In the Middle Ages, the riverside was full of warehouses, and cargo boats lined the quays.
Nowadays, the river is no longer a means of transport, except for the crew of Peregrinus, anchored a couple of miles downstream.
A small stream winds through Tuscany,
which up in Falterona hath its rise,
and is not sated by a hundred miles.
——— Dante Alighieri, Purgatorio XIV, 1320
The Arno might be, as Dante says, a little stream at its source in Mount Falterona, but it is nonetheless Italy's second largest river (after the Tiber), and most importantly, the river that runs through Florence and down through Pisa.
Before the railroads were built, goods and merchandise arrived in Florence via the river; a dream trip no longer possible because of flood control dams and bridges along the way.
Peregrinus sailed into the Arno on 22 July 2016 and anchored for five gorgeous dats just 2.2 miles short of Pisa city centre, as no further upriver navigation was possible because of some low-laying overhead power cables across the water.
This is the town where they build the Perini Navi ketches, like Peregrinus, only a tad larger. We've frequently seen these boats on both sides of the Atlantic.
The white in these mountains, visible from far away, is all white Carrara marble, massively exploited since Roman times, and evidently, inexhaustible.
Peregrinus has three times come across submarines going in or out of port. In the United States, we came across a submarine coming into Norfolk, escorted by machine-gun toting fast boats screaming on the radio every few seconds that anyone within a sizeable radius of them would be summarily shot; we had to get out of the channel. All US Navy submarines are nuclear, and this one was going very, very fast, leaving a tall water plume behind its vertical stabiliser —and of course energy consumption is not an issue for these fish. This must be standard practice around these parts, because we heard the screams on the radio a couple other times as we sailed the lower Chesapeake.
In France, as we sailed by Toulon, a submarine quietly passed our stern at modest speed. This was certainly a small (74-metres) Rubis-class nuclear-powered attack sub, as this is their home port, and one hopes the large SSB Triomphant-class don't let themselves be seen. No visible escort.
When we were at anchor in Le Grazie, near the naval facilities at La Spezia, we saw this Todaro-class submarine, 56-metres, possibly Scirè, leaving port. Italy, birthplace of Enrico Fermi, abandoned nuclear technology in 1991, so these non-nuclear powered subs have a top surface speed of 12 knots, and are the top Italian underwater weapons. Escort? Nah. Several local fishermen actually sped right by it.
And the renowned port of Venere,
safe under any wind and capacious enough
for all the fleets that under heaven exist
Itinerarium breve de Ianua usque ad Ierusalem et Terram Sanctam (1358)
A fortress, first recorded in 1080, organised by the marquesses of Genoa under the Holy Roman Empire, to defend the coast against Moor pirates.
Now in the heart of the Cinque Terre, and assaulted, not by Saracens, but by tourists.
Down the stairway I have come, hand in hand with you, at least a million steps
And now that you are absent there is a void in each stair
Like one, so our trip has been all too short
——— E. Montale, on a plaque on the staircase to the cemetery,
Monterosso al Mare
Amid the general decay of Genoa, a large church stands at the end of formerly grandest via Balbo. There is an impressively large Neoclassic portico, obviously tacked in front of a Baroque façade that would otherwise look exactly like every other 16th century in church Spanish America. All in all, not very promising for the tourist. But early on a Sunday morning, this is the first open building the visitor finds after a certain walk from the train station, and so one goes inside.
And what a find! The Santissima Annunziata del Vastato basilica's spectacular decoration by the best artists of Genoa during its golden age in the 17th century was sponsored by the Lomellini family, vastly enriched by a concession granted in 1543 by King Charles of Spain: the exclusive right to mine the red coral on Tabarca Island. Used to make jewellery, coral was sold in Europe and much exported to India as well, making the Lomellini among the wealthiest of Genoese. The concession ended in 1741, when the Moors invaded Tabarca and enslaved the 69 Genoese families for 27 years; their freedom was, in the end, purchased by Charles III of Spain in 1768 who then gave the 394 former slaves the island of Nueva Tabarca in Spain.
The Lomellini used the basilica as family chapel from 1591 and in 1783 got Pope Pius VI to formally declare it as family parish (parrocchia gentilizia), but the family became extinct in 1794.