A Travellerspoint blog

Day 4 Dodging raindrops in the Cinque Terra

Day 4 Sunday May 29

We woke to the sound of raindrops so we slept in a little longer to catch up on the sleep we lost getting to Italy. The plan today to hike the trails would need to be modified just a bit. A stop at the bar that also serves pastries and cappuccino in the morning would suffice as breakfast. Then off to the train station to take the short ride to the most southern village of the five, Riomaggiore.

It rained off and on all day so we would duck into a bar or restaurant for a drink or something to eat till the rain stopped. Each of these towns are similar but all have a uniqueness about them. We wandered through Riomaggiore and were told the trails between it and the next town Manarola, and between Manarola and Corniglia, the town after that were closed. We would have to take the train if we were to visit them. All of these towns are about a 5 minute train ride between them.

In Riomaggiore we had lunch and found out that in Italy, there is a big difference between sausage and pork sausage on pizza. The pizza we ordered came with a cut up hot dog on it. We found it pretty funny when it came to our table. We've come to realize, in Italy the english explanation on a menu under the Italian listing does not alway equate to what we might think it is. A couple of times we've laughed when they've brought us our food. "Didn't expect that"

From Riomaggiore it was back on the train to Manarola. Still dodging raindrops we found a table (which is not easy when it's raining in these small towns filled with tourists) in a small cafe to have a gelato and caffe latte. We walked around some more, took some pictures and got back on the train headed for Corniglia. The village of Corniglia is a little more unique than the others. After walking around we stopped in a bar, waited for rain to pass, had a bellini & beer before heading out. Here we could pick up the trail to Vernazza.

Hiking from Corniglia to Vernazza took about 1 1/2 hours. It didn't rain too much and the view it offered of the Mediterranean Sea will probably go down as one of the most scenic hikes we will ever take. We didn't pass too many people on the trail that is normally packed with hikers. It was wet and slippery in spots and not the best day to take a hike. With no hiking gear to speak of, we kidded as we walked along that we were probably the most unprepared hikers on the trail that day. Well, that was until we came upon a group of people about our age in flip flops and sandals going in the other direction.

After our hike it was back to our room to shower and cleanup. Dinner tonight was in the towns castle for what was a nice relaxing meal. We had a wonderful day despite the rain visiting the villages that make up the Cinque Terra. Tomorrow we head to Tuscany. We are picking up a car in La Spezia to have for the next few days.

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Day 3 Off to the Cinque Terra

Saturday May 28th

We were up early to check out and make our way to the St. Lucia train station. We hopped on the vaporetto one last time and made our way up the Grand Canal. We sure got our monies worth of our 48 hour passes. I stopped counting how many times we hopped on and off them. We found the track with not too much difficulty and off we went. Today's journey to the Cinque Terra will get us there via three separate trains.

The first train to Milano Central left the track at 8:50. Carl read and I napped on the 2 1/2 hour journey. Once in Milano we had a short layover and grabbed a sandwich in the station. Who knows if we will eat later today. Our next train was to the town of Lavento. Once seated we were joined by a retired couple from Australia. He a retired principal and she a retired teacher. They were a very friendly talkative couple that made the ride go by fast.

We bid farewell to our new aquiantences and got off at Lavento, they were staying on through LaSpezia. Just a few minutes later we were back on a local train to Vernazza. Once in Vernazza. we were greeted at the station by Gian who owns the B&B with his Mom. Good thing he met us or we never would have found where we are staying. Gian carried our luggage through the crowded streets and up at least 50 steps if not more. Vernazza is is a village on the Mediterranean Sea. It's brightly colored homes are built on the hillside. There are alleyways of many steps you need to climb to get to where we are staying.

After checking in we had an early dinner down by the town square. We watched as the village slowly went back to a manageable size as the day trippers headed out. After dinner we thought we might try to see what the hike would be like if we were to make it to the next town tomorrow. What a view you get of Vernazza from up in the hillside. We stopped for a drink down on the main walkway of town and people watched before stopping for a bottle of wine to enjoy on the terrace of where we are staying. The views of the Mediterranean from there are spectacular.

Another day has come to an end with the sounds of the church clock tower that is suppose to not ring after midnight and the sound of trains that pass through on their way to the next town that make up the Cinque Terra. Tomorrow may rain and if it does we'll see what the day will bring. The plan was to hike to the other villages. We'll see....

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Day 2 A full day in Venice

Day 2 - Friday May 27

Breakfast is available starting at 8am at our B&B. We were up much earlier so we decided since we didn't have dinner the night before, we wouldn't wait that late for breakfast and go somewhere else. However, our search for breakfast brought us to the door of the Basilica di Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari, usually just called the Frari Church. We were there pretty early and there were very few people around. This church was completed in 1383 and is dedicated to the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. It’s full of beautiful artwork, but most notably for the 16th century Venetian master Titan’s “Assumption of Mary” at the high alter. We walked around a bit marveling at all the beauty of this church, lit a candle at the statue of the Blessed Mary for our families, said a prayer and headed out.

About now we remembered we still hadn't had dinner or breakfast so we stopped at a nearby restaurant where we could people watch while we sipped our cappachino and enjoyed our first Venetian breakfast. The weather both days so far have been great, sunny and in the upper 70's. After breakfast we hopped on a vaporetto and headed to San Marco. The bell tower had a short line so we got in it and rode the elevator to the top to get a birds eye or shall I say pidgins eye view of San Marco Square. After that we walked all around the square checking out all of the shops and listening to some of the orchestras playing in the square. As we approached the basilica you could see the line was getting pretty long.

There is no fee to enter the basilica but for 2 euro you can book the time you will arrive online, skip the line and walk right in. I had done this prior to leaving home and scored points with Carl for knowing to do that! I made the reservation for 11:30 after reading they turn the lights on the mosaics which cover the walls just one hour a day beginning at that time. What a difference when they were on. Carl deserves points for staying in there as long as we did. The upstairs is a museum and you can go out on the balcony and see the bronze horses close up not to mention a different view of the square.

After our visit to the basilica we had planned to take a boat ride out to the island of Murano and have lunch. Murano is where they make the famous glass that you may have heard of. The island itself is not too big and much less crowded than Venice. Earlier that morning on our way to San Marco we were approached by a few different men telling us they worked for the city and that they had free tickets to take their water taxi over to Murano. In our minds they were trying to promote Murano and get people to go there. Since we had planned to go anyway we thought it would be quicker and nicer than the vaporetto. So we, along with another family of 4 (2 young kids) had a nice ride out to the island. They drop you right off at a glass factory where you are promptly greeted by some men that can't wait to take you in to see the glass blower at work. After the demo they escort you into showroom after showroom of glass chandeliers, wine glasses, all sorts of art work and anything glass. Needless to say we thanked them for their demo and headed out for lunch. Lesson learned. Nothing is free!

We walked quite a bit around Murano and had lunch before picking up the vaporetto this time for our ride back. We switched to another line and rode it over to San Giorgio Maggiore island and church. This famous renaissance church was designed by famed architect Andrea Palladio and was completed in 1566. The interior of the church was stunning, and these days rather than an active church, it is used more for private exhibitions, including several works of modern art that are on display. Okay this makes 3 churches in one day for Carl and we haven't even gotten to Rome. What a trooper. After touring the interior, it was up to the bell tower. The view from up there was beautiful. You could see up the grand canal and San Marco across the lagoon. Back on the vaporetto, this time back to rest our feet and charge our phones at the B&B. After about an hour we decided to get on another vaporetto down by the train station and ride it the entire length of the Grand Canal and listen to a audio guide tour we downloaded of the palaces and places you see as you ride down the canal.

We ended the tour where else, but San Marco. We hopped off and were about to head back when we decided to sit in the square, have a drink and listed to an orchestra in the warm evening lights of the square. The square is much less crowded at night and the orchestra was especially good. It was a prefect way to end our day. Oh no wait...we didn't eat dinner again? Carl's favorite thing to tell people is that when we travel I do a good job of planning but for some reason forget to schedule in time for meals. It was 10:30 by the time we got back to our room. Oh well there is always tomorrow. First stop after breakfast, the train station. We are heading to the other coast to the Cinque Terre.
Buona notte!

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Day 1 Welcome to Venice

Day 1 - Thursday May 26
If you were to ask me about Venice a year ago I think my only answer would have been it's a city in Italy. Well, it's actually an island off of the mainland of Italy which is comprised of many little islands with lots of canals connected by lots of bridges, loads of tourists and so much more.

Our journey to get here was smooth and uneventful! Yay! We made it to Toronto in record time, 2 1/2 hours. No long lines at the border and little traffic for a Wednesday. We both agree that the Canadian equivalent to TSA is much friendlier than that of their US counterpart.

Our flight to Montreal was just about an hour. The eight hour overnight flight from there to Venice was long. With little to no sleep on the plane we landed feeling jet lagged and excited at the same time. We grabbed our bags, had our passports stamped at customs and were off to find our "taxi". There are numerous modes of transportation in Venice. You could take a bus from the mainland, but it would take a long time from the airport. Taxi's are boats in Venice and vaporetto are like public buses on water. They carry about 100+ people. A private water taxis can run you about $200 euro from the airport so that wasn't going to happen. Researching this trip I read where you could book a shared water taxi for not much more than the price of the vaporetto. So before we left home I made a reservation. Now all we had to do was find the spot to meet it.

Just past customs, out the door, around the corner and bingo the spot we needed to be at was right there waiting for us gate 71. For just 27 euro each we are able to be whisked away on a semi private water taxi with 5 other couples to our destination. It took about 20 minutes vs. the vaporetto which can take over an hour with its many stops. Your first view from this small boat as it comes down the Grand Canal is breathtaking. Welcome to Venice!

Venice is shaped like a fish with the Grand Canal running through it. Our location is perfect. We are far enough up the canal from the touristy San Marco area and about the same distance the other way to the train station at the San Stae stop. Our accommodations are a short walk up from the vaporetto stop. We arrived at around 12:30pm and were greeted by Manfredi & Isabel, the owners of our B&B. After showing us our room we heading out with their recommendation to have lunch at a local place not too far from where we are staying.

After a nice lunch we purchased our 48 hour vaporetto passes at the tabacco store to use during our stay. We then set off to just wander the back "roads" (more like alleys), crossing over bridges and just taking it all in. We eventually hopped on a vaporetto and found ourselves down by San Marco. We wanted to check out the square and see where we were to enter the basilica the next day. After that a walk past the Doges Palace and the Bridge of Sighs and it was close to 7:00pm. Jet leg was really kicking in so we thought we would go back to the B&B and take a "nap" then
go back out for dinner after about an hour. Well that nap lasted a lot longer than expected. Let's just say we were up very early for breakfast.

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Italy Bound

It's time to celebrate Carl's retirement. Having previously visited Ireland and Germany we thought why not Italy? So the planning began about nine months ago. With help of others who said "you have to visit here" and "don't miss this or that", we're going to take in as much as we can in 13 days, similar to how we've traveled though Ireland and Germany. These are not relaxing vacations but we will try and relax and take in the scenery as we are whisked away through the Italian countryside on the high speed trains.

We are flying out of Toronto (which by the way is half the price of flying out of the US) and in to Venice. We'll end our trip in Rome and fly home from there. We are staying mostly in AirBnB’s with the exception of Sorrento. So the plan is 2 nights in Venice, take the train to the Cinque Terra and stay 2 nights in the village of Vernazza on the Italian Riveria. From there we do plan to rent a car for a few days to drive to where we are staying for 3 nights in the Tuscan countryside in Scandicci. It will be a short tram ride in to Florence as you can't drive a car in Florence. While in Florence we have reservations to visit both the Uffizzi Gallary and the Accademia to see David. We have booked a one day tour that includes a cooking class at a Tuscan home. After Florence we'll give up the car and take the train to Sorrento where we have hired a driver to take us on a day long tour of the Amalfi Coast to visit Positano, Amalfi and Ravello. "We" don't mind driving in Europe, but Carl needs to enjoy the breathtaking coast line and not have to worry about keeping an eye on the road (or driving off the cliff).

After 2 nights in Sorrento we pick up the train in Naples and head for Rome, the last leg of our trip where we will spend 3 nights. We have booked a tour of Ancient Rome the day we arrive. We're hoping this walking tour will acclimate us to the city and help make sense of our middle school Roman history lessons. One day in Rome we have early entry and breakfast reservations at the Vatican. This has become a very popular tour so we won't be alone in the Sistine Chapel, but we should not have nearly the crowds that will be lined up around the Vatican for the regular entry. This being a Jubilee year Rome will no doubt be even more crowded than usual. Later that day we were able to get tickets for the Scavi tour which is limited to just 150 people per day. The “Scavi” is the excavations of the underground necropolis under St. Peter’s Basilica and where the tomb of St. Peter is located.

If all goes as planned we will be immersed in the Italian culture with a new appreciation for our Italian friends. Feel free to follow along. We leave on May 25th and return on June 7th. I hope to update the blog as we go along so you can be with us virtually. Until then...Ciao!

Posted by Z's en_route 11:50 Archived in Italy Comments (5)

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