Italy 2

Greetings and welcome to the second part of our adventures in Italy. In our last post, we were finishing our stay in Florence and planning to go to Cinque Terra by way of Pisa. When we travel, we usually like to stay just off the heavily beaten tourist trail but with our stop in Pisa, we were right back on that trail. We hopped the train in Florence early in the day and in about an hour we were in the Pisa train station. We stashed (i.e., paid dearly!) our bags at the train station and walked the mile or so to the Leaning Tower of Pisa. The Tower is located next to  Pisa’s main cathedral, an attraction in itself. I’ll have to say I was so so about this stop but it was really fun and interesting. Visitors can tour and climb the tower but reservations are necessary but we had to catch the train before the next entry spots were available. We did pay to enter and tour the cathedral, it was worth the price of admission, in other words, it was awesome. Here’s a photo from our visit to the Leaning Tower on that beautiful spring day 2007.

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After a leisurely lunch and walk back to the train station, we collected our bags and headed to the port town of La Spezia. We found a hotel near the train station and close to the main shopping district where we observed an interesting Italian custom best described as “the promenade.” In the evening, after work and before dinner, families would walk (promenade) around the shopping district, meeting and visiting with friends, window shopping, and people watching. Everyone looked like they were having fun, such a refreshing change from our own go go culture, always in a hurry. Along the promenade, there were several visual and performance artists including this fellow doing caulk “painting” on the sidewalk. Must be steady work since rain will wash away the art!

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For next couple days, we toured the Cinque Terre (translated to Five Lands), a World Heritage Site. The five villages that make up Cinque Terre are connected by walking the Azure Trail on the steep hillsides that dominate the coast line overlooking the Gulf of Genoa. The first day we took the train to the farthest village, Monterossa al Mare. Here’s a view of this village looking back as we started our three mile walk to the next village, Vernazza. IMG_8215

Now I must remind you that Donna had just recovered from a broken pelvis so the hike up and down the hills was a challenge for her. Here’s a photo from along the trail, the terraced vineyards, lemon groves, olives and other crops are all done by hard, hand labor.

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So we took our time resting from time to time. The one thing we didn’t plan very well was to bring water with us thinking “it’s only three miles, it’s pleasant and cool.” However, we were saved by an older gentleman selling drinks and snacks by the side of the trail. He wanted 1 Euro for a blood orange which Melissa gladly paid! I thought about having the limoncello (a lemony liqueur) but stuck with water since trail was somewhat narrow and didn’t want to get tipsy and fall off the side of the hill into the Gulf!

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As we approached Vernazza, it started to mist so we picked up our pace a bit but had to stop for the following photo, one of my favorites from the whole trip to Italy. Once we got to this village, it started to rain so it was a good time for lunch, all the tourists had the same idea so every place was crowded. By the time we were done, the rain had stopped and I spent the next couple of hours roaming the area and taking photos.IMG_8286

Here’s another view of Vernazza looking back to the village of Monterossa al Mare in the background.

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In the next couple of days, we visited the other three villages, walking between some and riding the train between others, depending how Donna was handling all the walking. At the village of Corniglia, a long, steep climb up a hill, we visited the main piazza. As we are leaving, I see these five old guys sitting on a bench, watching the crazy tourists, probably making smart comments. I couldn’t resist photographing them as we passed by, another one of my favorites, I titled this one “Cinque Guys.”

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Here’s a photo of the very picturesque village of Manarola. The warm tone colors of the buildings in all the villages especially in the late afternoon light were so vibrant and enthralling.

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From Cinque Terre, we traveled back to Udine where Melissa was attending school. More about that area and our travels to Salzburg, Austria in a future post. Again, a return to Italy and Cinque Terre will stay on our bucket list. And I’d encourage you to put it on your list.

Next week, watch for some narrative and photos from travels from here to Florida.

Tom