Helen in Europe travel blog

view from Castle of San Giorgio, La Spezia

detail of mosaic in museo del castello, Castle of San Giorgio, La...

the ubiquitous coloured umbrellas at Monterosso

more trompe l'oil walls at Monterosso

the 40 foot high steps I ascend to get to my hotel...

A must do for all Cinque Terre visitors seems to be to purchase the Cinque Terre card or the train pass which allows you to move through the five Cinque Terre towns and La Spezia on the one ticket for 16 euros. Having gone for around four days without a museum visit (pant, pant, hyperventilate), I had researched the museums in both Genoa and La Spezia and decided to try some in La Spezia as it was on the Cinque terre pass route and the next stop from Riomaggiore. I wasn't holding out hopes for much as La Spezia isn't renowned as a museum centre. I was pleasantly surprised. After a pleasant 15 minute stroll past some buff shirtless brickies (it's pretty common for workmen to go shirtless and hatless in Summer) and some pretty streets I arrived at my first museum Museo Civico Amedeo Lia. I was thrilled to again get free entry with my ICOM pass and proceeded to journey through the collections of mainly 15th to 17th century European painting and earlier (e.g. Roman) Sculpture and antiquities. Once again, apart from a pre-school group engaging in a collage activity I was the only visitor and felt the invigilators walking slowly behind me as I moved through the various rooms. Enough time had passed that I felt refreshed rather than fatigued at viewing the Gothic religious paintings, noticing their intricate landscape backgrounds. Like some of the other Italian galleries, the wall is cut around the oddly shaped frame so that the painting sits flush with the wall. There was also a reasonable collection of Renaissance paintings but the big highlight for me was a whole room, at the top of the museum of 17th century still lifes, really top notch stuff! This museum sustained me a lot longer than expected so it was probably an advantage that I whipped through the two exhibitions at CAMecC (Centro Art Moderna e Contemporanea) relatively quickly. The museum was large and modern with appropriately spacious white cube spaces suitable for contemporary art. The main exhibition was entitled (this is translated from Italian) Small Size and Vitamins. So all the works were small in size and they had borrowed more works from a different collection, hence the term Vitamins (energising the exhibition). Then, after checking google maps I realised I was right near the marina so I strolled down to discover not only a fabulous marina but a little cafe that indicated that they were 'self serve' really meaning there is no table service. This certainly didn't worry me or all the other mainly locals there. Seafood was the specialty and I had food envy as I saw older women using their hands to demolish bowls of prawns and others tucking into squid, seafood and other dishes. I chose a parmigiana with the usual eggplant and tomatoes but topped with anchovies! That's regional food for you as it seems that anchovies are quite common here. I felt I had to express how much I enjoyed my simple dish so I went back to the counter after dropping off my tray to be asked by the man working there if everything was okay. When I indicated that I just wanted to say 'Perfecto', he seemed so thrilled - it doesn't take much. Similarly, later in the day when I ordered a coffee and told the waitress it was 'perfecto' she was thrilled, asked me where I was from, talked about how beautiful Australia is etc. etc. I have yet to meet a rude Italian, they are certainly rare in the food industry. After visiting the Castle of San Giorgio and the museum (you have to pay to see the museum to go inside the castle - great for me as once again, my ICOM pass gained me free entry), it was time for the train again. It seemed that every train on the platform was 'retardo' or delayed and there were plenty of announcements and updates about estimated times of delays. There were a group of lads drinking stubbies kicking around a soccer ball, which landed on the tracks a few times. I thought about how irresponsible this was as they were not only endangering their own lives by going on the tracks to retrieve their ball but potentially others. When we finally boarded the train I listened for the accent: yep, they were Australian. And then when the female ticket inspector came along, of course there they were, three men arguing aggressively about their tickets. I wondered whether to step in and tell them to just pay up or you could end up with a criminal record and never be able to visit Europe again but I could see she was doing a great job on her own. I saw her talk to someone on the phone, and part of me hoped that she was phoning the gestapo like what I witnessed the other day. These are exactly the kinds of Australians that give the rest of us a bad name, and yet I only hear Italians praise Australia and Australians. Interestingly, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed the family that I met going from Levanto to Riomaggiore; there are plenty of us here; I just hope most of us leave a good impression. After queuing and following the crowds down to Manorola I wondered what I was doing here. I am a tourist too but have been privileged to enjoy visiting places like art galleries, hiking tracks and quiet streets to seek refuge from the crowds. Everyone's idea of a holiday is different though, I appreciate.

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