Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The Road to Levanto

With our car packed with the essentials, we took off on Friday evening for our big Italian Road Trip. This road trip not only marked our first time back in Italy in almost 2 years, but Oswin's first to our favorite european country. If you're keeping track at home,this brings our little adventurer's total to five countries by just over 8 months old (with her first four, in order, being Switzerland, France, Germany, and the United States.)  

Since we were leaving in the evening, we decided to split the 6-7 hours of driving between two days. This would allow us to check out a new town in either Aosta or Piedmont, before heading to our final destination of Levanto in Liguria. 

{Oswin approves of the Mediterranean}

Dan found us an adorable little B & B called "Lo Teisson," which translates to "The Badger." "Lo Teisson" was located in the small town of Pollein, which sits in the Aosta Valley region. Funny thing about the B & B? Apparently it was named after the pet badger that the family who runs the B & B once had as a pet. Badgers aside, the B & B was really cute, in an old chalet at the foot of the moutnains. We didn't have a lot of time in Pollein, just enough time to take a walk and admire some of the locals gardens, and grab some pizza at a local restaurant. Oswin was a trooper and hung out like a perfect little dinner guest, until far past her bedtime. 

In the morning we had breakfast at "Lo Teisson," and it reminded me how much I love how Italians do breakfast. There were cookies and yogurts and cakes and fruit and cappucino and jams...delicious. That may actually sound a lot like a french breakfast, but french pastries are much more butter based, where I find that Italian baked goods tend to be a bit heartier and nut based. We had our breakfast, checked out of the Badger, and off we went towards Liguria, Levanto, and the Cinque Terre. 

After about 3.5 hours in the car, and about 45 minutes of that driving a roller coaster ride route up and down the cliffs that line the small towns of the Mediterranean, we pulled into Levanto...a litlte bit on the car sick side. I don't usually get car sick, but driving along those cliffs really screwed up my equilibrium. I knew a little beach time would make everything better, because in my mind there's not much that the sand and sea can't cure. We got the keys to the apartment that we were renting, dropped our bags, and headed down to the beach. 

One thing that immediately jumps out to me about Levanto? Jasmine. Holy Jasmine aroma. Jasmine grows everywhere in Levanto, to the point where if you're a bit car sick it might be a bit much to handle. Once my vomitus feelings passed however, I found the aroma to be lovely. I've never been to a place that grew so much or smelled so of the pretty flowering plant. The smell will now forever be linked with the lovely streets of Levanto for me. 

After about a ten minute walk, we made it down to the beach. I felt any stress or cares that I had before melt away. There really is nothing quite like the Italian Riviera. 

As much as we love Cinque Terre, the only one of the five towns with a real legitimate beach is Monterosso, which happens to be just south of Levanto, and can be reached by either a 4 minute ride on the train or about a 2.5 hour hike. I was happy to find that Levanto's beach was sandy, as opposed to a lot of the rock beaches we've come across while in Europe. Still no shells to be found, but a lot of little sea weathered pebbles, sea glass and terra cotta to be collected as treasures if you wish (I did). There were several private beachs with the matching umbrella and chaise lounge deal going on, but we opted for the free beach on all of our beach time this trip, as the free beach was really nice. There was a lifeguard, room to spread out, and a pier topped with a bar, at your service. 

We had picked up some foccacia bread and 2 Birra Moretti's on our walk down, because we were famished and thirsty. It ended up being the best focaccia bread I've ever had in my life. Oswin enjoyed it too, as we let her chew on the crusts to help those little teething gums of hers. 

I have this problem with any body of salt water. I can't resist getting in. Whether it's June or January, Dan knows that I will either stay in for an hour, or at least semi-submerge myself (cough:cough: January in Riomaggiore 2012 cough:cough). The water was warmer than I had ever experienced the Mediterranean to be, almost like tepid bath water. It was unbelievable. Having spent half of my life at the beach I knew that meant a storm was coming. 

We spent about 2 hours on the beach that first day, which wasn't bad since we didn't get down there until about 5:30 PM. On the way home the clouds started rolling in. We were exhausted, and knew that we shouldn't try to push Oswin too far by going out for dinner that night, so we picked up a bottle of wine and some snacks to have in the apartment after she went to bed. After all, that night was to be Italy's first game for World Cup, so we needed game snacks. 

As we approached our apartment for the next three days, it begin to lightly rain. By the time we got inside, we could see the lightning over the ocean. Within minutes the thunder began to boom and the rain poured down. We were so happy we left the beach when we did. We welcomed the storm, as what better way to spend your first night in an Italian apartment then with a nice bottle of Chianti, the sound of a sleeping baby, and thunder and rain coming down? For us there was no better way. We needed to sleep and recharge, as we had a busy day ahead of us the next day. We'd be going back to Vernazza, Cinque Terre for the first time since January 2012, and we needed to rest up! But after just one more glass of wine of course...

A la prochaine friends...



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