Pontremoli by Word of Mouth
Do you still remember the time when TripAdvisor and the like did not exist? When it was creatures of flesh and blood – and not applications and algorithms – who pointed and steered you, in a confidential tone, to a little-known gem of a restaurant, a picturesque back road or an unfrequented beauty spot?
I had almost forgotten those sweet days of yore when, in August, I was unexpectedly reminded of them in Pontremoli, a little town lying in Northern Tuscany between two small rivers, the Magra and the Fiume Magra. Coming from the Italian words ponte (bridge) and tremare (tremble), the name Pontremoli literally means “trembling bridge”.
I was on my way to the city of Lucca, and just drawing abreast of Pontremoli, when I decided to pull off the highway and stop somewhere for a quick coffee.
After crossing one of Pontremoli’s medieval bridges, I found myself in the town centre, right in the midst of the bustling and colourful Saturday morning market, where I bought a piece of goat cheese. As it often happens in Italy in this kind of situations, the stallholder, a very nice lady, started chatting with me and offering me some friendly “tips”:
“At this time of day, you shouldn’t have a coffee…
— I shouldn’t, really? I chuckled with a smile.
— No! the lady gestured with her head and hands. You should go and join the locals for an aperitivo at Luciano’s, the bar in the piazza…”
So, guess what: this is what I did. I had at Luciano’s an excellent Bianco Oro, a “secret” local aperitif invented by Roberto, the owner of the bar, who said to me that I could not stop in Pontremoli without eating a plate of testaroli al pesto, the local specialty of the Lunigiana region.
So I followed his directions to the Trattoria Norina, a lovely hole-and-corner restaurant overlooking the Magra River, and located at the number 16 of the Via Garibaldi.
While enjoying my meal, I called the owners of the villa in Lucca to tell them that I was being kept back in Pontremoli, and would probably arrive a bit later than expected.
“Take all the time you need, Katharina, said the landlady in a most amicable tone. And since you’re in Pontremoli, make sure you drop by the Caffè degli Svizzeri in the main square to taste their scrumptious local pastries!”
And this is what I did, of course.