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gapvic

Italy Trip - Part 4 Of 4

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gapvic   

Dear all,

When I imagined La Spezzia, I had thought it would be an industrial town refective of it having a naval base at its heart. Instead we find an elegent and graceful old seaside town that is an absolute pleasure to walk around. The buildings are all so pretty with their pastal colours and balconies full of flowers. The cheerful waterfront is a wonderful spot to just sit and watch the locals fishing or walking with their families. The piazzas in the evenings are full of children playing as their parents chat amongst themselves. It is lively but has none of the over-crowded feel of Florence.

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Obsevation no. 19 - the chemists in La Spezzia have vending machines in their windows for afterhours shopping. You can buy anything from pain killers to baby forumla to vibrators.

Our first full day here, Sunday, we had hoped to start visiting the five towns of the Cinque Terre but were hampered by a train strike. Perphaps for the best as we later discovered they are insanely busy instead of just extremely busy on the weekends. Instead we had a quiet morning getting to know La Spezzia and in the afternoon we took the half hour ferry rde around to Portovenere. The attractive beach front was very crowded with the tour groups we are all growing to really dislike, but we have found that they seem to have an aversion to steps and so if we are prepared to climb a bit it is possible to escape them. This we did, making our way up to the castle that towers over the little town below. There were only a handful of people up there and the views, especially down to the Chiesa di San Pietro (a church built in 1198) perched on its point below and bravely taking whatever the sea may throw at it, were fantastic. Here I sat on a rock and enjoyed the view in the gorgeous afternoon sunshine while mum and dad explored the castle.

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Monday was The Day of The Hike. The day we would walk between some of the villages of the Cinque Terre. Our plan was to walk the blue path (also known as the number 2 trail or the Sentiero Azzuro), an ancient mule track that links all five towns by foot. The easiest stretches between Riomaggiore, Manarola and Corniglia remain closed after the 2011 land slides. That left the 3.2km stretch from Corniglia to Vernazza, and the most difficult section, the 3.6km walk from Vernazza to Monterosso.

We chose the latter.

What the guide books tell you about the trail:

- It's tough (true)

- It's narrow and rough (also true)

- It's spectacular (very true)

What the guide books don't tell you about the trail:

- There are no toilets. Ducking off into the bushes is impossible when the terrain both above and below the trail is perpendicular.

- There are no guard rails. One false step will see you tumbling down the mountain nd into the sea below.

- There are billions of steps. There are over 700 leading up out of Monterosso alone. And just when you think you are done, you round a corner and there they are. More steps.

- It's not a trail. It's a goat track.

But what a glorious goat track it is.

After a fairly short train ride, mostly through tunnels under the mountains, we disembarked at Monterosso. Mum walked with us to the start of the trail, laughed at the almost verticle rough stone steps that appeared to head upwards forever, and sent dad and I on our way.

The walk was spectacular. It was tough; the trail is very rough in places, and very narrow, and what feels like impossibly steep at times. But the views back to Monterosso and then eventually on to Vernazza were amazing. The whole area was terraced over 1000 years ago and much of the sides of the mountais are still covered in grape vines and olive and lemon trees. There were a few of us walkng the trail but it was by no means crowded and it was interesting to chat with people from all over the world along the way (when we had the breath to do so).

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It took us two hours and when we made our way down into Vernazza on wobbly legs mum was nowhere to be seen. Amazingly we had beaten her there.

Vernazza is one of the prettiest towns I've seen. The colourful houses huddle around a lovely cove full of brightly painted boats. The water is so blue and so clear. Thankfully we were on our way back to the train station when the dreaded tour groups descended, en masse, upon the town.

Returning to La Spezzia we celebrated our achievements with gellato. I had four scoops. I figured I had earned it.

Observation no. 20 - Italians love Nutella. They construct ellaborate window displays paying homage to the nutty spread. It is in calzones, crepes, pastries and gellato. It is sold in industrial sized tubs in the supermarkets.

Today is our last day here before heading to Milan tomorrow and then (reluctanty and sadly) for me to return home this weekend. We left the apartment early this morning for dad to walk the second part of the blue trail while mum and I strolled around funny little Corniglia, a short and narrow town perched high on the cliffs above the sea. Mum asked in coffee shop for a map of the town and the man just laughed - "The town is only 200m long" he said. He was right.

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After meeting up with dad we went to the fourth town of the Cinque Terre, Manarola. Unfortunately as it was late morning by now it was so full of tour groups tha it was difficult to move around and impossible to enjoy the town.

Observation no. 21 - I'm not ready to leave Italy. I'm not ready to return to reality. Mowing lawns. Paying bills. Getting up t 6.30am. I want to stay here in the sunshine and eat gellato every day. I want my time to be structured around church bells and aftenoon siestas. To drink coffee too strong for me, to buy pastries wrapped up in pretty paper and tied with ribbon, to sit at the foot of castles and eavesdrop on conversations in a foreign language.

So, that's it for me. I hand over the reins to my parents who may or may not send us all an email about their travels in Switzerland.

Love to all,

Larissa, Christine and Michael

xoxo

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Danois   

Gorgeous!!

What time did you get the pic of the Duomo to have only 1 person in it!!

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Kirislin   

Makes you wonder how Italians could ever bear to leave Italy when you see these photos and think of the lifestyle they have there doesn't it.

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Taliecat   

Wow! Fantastic photos and such a wonderful collection of your notes and experiences.

Now I'm considering Italy for my honeymoon after reading your adventures.

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gapvic   

Danois, we got there around 6.30am. Hardly a soul in sight.

I agree Kirislin... it would be hard to turn your back on the history and the lifestyle. Perhaps the lure of the new beginning is what brings them to Australia (and other countries)?

Thanks Weibritty, it was wonderful. Although it already seems like it happened to someone else, not me :o

Edited by gapvic

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thankyou thankyou thankyou!!!! have loved every little detail that your have shared with us..I adore Italy ( altho it is Abruzzo that owns my heart..why you ask: maremmano dogs, sheep and mountains all combined with italian food, wine, coffee and people)

Helen

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Another gorgeous set of photos and wonderful descriptions! Thanks for sharing your trip with us :)

Have you seen the “The Trip to Italy,” with Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon? I really enjoyed it - you'd have to be aware of their style of 'mockumentary', but the food and scenery was stunning.

Winterbottom reunites the pair for a new culinary road trip, retracing the steps of the Romantic poets' grand tour of Italy and indulging in some sparkling banter and impersonation-offs. Rewhetting our palates from the earlier film, the characters enjoy mouthwatering meals in gorgeous settings from Liguria to Capri while riffing on subjects as varied as Batman's vocal register, the artistic merits of "Jagged Little Pill," and, of course, the virtue of sequels. Winterbottom trains his camera to capture the idyllic Italian landscape and the gastronomic treasures being prepared and consumed while keeping the film centered on the crackling chemistry between the two leads. The Trip to Italy effortlessly melds the brilliant comic interplay between Coogan and Brydon into quieter moments of self-reflection, letting audiences into their insightful ruminations on the nuances of friendship and the juggling of family and career. The result is a biting portrait of modern-day masculinity.

http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/the_trip_to_italy_2014/

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