Pisa and amazing towns of Cinque Terre

Trip Start Mar 21, 2010
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Trip End Mar 16, 2011


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Flag of Italy  , Italian Riviera,
Friday, May 28, 2010

28TH MAY 2010 - This morning we leave Florence.  At 7am we walk to our pick up hotel called Plus Florence which was just up the road so it was so easy to get to. We wait around the hotel for the Busabout bus which leaves 8am.  We pile on and there are lots of us.  We travel along the beautiful Tuscany countryside for about 1.5 hrs and stop at Pisa.  

Pisa is a small town and the main attraction is the Leaning tower of Pisa and the Cathedral.  We hop off the bus and walk for about 10 minutes because if the buses stopped right outside the tower they have to paid 108 euro for 1 hr.  We walked in and there was the leaning tower and the millions of stalls selling those tackiest souvenirs like leaning tower lamps (hey I did buy one many years ago, I don’t know what I was thinking). The other “gorgeous” souvenirs you could get are leaning tower coffee mugs and stunning aprons and shorts and anything else you wanted its here.  We spent just under 1 hr here and then back on the bus and travelled another 1.5 hrs to get to a town called La Spezia just outside the Cinque Terre.  We got off the bus and walked to the train station.  We purchased a ticket and then hopped on the 1.17pm train to Riomaggiore. 

We hiked up from the train station to the main street “Via Colombo” and finally found our accommodation.  Well we thought it was and then realised its just the office, not happy more hiking with a heavy backpack isn’t fun.  A guy walked us up to the apartment, we walked for what seemed forever, up and up a million steps and it was a struggle walking up with our heavy bags.  Mary getting frustrated not knowing where we are going thinking the accommodation was back in the main street and we are getting moved but no our rooms were right up the top of a mountain.  By the time we got to our room Mary was in tears.  The walk was a killer. It doesn’t help when you wake up at 2am and can’t get back to sleep and got a nearly 20kg backpack on your back and you are a size of an elephant (yeah I’m hard on myself). It may not of been so bad if we didn’t have huge heavy bags on our back.  Anyway after taking a break, calming down, having a rest and cooling down we could appreciate the view.  We have a suite to ourselves with a shared bathroom.  We have our own balcony overlooking the ocean and its beautiful, the best room with a view we have ever had.  From what we have seen so far it doesn’t seem to be as pretty as Positano but hey its not too shabby ha ha!.  

We spent the next several hours just relaxing, clothes washing and chilling out.  We went for a walk all the way down to the bottom to the main street.  Before we left Troy hung his Billabong hat on the end of our balcony so we could tell where we are, it was so funny so we are laughing down the street, he is a funny boy my Yort. We had a look around the beautiful port, bought a few groceries including a bottle of wine, ate takeaway spaghetti with muscles and ravioli with meat sauce and a couple of pieces of focaccia one with anchovies and one with pesto, all pretty good.  We thought the food here would be even more expensive but its really no more expensive than anywhere else.  

We decided to keep walking around and explore this beautiful town.  We were walking along a tunnel which had beautiful mosaics on the wall.  A mother and daughter were walking towards us. The little girl caught my attention, she would of been only about 5 years old, had gorgeous long dark straight hair and it was so cute listening to her talk quite loud in her perfect Italian.  She sounded like a little adult, a real little chatterbox, so cute.  As we got closer to them her mother said to her “Nonno cannot walk very fast because he is old and has a walking stick”, next minute the gorgeous little girl runs away and goes up to her Nonno (grandfather) and holds his hand.  At this stage we were right next to them when she did this and I turned around and looked at her and said to Troy “oh look at her she is looking after her Nonno”, it was the cutest thing to see, this little girl was just gorgeous. I took a photo of them walking off together but not sure if it turned out ok because I don’t think you can see the little girl.  (photo in blog). Next minute Mary balls her eyes out, why because I love the innocence of children and of course I was thinking that could of been something Renee would of done.  It feels like my heart gets stabbed because we were robbed and I miss Renee dearly.  How I wish she was here!  This isn’t the first time we see these sort of things happen with kids, we see it quite a lot and it breaks my heart to think that we could of experienced this but Renee just slipped out of life way too soon.  We love her so much.  

We went for a walk to Via della Amore - “Lover’s Lane” and walked through a tunnel overlooking the ocean, one side the walls were covered in graffiti and the other side is the ocean, just beautiful. There was a monument of two lovers and millions of padlocks around it, pretty cute. We walked back to the main street and then climbed up the very steep walk back to our apartment but it is not as bad when you don’t have a bag on your back.  On our way up we noticed that we picked well our apartment is just about the highest apartment here apart from a few houses way up the top.  Trust us to pick it not, the walk up is a killer with luggage but the views are fabulous so that is the big bonus.  You got to see this view for yourselves, photos won’t give it justice.  We got back to our room and Troy cracked the bottle of wine.  Its now 9.35pm and we are now listening the free concert from our balcony of our apartment and this concert is down the main street, yep we can hear it and we are all the way up the top, its pretty loud

29TH MAY 2010 - This morning is a beautiful day.  I spent a part of it been very emotionally upset and wanting Renee and missing her so much.  Just thinking about my pregnancy with her and thinking about things, may be should of done this, may be shouldn’t of done this, mind in a twist and feeling very angry.  Its a long road this grief, the grief grabs you when you least expect it and you got to go with it not fight it (if anyone understands me?).  

We bought some foccacia and pastries at a local bakery.  We then went to the train station and purchased our 3 day pass for Cinque Terre.  We are staying in Riomaggiore which is the closest town to La Spezia.  The names of the 5 towns are Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso al Mare.  Travelling by train in between these towns doesn’t take long at all and with the 3 day pass you can travel on trains and local buses as often as you want and walk/hike in between towns.  We haven’t walked between towns yet, not sure if we will yet, we have heard that the hiking is really difficult.  

Anyway day 1 of our pass we decided to go to Monterosso al Mare, the last town of the Cinque Terre.  We travelled by train with millions of other tourists and trip took about 20 minutes.  We hopped off and walked across the road to a beautiful beach.  We had a quick look around and decided its time for a swim.  Troy’s first swim in the Med so he was a happy boy.  Its a beautiful town, lots of great views and gorgeous houses, apartments, shops, cafes and restaurants.  We found out later that Monterosso is split in two, the historical part and the new part so just by chance we stumbed along the old part as you get off the train at the new.  The beach here is beautiful with black grainy sand and pebbles and dotted with lots of umbrellas, lots of tanned skin good looking Italians and one glowing white Aussie (thats me mate).  We had fun in the water, Mary was been a clown trying to pose for photos with the underwater camera.  I was trying to do those what I call “I am European Super Model” poses or to put it another way “I just love myself or aren’t I just drop dead gorgeous” photos that we have seen these European girls do when they get their photo taken, its quite funny they pose like they are supermodels - arms up in the air and legs sprawled out.  (Its not that pose I do all the time like a star fish, that’s a Mezza pose, that’s unique to me).  So Mary tries to do the “I am a super model” pose whilst Troy snaps some pics but somehow I don’t have that “style” about it and look like a friggin idiot but its fun and we both end up killing ourselves laughing as we try to stand still in the ocean which isn’t easy with the waves crashing on us.  

We explored Monterosso al Mare and we now know why you ought to come here, Cinque Terre is absolutely amazing.  The shear size of the mountains and the beautiful views you get are to die for. The only thing in these towns is the amount of steps and steep mountains, you get a really good workout here so hopefully what we may of gained in Palermo we can work off here.  Monterosso has a great beach and part of it has this gorgeous castle and a carved giant statue of a man facing out of the rock its just gorgeous.  

About 3.30pm we decide its time to move on and we travelled to Vernazza which only took a few minutes by train from Monterosso al Mare.  We explored this town and once again its beautiful.  The swimming area was small and the water was covered with these what we thought we blue bottles without tentacles.  I asked a few locals and we were told that they don’t hurt and you can touch them.  Thank god for that because they looked so much like the heads of blue bottles floating in the water.  We had lunch here, a pesto pizza and it was great.  The pizza and foccacia here have been really good and we have basically been living on them.  After spending several hours here we caught the train back home to Riomaggiore.  We walked around the town for a while and then had dinner at a restaurant.  We both had calamari and chips and it was delicious.  The seafood here in Italy has been great.  We hiked up our mountain to the very top to get to our room with a view.  Good Night.    

30TH MAY 2010 - This morning we wake up to the sound of church bells ringing and birds chirping, it sounds so nice. Its a hard life here in Cinque Terre but someone has to do it. We lie in bed chatting and listening to the sounds of birds chirping, the church bells ringing and the sound of some loud Italians talking.  It quite overcast today and a bit cool.  We set off to explore the other two towns that we haven’t seen yet.  We hop on the train and go to Corniglia. We had some delicious foccacia for brunch which we notice were cheaper than anywhere else. Its a smaller town and you have to get the little green local bus from the train station into the main square or its a fair hike to walk.  We get off at the main square which is small and cute.  We walk around the town, another gorgeous town with lots of charm.  There are heaps of gorgeous shops selling plenty of all sorts of souvenirs and lots of eateries.  Its later in the afternoon and we grab another focaccia with potato and Mary had a large slice of thin pizza like pastry (farinata) but it tasted like chick peas, it was nice.  We walked down a lot of steps to get to the small marina where people were sun baking on the rocks and the waves were rough.  We were going to swim there but decided it was just a bit too rough so we climbed back up the millions of steps and  enjoyed the beautiful view of gorgeous villas, lots of vineyards and beautiful gardens and saw the town of S. Bernardino in the distance.  Corniglia is so beautiful but all of the towns are just so different but all so stunning.  We then walked back to the main square and caught the little green bus to the train station.  We then left Corniglia and went to Manarola. 

Oh my god Manarola is stunning.  We loved this town too.  Its just beautiful and has a gorgeous marina.  Once again we explored this beautiful town and took in all the stunning scenery.  We walked up the hill to get take photos of the beautiful Manarola marina.  It is amazing with the huge mountain and the gorgeous apartments on top.  We walked back down to the marina and Troy went in for a swim. Silly Mary didn’t have her swimmers on and forgot to change so couldn’t be bothered trying to find a toilet to change and by this stage it was hotter than this morning.  After the swim we continued to check out the town and then we walked home from Manarola to Riomaggiore.  We walked along a trail and it took us about 40 minutes or so as we took our time admiring the scenery.  As you walk in between these two towns you actually walk through “Lovers Lane”, Via della Amore.  This stretch has a lot of graffiti with love messages on the walls.  This lane is also known for couples chaining a padlock on the wall.  So we did too, we got one of our silver combination locks and placed right next to the couples kissing monument on the left hand side.  As they say “When in Rome”.  

We continued to walk to Riomaggiore and stopped off at the marina again.  We took more scenic shots and then walked around town for a while.  It was dinner time so we stopped and had tortellini and roast chicken and veges for dinner, both yum!  After dinner we both had a “brioche with gelato”, a sweet bread roll with gelato, yum!  We hiked back to our apartment, walking up a very steep mountain to get to the very top, yes our apartment is one of the highest here.  We opened the doors to our balcony and admired our great view and we took in our washing that hung over the balcony. Troy finished off the bottle of red wine we bought the other day.  He didn’t want to waste a drop but Mary thinks it just about tastes like balsamic vinegar so Troy drank it himself.  I suppose what do you expect for 2 euro ($4 AUD).  

So now we have seen all 5 towns.  Riomaggiore where we are staying, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso al Mare.  They are all jaw dropping towns and it would be really hard to pick which are our favourites BUT if we had to choose we would pick Monterosso al Mare because it has the best stretch of beach and easy to access.  We also loved Manarola and Troy liked the marina in Vernazza.  Cinque Terre - what an amazing place.  We know that our photos will not do this place any justice, you have to see it for yourself, its like heaven on earth.  Italy is truly an amazing country.

31 MAY 2010 - After been woken at 3.00am by very loud winds we jumped onto the verandah to collect our clothes before we lose them.  Not happy that I couldn’t go back to sleep but Troy was snoozing in a couple of seconds.  

This morning we went to the post office to send a parcel back home.  The guy at the post office was friendly and helpful.  We got a box and packed everything in it and taped it up only to find out that its 5kg and 90 grams and would have to pay an extra 19 euro ($38 AUD) for 90 grams.  It was so frustrating so we tried to undo the sticky tape and it was hard cutting it with a key so I asked for some scissors.  We took out some cords for our video camera and it now weighs 4kg 800 grams so we paid 30.54 euro ($60 approx) and it takes about 3 months by sea.  We spent several hours at the post office because we spent time back and forth and waiting in line every time we needed something and the service isn’t very fast with one guy at the counter.  

Anyway we got that out of the way and it was already 1pm so we grabbed some foccacia for lunch.  We are living on foccacia, pizza, pasta and gelato.  We then caught the train to Monterosso where we spent most of the day swimming at the beach.  It was nice to relax and not do any sightseeing.  The beach was packed with lots of tourists as today was a beautiful sunny day. The beach is a great place for people watching and today we saw some guys posing for photos which I would say are “I’m too sexy for this shirt” pose, maybe we should just do the same. Mary engraved Renee’s name in the sand after many attempts been attacked by waves.  As we walked along the beach to the train station we spotted some topless girls so just for a fun Mary took a photo of them for Tony, he will be happy and know I am thinking of him! We then caught the train to Manarola and spent a bit of time here.  We had a great dinner here in the main street called Il Portopiccolo where Troy had a great pasta dish with pesto and Mary had grilled calamari and we shared a mixed salad.  It was all very nice and not too expensive. We have had some pretty good food here in Cinque Terre. We walked home from Manarola to Riomaggiore along the Via della Amore “Lover’s Lane” where we stopped at the Lovers Monument and checked out our padlock that we placed there yesterday.  We got photos there again because the ones yesterday turned out too dark.  We arrived at Riomaggiore and had a gelato and then hiked up to our apartment for the night, finishing off our limoncello and listening to the church bells ring.  We now say Arriverderci Italia.  Tomorrow we head off to Nice, France.
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