Le Grazie

When we first travelled to Italy, we didn’t get the chance to see Cinque Terre so this time we were determined not to miss out. When I started planning, I soon realised that staying in the coastal villages was nigh on impossible with a car to park. Instead, I found a B&B in Le Grazie that suited our needs, or so I thought. After driving around for an hour trying to find the place, it turned out to be virtually inaccessible to anyone with more than hand luggage, down fifty or so very steep stone steps. With no Plan B, we were very lucky to find Hotel Le Grazie had a room available for two nights, a very nice room at that.

1.Hotel Le Grazie

In need of solace after our ordeal, a short stroll around the corner rewarded us with the tranquil vista of Le Grazie harbour.

2.Le Grazie harbour3.Le Grazie harbour

Nestled in a sheltered inlet between La Spezia and Porto Venere, this gorgeous village seems to have escaped the teeming tourist numbers of the neighbouring towns. The inhabitants have a reputation for being proficient divers and have thrived for centuries on boat building and fishing. Adjacent to the boat construction yard, the pine wood offers a shady meeting place for locals. A war memorial honouring  partisans, civilians and military personnel and an old cannon remind us of a less peaceful time.

4.pine wood

The roundabout, marked by a solitary cycad, seemed somewhat superfluous on a straight road.

6a.roundabout Le Grazie

After a restorative Prosecco we wandered further, past colourful buildings

7.Le Grazie8.Le Grazie

and beautiful boats moored in the marina.

9.yachts, Le Grazie harbour10.yachts, Le Grazie harbour

The village takes its name from the Santuario Nostra Signora delle Grazie (Sanctuary of Our Lady of Grace). The church dates back to the 11th century when a group of Benedictine monks came from the island of Tino. The present church and monastery were built in the 15th century, though the monks were driven out in 1798 and the church became a parish church. The ancient convent is now a private residence and I am lost for words.

11.Santuario Nostra Signora delle Grazie

It seemed a good time to rest for aperitivo

15.aperitivo, Le Grazie

while soaking up the atmosphere and sunshine.

20.Le Grazie harbour

We continued along the promenade until we could go no further.

21.walkway

The Varignano Fortress, built in 1724, dominates the headland. Originally used as a storage facility and quarantine station, it then became a hospital before being taken over by the defence forces. Since World War II, it has been the headquarters of the Navy Divers and Raiders Group, named after Major Teseo Tesei who invented the human torpedo. No prizes for guessing how he died.

22.Varignano Fortress

With the descending sun glistening on the water, we ambled back to seek sustenance.

23.Le Grazie harbour

Ristorante Il Gambero was the perfect setting

to observe life in the village and harbour

27.Le Grazie30.Le Grazie harbour

31.Le Grazie harbour

while enjoying delicious fresh seafood.

There is only one way to end a perfect day.

35.crème brûlée

Marple Locks

On our way through Cheshire, we stayed overnight with my Uncle Jim who lived in the small town of Marple. We enjoyed an afternoon stroll along the Peak Forest Canal where a series of 16 locks raise the canal by 64 metres over the course of 1.6km. We began our walk at Marple Memorial Park where this fabulous chainsaw wood sculpture was commissioned after the demise of a large Copper Beech tree.

1.tree sculpture Memorial Prk

Local school children submitted ideas on the theme of nature and knowledge featuring animals and books. They also chose the name, Midnight, for the central owl character.

2.tree sculpture, Marple Memorial Park

Other animals carved in the wood include a fox, badger, mole, squirrel and hedgehog.

We started at Lock 9, by Oldknow’s Warehouse.

8.Oldknow's Warehouse

Samuel Oldknow was an English cotton manufacturer who promoted the construction of the canal, which opened in 1804. When commercial carrying ended, the locks became dilapidated and were impassable by the early 1960s. The Peak Forest Canal Society were instrumental in the restoration and re-opening of the Marple Locks in 1974.

9.Lock 9

Oldknow’s Warehouse has since been converted to offices. I can think of worse places to work.

10.Oldknow's Warehouse

We continued our walk past Lock 10

11.Lock 10

and Lock 11.

After Lock 12, we approached Posset Bridge, completed in 1804. The bridge has three arches, the left hand one has been filled in

14.Posset Bridge

and the right hand one is a narrow oval tunnel built to allow the horses to pass under the bridge after being untied from the boats.

15.Posset Bridge horse tunnel

The canal continues through the middle arch to Lock 13 and more beautiful buildings, now office space.

16.Lock 13

Between the locks, the canal is tranquil.

17.Peak Forest Canal

The Macclesfield Canal joins in just beyond Top Lock Bridge.

18.Top Lock Bridge19.Top Lock Bridge

This magnificent home has prime position

20.Macclesfield Canal

with the marina just around the corner.

21.Top Lock Marina

I think a canal boat holiday would be a great way to relax and see some stunning scenery. Maybe one day……

22.Macclesfield Canal