With our stay in the Cinque Terre over, it was time to move on to the Piemonte. A short train ride took us from Manarola to La Spezia, where we rented a car. We had the chance to explore La Spezia over lunch before driving on.
La Spezia is a small city on the Ligurian coast is a port city, home to a naval base and a frequent stop for cruise ships. We came across a wonderful, open-air market in the heart of the city that filled about two city blocks. The market included stall after stall of fresh seafood, including many I had never seen before. The produce was absolutely gorgeous, crate after crate of impeccable quality.
From La Spezia, we made the three-hour drive through the Ligurian Apennines. The Italians seem to prefer driving through the mountains rather than driving over them. The route was filled with tunnels, many of them about a half mile long.
We reached what would be our home for the remainder of the trip in the late afternoon. We stayed in a refurbished farmhouse from the 1800s just outside Montegrosso d’Asti, a small town southeast of Asti. The property has a magnificent view over the hills of Monferrato, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. On clear days, it was striking to see on the Alps on the horizon. There were great views of Monte Rosa, Gran Paradiso and Mont Viso. The landscape between us and the Alps was all rolling hills.
Trying to get the lay of the land in Piemonte was confusing. I realized I needed to brush up on my geography. I knew the Alps formed the northern border of Italy, but I didn’t realize it was somewhat more complicated. Like the Rocky Mountains, the Alps comprise several mountain ranges. The northern border of Italy consists of the Eastern, Central and Western Alps. I didn’t realize the Maritime Alps formed the northwestern border of Italy with France. Thus, Piemonte sits in a very large, natural amphitheater with the Alps both to the north and the west.