and after about 1,5 hours I arrive in Tellaro.
Walking towards the center over the main road has nothing special after all the beauty I just saw and I almost start thinking they might have done a looooot of photoshop on that picture when suddenly… from behind the houses and trees… my first glimpse… and that aaauuuuoooowwhhh sound I can’t possibly hold in… A quick ‘lemmie-just-check-that-nobody-heard’ later I start walking faster towards what I now know’s the place to be. I slow down to stroll through the narrow alleys leading to the tiny central square and when I finally get there it takes me about half a second to loose my heart to it.
This place is beyond pretty. It’s beyond magical. It’s better than any cliché. It’s perfect. The 4 tables of the local bar fill up the whole square and the tiny church fights with the shore about who deserves the most attention. The bright blues from the sky and the water contrast and go at the same time perfectly with the somewhat neglected buildings. The paint’s peeling off of them but it would be a sin to change anything about it. I stay for 3 hours – and the whole town is literally like 50 meters long and 75 meters wide…
I guess it’s just one of those places that make you want to slow down, stand still and really just take it all in…
I have to force myself to leave but if I still want to make it to Portovenere in time to see it before sunset, it’s time to go. Portovenere is directed towards the east, so you should’t go too late if you still want to see the colorful houses beautifully lit by the sun. You might want to go to Portovenere in the morning instead, but then again no, you don’t… Keep on reading, you’ll see why in a minute!
You can either walk back to Lerici or take the minibus that will get you there in less than 15 minutes. It drops you off at the bus stop where you can take another bus to La Spezia, to continu on a final bus to Portovenere. Check if your bus driver’s name is Carlo, and if it is, don’t just ask him to warn you when it’s time to get off the bus once when you get on it… make some noise from time to time to make sure he doesn’t forget you and takes you all the way across la Spezia when actually you should have gotten off at one of the first stops in the city, or you’ll be in for an extra 45 minutes’ ride through the city center… Aaah well, you gotta love when things don’t go exactly as planned, right?!?
Arriving in Portovenere, grab something to drink from the little shop at the bus stop, sit down on the pier and enjoy watching the colors of the city as the sun slowly dissapears behind the houses. Walk around for a while and make sure to be at the Chiesa di San Lorenzo for sunset. This is when you’ll be happy you didn’t come to Portovenere in the morning…
I sit and watch the sky as it changes from bright blue to yellow, soft at first but intense and dramatic over time. Touches of purple appear as the last rays of sun project their soft glow on those harsh rocks and make sure they get all the attention they deserve. Next time I think about checking what time it is, my
glass bottle of wine is empty (it’s the shop’s fault, they only sold whole bottles…) and I realize I’m about to miss the latest bus to La Spezia that’ll assure a connection with a train back to my hotel. It’s a quick ‘see ya later’ but it’s ok…
Who needs long and painful goodbyes to ruin what was a perfect moment spent together anyway?!?
On the way back to my hotel I think about Julia. She wasn’t fluent in English but I’m sure that if she would have been, she still would have been unable to tell me exactly what it was that makes this place so special. To put her finger on that one particular reason why this is her favorite. To explain in words why she loves the whole Ligurian Coast THAT much…
But there was no need for explanations… I knew exactly what she meant…