How hard can it be to find an address?

Trip Start Mar 17, 2012
Trip End Jun 26, 2012

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Where I stayed
La Coralia bed & breakfast Cinquale
Read my review - 5/5 stars

Flag of Italy  , Tuscany,
Saturday, June 16, 2012

Today we are meant to be making our way down to Forte dei Marmi (Italian Riviera) on the western coast of northern Tuscany. We have arranged to meet up with our friend Paolo and spend the weekend relaxing by the (Ligurian) sea. A phone call (internet based Viber service) from Paolo the previous night has us detouring via La Spezia to join him for lunch in Cinque Terre at his friend's restaurant, Belforte, which overlooks the sea.

We excitedly leave Verona at 8.00 am, early enough we think, for the two and a half hour drive from our hotel in Verona to La Spezia station where we will meet Paolo (at 11.00 am but no later than 11.30 am) to catch a local train north up the coast to Vernazza.
One would think that driving on an Autostrade on a Saturday morning wouldn't be an issue, but I forgot we were in Italy!

We screech to a halt at 11.20 am outside the station at La Spezia but Paolo is nowhere to be seen. The next 10 minutes are spent fruitlessly searching for him. Then, attempts to find wi-fi, a working public phone or a friendly Italian with a mobile phone reap no rewards. The time is approaching midday. Finally, Gail attracts the attention of a young man who very accommodatingly, phones Paolo on our behalf.
Long story short - he caught the 11.20 am train (must have just been pulling out as we arrived) and the suggestion is now that we catch the next train to Vernazza and meet him there.
Once bitten, twice shy. After telling Paolo to contact us in Forte dei Marmi, we get into our Panda and head south.

The B & B where we will be staying is located in Cinquale - a hamlet town of Forte dei Marmi. The GPS takes us to the address but the B & B is nowhere to be seen. We spend the next 2 hours trying to decipher the idiosyncrasies of the Italian street numbering system and finally resort to having Gail once again attracting the attention of a young man (to use his mobile phone) in order to speak with the B & B and to ascertain where exactly they are located. We end up back to where the GPS originally took us but still we cannot locate the B & B.
As a last resort we flag down a passing bicyclist and tell him our tale of woe (luckily he understands English). He muses for a moment then announces that he has ridden past this B & B somewhere in a back private road nearby. He instructs us to wait while he cycles off in the direction of where he thinks it may be. Five minutes later he re-appears and beckons us to follow. The B & B is not that far away, however unless you are Italian and understand how street numbers and hieroglyphics work, you don't stand a chance of arriving at your destination.

Once we have settled into our room, we decide that rather than wait for Paolo to contact us, we should find a restaurant for dinner and call it a night thereafter. As we return to the B & B after dinner, our host comes running out to tell us our friend Paolo has been in touch and that we should call him as soon as possible.
We call Paolo (free wi-fi in B & B) and he is keen to come over as he wishes to show us the hidden secrets of the area. His beach house is not far from where we are staying and when we try to explain how to get to us he justs laughs and says he has the address and that is all he needs.
Amazingly, after 10 minutes he arrives down our little dirt lane that has no signage or markings of any description.

The time is now past 10.00 pm and we are wondering what possible hidden secrets we will see at this time of night. We get into his car and he drives for about 15 minutes before arriving at the town of Pietrasanta.
This medieval town was founded in 1255 upon the pre-existing "Rocca di Sala" fortress of the Lombards by Luca Guiscardo da Pietrasanta.
Paolo struggles to find a car parking space as this vibrant, throbbing village is alive with locals enjoying the atmosphere of open air cafes, boutique shops that seemingly never close, and craft exhibits and displays unparalleled in the variety that one could find in another single place. From artistic foundries, mosaics, inlay work, fine art printing, ironwork, ceramics and others such as bronze, marble or clay sculpture and mold making, a self sufficient system has evolved where entrepreneurs can move and find all the partnerships they need in the fields of art, interior decoration and architectural planning.

By midnight we are done and we head back to Cinquale for a well deserved rest.
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