Thursday, June 14, 2012

Finding some sun

Baia del Silenzio, or the Bay of Silence

We woke up to another cloudy Wednesday here in Monterosso, and I really couldn't take it.  We have one day off a week to laze around at the giant beach I stare at most hours of the day, and another beach-less Wednesday was not in my cards.  I would find a beach with some sun.  Knowing how the weather here changes quickly and even from town to town, I recruited my easygoing boyfriend for a little field trip to Sestri Levante, a town about 20 minutes away and one I had only been to for dinner.  As we were getting ready, I discovered that this is another town that Manuel, having lived his whole life only minutes away from, has also never been to during the day.  I have seen pictures, read hotel reviews, and knew it was probably worth seeing - and far enough from these hills that seem to be trapping clouds over our little village.
20 minutes later on a very easy train ride, we would up in the town, which is more like a "city" here.  A short walk led us to the main shopping streets, which were full of clothing stores, a manicurist (!), cute gelateria shops (I counted 6) and little alleyways that wiggle below the intricately painted facades that are so typical of Ligurian seaside villages.  Sestri Levante, often only referred to as "Sestri", had a blue, cloudless sky and plenty of sun.  No one told us about the wind.
Sestri is more or less on a little peninsula that juts off from the main part of Liguria. Surrounded by two beautifully named bays, the Baia Delle Favole on one side, and the Baia Del Silenzio on the other.  The Baia Delle Favole, or the "bay of fairy tales" is named in honor of Hans Christian Anderson, who lived in the town for a little bit in the 1800's, and is a beautiful stretch of beach with private clubs and colorful umbrellas.  The Bay of Silence is more intimate, a small horseshoe of sand, and a little bay of striking aqua with boats bobbing peacefully a few meters out.
Your choice of lounge chairs
The little windy streets turn into wind tunnels as you pass through the buildings towards the blue water in front of you.  Manuel actually was walking with his shirt attached to him by the wind blowing towards him.  Our day at the beach was a half hour, and we left with tons of the fine sand they have in this area attached to our face and in our hair.  Drinking mojitos at a beach bar more towards the peninsula and away from the bay was a much better idea.
Baia Delle Favole
Perhaps the most surprising thing was the lack of tourists - or anyone - in the town.  Big, grand hotels lining the shore seemed empty.  Hundreds of beach chairs occupied by only a handful looked sad and lonely.  Restaurants, at 1:30-2 pm, were full of tables set with starched linens and waiters quietly standing, arms crossed, bored.  We asked the older waitress at lunch where all the guests were, and she sadly responded that this season has been the slowest in memory.  When hearing we were from Monterosso, she perked up, assuming the reason Sestri was slow was because we were still slow from the flood, and that lack of tourists in the Cinque Terre was trickling over to the other Riviera towns.  When we responded that we actually were doing really well so far this season, she was surprised.  "Here," she waved her hands to show us the majority of empty tables, "there is no one."

A little bit of wind

It was sad, but at the same time another reminder of how very lucky we are to have the tourism that we do in Monterosso - the Cantina has been full almost every night.  Guests are leaving much earlier, as many booked a room after the flood outside the Cinque Terre, but come here for day trips.  Maybe they are even staying in Sestri, but eating meals and exploring the Cinque Terre during the day.  Regardless, if you have the time, Sestri is definitely worth a visit, with it's enchantingly windy bays and shopping options.

Empty now, as they depend on Italian tourism, that picks up later in the season, the waitress explained, it's a lovely little seaside city to have to yourself.  And I'd imagine they have wonderful wind-surfing as well.

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