If there’s anything writers are good at, it’s expressing themselves with words.
It is, after all, our one sole job. Still, I find it hard to describe my experience in Tuscany’s small town of Camaiore. After having visited Florence and Rome (with a brief stint in quiet Pisa), I had thought my visit to Camaiore would be a relaxing one. It was anything but; my time spent in this unassuming city turned out to be both physically and emotionally charged.
I had already fallen in love with Tuscany in Florence, but it was in Camaiore that she stole my heart. The way the mountains rise mysteriously into the rain-bearing clouds, fatalistic and gritty but astonishingly beautiful at the same time. The way the tree-lined stretch of Via Italica, the main street leading into the city from its beachfront, Lido di Camaiore, resembles a portal from one world to the next. The way the city’s principal shopping avenue, Via Vittorio Emanuele, idyllic in the day yet wholly romantic at night, wanders from the historic center to the distant hills beyond. There’s an intelligence in the quietness of it all.
Nearby Pietrasanta (a short train ride from the Stazione di Viareggio) is a city bathed in the arts, first noted by Michelangelo for its abundance of marble. This “City of Artists” prominently features works by Polish sculpture Igor Mitoraj and paintings by Colombian artist Fernando Botero (whose art I first witnessed in an exhibition in Palermo, a month prior). It’s enough to visit the city’s churches and partake in an aperitivo in the main square to appreciate the offerings of Pietrasanta, and I could sit and admire her for hours without saying a thing.
If there’s anything writers are good at, it’s finding meaning in the silence between sounds.
The medieval city of Lucca, with its interior beauty surrounded by walls that apparently even history could not tear down, was an easy day trip from Camaiore. It’s not hard to see many of the sights in one day. Start your adventure at the Cattedrale di San Martino (the city’s Duomo) and the Chiesa e Battistero di San Giovanni e Santa Reparata, all accessible with a single intero ticket that also includes the Museo della Cattedrale. Access to a tower provides brilliant overhead views of the city. For a view from another perspective, check out Torre Guinigi located just south of Piazza Anfiteatro, a beautiful circular “square” featuring outdoor restaurants and colorful buildings. If you’re looking for a quick and cheap bite, I recommend La Tana del Boia, a panineria located in Piazza San Michele, right next to the Chiesa di San Michele in Foro. If possible, I’d recommend staying in the city past sunset, when the hot days turn to cool nights and the work of illumination passes from blinding sun to tender lights.
There’s not much that can be said about Cinque Terre that hasn’t already been said. If you’re unfamiliar with the place, know that the name (translated literally as “five lands”) describes an area and not one singular city (there’s no train station for “Cinque Terre,” so don’t bother looking). Each town represents a different aspect of her overall appeal, from vibrant shops and shores to quiet hilltop country life. Purchase the Cinque Terre Card for unlimited access to trains and hiking trails, as well as free Wi-Fi in the stations. I first visited Riomaggiore, one of the bigger towns, followed by Monterosso al Mare, from which I hiked the tiring stairs to Vernazza. I then took the train to Corniglia, located higher up in the hills, after which I did not have time to see quiet Manarola, as I had to head back to La Spezia where trains arrive and depart for the other cities of Italy. Located in the region of Liguria, it behooves the traveler to try culinary specialties like pesto, focaccia and local seafood like the Anchovies of Monterosso. The area is also known for its limoncello and a wine called Sciachetrà, which unfortunately does not come cheap. Like my experience with Lucca, I would’ve loved to spend more time with Cinque Terre, particularly at night and without reason to rush.
I spent only three days in Camaiore, yet it turned out to be one of the most meaningful stops of my trip. If there’s anything writers are good at, it’s holding on to those quiet moments that shake the soul. Despite having visited legendary places like Cinque Terre and Lucca, it was the nights in Camaiore that moved me most, from the first night drinking Scotch procured from a café past midnight to the lovely seafood dinner on my last night in town to my final moments at the train station before leaving. Tuscany may be a beautiful region, but it was Camaiore that took a part of me with her.
If there’s anything writers are good at, it’s using metaphors.
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