The old signora had a store -a small grocery - on the Piazza della Liberta in Ameglia, where Liguria meets Tuscany. Elsa Aluisini was 94 years old, and her store opened every day at 8am - even though her daughter had to drive her the 300 meters from her home. She had a smile for every customer, and the bit of blusher she troubled to wear on her cheeks multiplied the warmth. We were new to Ameglia - it was 1991 - and our Italian was pretty bad. But this gentle lady took the time to talk to us every time we came in. One day, she gave us a gift. The gift of a small story, a picture really, which we cherish. We hope to pass the gift to you.
The signora's mother, Lisa, grew up in Tellaro, a small fishing village on the Gulf of La Spezia, across the peninsula from Ameglia. The way of life was humble, since fishing and agriculture were virtually the only livelihoods. Since Ameglia was the political center of the area, the land route to Tellaro was the path from Ameglia. Tellaro was also part of the Ameglia parish, so when it came time for the signora's mother to be married, in the 1890's, the wedding had to be in Ameglia. On her wedding day, the bride-to-be, dressed in her modest wedding dress with a yellow veil, set off from Tellaro to Ameglia, a hike of about 2 miles. The path was paved with stones and dirt - a mule track - and it climbed up and over the spine of the peninsula. In order to look her best, the bride carried her ribboned yellow cloth wedding shoes in hand, and walked the rough path to her wedding - barefoot.
|Ethnographic Museum La Spezia|
18th C. Traditional Festival Dress
See below for Getting There, About Ameglia, Bus Info, Boat Info, Lunch Info, and More Info.
|Ameglia. Ancient Slate Relief|
Walk directly across the Piazza and up the street, past the little Bar in our building, past the Rolla Alimentari, and past a little bakery. The road will turn, but you'll go straight. Ahead is the lovely Oratorio di Nostra Signora Assunta. Rarely open, it dates from the 18th century. The trail goes to the left of the church, and begins to rise, as we head up a pass between the hills. The current CAI map signals our path as Trail CAI-2b, connecting to CAI-3 at Zanego and then branching to Tellaro on CAI-3h. Older maps may well have different designations
|Ameglia Tower and Castle, rear view with Alpi Apuane.|
The trail levels off, the view is gone, and it passes through olive groves, some neat and tended, some overgrown, some hosting horses. Later in the year, there may be red or orange nets spread below the trees to collect fallen olives. Though the olives look like the black olives in the store, they must be cured to be edible, otherwise they are way beyond bitter.
As you walk along, you'll see that, in places, the dirt beside the trail has been dug up. This was done by cinghiali, wild boars that weigh as much as 200 pounds, who were using their sharp tusks as trowels while looking for grubs and roots. Also look for u-shaped troughs on the slopes under the brush near the trail. These are slides that the cinghiale use as trails, and - we have read - for fun. The cinghiali are extremely wary and intelligent, and you almost certainly will not encounter one.
|Thanks, CAI volunteers.|
|A Path to Lunch|
Soon enough you'll feel the fresher ocean air, and then see the landscaping of the suburban human. At the road there's a shrine, a well, and some trail signs, and that's Zanego (a/k/a quattro strade). This is also the bus stop you need on the Lerici to Montemarcello bus, if you decide to return via Lerici. You will cross the road and begin the descent to Tellaro on CAI-3. Here there are more hidden houses with gardens, but it becomes even more Mediterranean. Here the path is modern crushed stone, there the path is ancient stone set in dirt for traction and to limit mud. The trees start to reveal the view of the Gulf of the Poets, and all's right with the world.
|Tellaro and the Gulf of the Poets|
Reach the Centro Storico (Capoluogo) of Ameglia by exiting at the Carrara exit northbound from the A12, Genova to Livorno, or the Sarzana exit southbound from the same A12. Follow the Ameglia signs to the Statale SS432 either north or south, and watch for the Ameglia turnoff. Northbound, it's a left about 2 km. after the bridge over the Magra. Southbound, the bridge means you've gone too far. You will see the pretty hill town as you drive up toward Ameglia on Via Cafaggio, and the road becomes increasingly - some might say alarmingly - narrow. As you begin to enter the town, there's a P sign for Parking, and you turn left down into the parking lot. HOWEVER, the upper two lots are for residents only, and are poorly signed. You need to go down to the newly built lower levels 3, 4 or 5 and park. Fortunately, the lots are safe, free, and there are no time limits. At the top of the long stairs on the town side of the parking lots, you reach one end of the Piazza della Liberta. Turn left under the arch, and you'll reach the church piazza where the description begins.
|Ameglia, Liguria. Defense tower, 10th Century.|
In later periods, like most of the area towns, Ameglia belonged in turn to various competing city-states. The ownership records reads like the deed to a house: from 1141 Genova, from 1252 Lavagna, from 1284 back to the Bishops of Luni, from 1321 Lucca, from 1328 three or more different feudal families, and from 1380 back to Genova. The transfers continued until 1562 when the Republic of Genova finally established control which lasted until the Napoleonic era.
The town layout is somewhat unusual, as the castle is the center, not the church. In front of the castle, there's a courtyard (originally a defensive ditch) and a little rectangle of streets. Then concentrically around the castle are three round streets which connect to each other but don't complete a circle. From the outer street there's an excellent view of Ameglia's little valley and the Alpi Apuane. Note that many of the houses are built on -or even around - solid rock. The small streets and narrow houses evoke a timeless feeling, enhanced by some of the ancient details that have been preserved. In particular look for ancient reliefs in slate around some of the doorways near the church.
Ameglia Montemarcello San Terenzo Pontremoli Filattiera Copyright 2011 Mike Mazzaschi, Martha Bates www.apathtolunch.com All Rights Reserved. Aulla Fivizzano Castelnuovo Magra This article appeared on www.apathtolunch.com and has not been authorized elsewhere. Cinque Terre Portovenere Lerici Luni Carrara Sarzana Ortonuovo, Nicola Fosdinovo Caniparola
Buses here are by ATC, and we happen to have a thrilling article on how to take a bus Getting Around La Spezia. You should check the bus times yourself since a new summer schedule starts June 16, 2011. However, to give you an idea of the service, here are Feriale (Mon-Sat.) midday times on May 30, 2011. Tellaro to Lerici: 9:55 / 10:45 / 11:45 / 12:50 / 13:30 / 14:05 / 14:45 / 15:15 / 16:35 / 17:45. Lerici to Zanego (Montemarcello bus) : 11:26 / 13:41 / 16:41 / 17:41 / 19:26.
|Lerici , Liguria. The Italian Riviera.|
|Fishing Boats Lerici Harbor|
|Ciccillio a Mare at Lerici|
For some of the many Lerici restaurant options, study our notated map of this Caprione Promontory, Restaurants and Overview Map. We've given info on restaurants we've tried, that Megan Guerrera has reviewed, and that a friend, Julie H., has tried.
Parco di Montemarcello-Magra (IT) There are many good trails through and around the park. Maps and guide books are available in bookstores. The Parco's office is at the far edge of Montemarcello, across from Il Giardino cafe.
CAI Sarzana (Club Alpino Italiano) has a good recent hiking map: Bassa Val di Magra (4Land Alpine Cartography #141) (1:25,000) which includes this area. Available at book stores, some newsstands, and CAI Sarzana, Piazza Firmafede, 13, just off Via Mazzini near Porta Romana.
NY Times Lerici The New York Times discovered Lerici, and, luckily, they sent a good and sensible writer.
We are grateful to a distinguished neighbor we never had the pleasure of meeting, Ennio Silvestri, for his book, Ameglia Nella Storia Della Lunigiana, and to his widow, Ilva, for presenting it as a welcoming gift.