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Italy here we come

Written on: Saturday May 15th, 2010

A journal entry from: Europe 2010

May 15th

Had breakfast at a corner pattiserrie, croissant and coffee, sat outside and watched folk getting ready for their Saturday.  My big complaint so far is the coffee cups are so small and you don't get refills, we stopped at a service station and I order a cup of coffee and asked for a grande, he gave me a bigger cup with the same amount of coffee in, it barely covered the bottom!!!  We decided that toll roads get you places fast but you don't see much in the way of the life of the people so today we decided to get around Nice and Monaco on toll roads to Allacio and then along the coast for three hours up to Genoa, got a bit lost in Genoa and spent far too much time there, not the prettiest of places.  Lunch on the road just before Genoa with a sandwich we had bought from the patisserie.  Once through Genoa started heading for our hotel which is 35 km from Cinque Terre which we planned to visit the next day. Again we scheduled Tom (who by the way is invaluable, don't know what we'd have done without him, sometimes he (or we) gets things wrong but he's always there to get us back on track fairly easily) to avoid toll roads.  He took us up and down a winding pass for 50 kms, temperatures got quite cool at the top but eventually we ended up in a beautiful town called Varise Ligure in a hotel called Albergo Amici.  The hotel is soooo Italian, we had a balcony overlooking the cobbled streets and the church clock rings on the quarter hour.   Went out for a walk about town on the evening but decided to go back to our hotel for a meal.

   

May 16, 2010

We talked to some of the hotel guests from England who told us that the best way to see Cinque Terre in a day was to get the train at Monterosso Del Mer so we had a scenic drive to the parking area and got attuned to the way the train system works.   Cinque Terre is five villages along the coast that were built hundreds of years ago and the early residents built terraces out of rocks so that they could grow crops, an incredible feat given the terrain and equipment available. It's a big grape growing area. The villages are connected by trails at sea level and others on the surrounding hills and you are able to walk the trails. However due to the inordinate amount of rain they've had recently, all but one of the sea level trails were closed because of landslides.  We started at Monterosso took the train to the last village (Riomaggiore)  and walked back to Manarola and then had to get the train to Corniglia, Vernazza and back to Monterosso.  We were a bit disappointed in the fact that the place was teeming with tourists, there was graffiti all along the sea walk, people had even carved their names in the cacti along the root and for some reason some had brought padlocks with them and put them along the route wherever they could find an anchoring point. 

 

I thought I'd chosen a reasonably quiet hotel for tonight's stay, between Pisa and Florence so that Roger didn't have to drive in heavy traffic, thought we'd be able to get a train to Florence tomorrow and then just drive through Pisa on Tuesday. All went well until we got off the motorway (only 1 km from our hotel) to find traffic backed up with everyone hooting their horns and hanging flags and scarves out their window.  When we eventually got to our hotel street there was a barricade across, I asked Tom to find an alternative route but he said there wasn't one.  Two hours later after driving around, stopping at restaurants to see if we could have a meal while the chaos diminished and finding that they didn't serve meals until 8 pm, we came back through the throng and got the policeman guarding the barrier to let us through.  Turns out the Milan had won the championship and everyone was out celebrating. Then when we got to the hotel we find that the parking spot is three blocks away and this is old Italian blocks where streets don't go in a straight line.  We found the parking lot OK but had difficulty getting back.  It would have been much easier to have stayed in Pisa or Florence but I guess they could have been celebrating too. Decided to eat at the restaurant at the hotel as it was late, had an enormous meal of salad, pasta and steak followed by desert.