Italy can probably thank Rick Steves for helping the Cinque Terre go from what he boasts as “Fiat-free” to tourist-filled. I can confirm that we were in fact, some of those very tourists that Rick Steves inspired to flock to those colorful cliffside villages. However, I think I’ve discovered an alternative (but shh don’t tell Rick Steves).
Our Cinque Terre base was Lerici because we wanted to be close, but not in the midst of the high-waisted-khaki-shorts-white-tennis-shoe-fanny-pack-wearing throng of tourists. Lerici keeps out (most) tourists because it is notoriously difficult to reach; there’s no train station, only residents can park there, while half of town is reachable only by walking paths (where our AirBnb was located), and the ferry service to nearby La Spezia and Cinque Terre is sporadic. The only way to really get there is by bus or by taxi. In other words: you have to really want to get there.
If Lerici is difficult to get to, Tellaro is even more so.
Tellaro is what I call a real Fiat and (mostly) tourist-free, off the beaten path, quaint, colorful seaside village with equally stunning views as Cinque Terre of the Ligurian Sea.
(I mean, would you even know this isn’t the Cinque Terre, and isn’t it just as adorable?!)
So how exactly do you get to Tellaro if it’s so hard to get there?
Our plan was to hike our hearts out in Liguria, but that didn’t exactly happen with parts of the Cinque Terre trails being closed and all (#LandslideProblems), not to mention the soul sucking heat.
Supposedly it is possible to hike to Tellaro from Lerici, and that’s what we had wanted to do. We walked up what seemed to be a path from Piazza Garibaldi (the main piazza in Lerici), but it lead to a…main road. A curvy road plus Italian drivers at high speeds equals not where I want to walk! So we went with plan B to reach Tellaro: the bus.
The only problem was, since I hadn’t been to Italy in nearly 10 years, I had practically forgotten how to take a bus.
The easy part is getting the tickets. Although tickets can usually be purchased from the bus driver, it’s slightly cheaper to purchase them beforehand from a Tabacchi. Once you’re on the bus you have to remember to validate your ticket (it’s usually a yellow machine located near the entrances).
The hard part is knowing when to get off the bus. It’s a delicate orchestration of timing. You must know *exactly* when your stop is coming up so that you can press the buzzer to request the next stop, which is almost impossible to know if you’ve never taken that route before. I’ve always found the bus driver or other passengers willing to help. In fact, we almost got off on the wrong stop on the way to Tellaro, but the bus driver knew where we wanted to go and let us know it was the wrong stop.
The bus dropped us off at a dead end right in front of the main piazza.
And then the bus had to TURN AROUND in THAT tiny space.
What is there to do in Tellaro?
We had planned on doing a hike from Tellaro to Montemarcello, but we didn’t get to Tellaro until the afternoon, and the last bus back to Lerici was at 8 p.m.
Our first stop was the pharmacy (farmacia) to get some bug spray for my dad. Mosquitos just love him, and there were A LOT of mosquitos thirsty for his blood.
I had no idea how to say mosquito (it’s zanzara in case anybody wants to know, which sounds way less annoying in Italian), but I mimed a bug biting me and the pharmacist instantly knew what I wanted. In fact, they had bug spray prominently displayed on the counter. (Guess my dad’s not the only one!).
Here’s the pharmacist closing up shop. Doesn’t she look like she’s having fun?
Truthfully, there’s not a whole lot to do in Tellaro except wander around the Fiat-free streets, enjoy the views, and have an aperitivo and watch the sun set, listening to locals mingle and children play in the piazza, which is exactly what we did. Just perfect if you ask me!
Tellaro: no cars allowed, but can you spot the tourist?
Italian lesson: Taking the bus in Italy
Just in case you want to take the bus to Tellaro, or anywhere else in Italy, here are some handy phrases:
- I’d like _ ticket(s), please. Vorrei un biglietto. Vorrei (due, tre, quattro, etc.) biglietti, per favore?
- Does this bus go to ____? E’ questo l’autobus per____ ?
- When is the last bus to _? Quando passa l’ultimo bus del giorno?
- Could you tell me which stop to get off for ___? Mi può avvisare quando arriviamo alla fermata del ______?
- Where is the bus stop? Dov’è la fermata del bus?
- Excuse me. Permesso. (When the bus is crowded and you need to get on/off).