We started our tour of Italy in Milan…not the best experience I would have to say. It is a big city and it was really hot. We got there in the evening after our flight from Gatwick, and just walked around the Duomo (really impressive) and some of the other cool sites in central Milan. We had dinner at a non-exciting place, not the best ever. In the morning we caught the train to Vernazza, a 4 hour trip that I spent most of the time sleeping. Mom makes fun of me for being able to fall asleep anywhere.
Vernazza is a beautiful little seaside town that is part of Cinque Terre: 5 towns all connected by walking trails. The first afternoon we hiked the southern three towns, all the way to Riomaggore. The hikes were not too hard, but we had not slept well and it was mid afternoon and really hot. We were really sweaty by the time we caught the train back to Vernazza (especially exciting because the train did not take us to the stop we expected, and had to kill some time waiting for the right one!). We got cleaned up in our great little hotel just above the train station, and went to have dinner down on the harbor. Spaghetti with mussels and clams…so good!
Yesterday we went on what we had heard was the most challenging section of the hiking, from Vernazza to Montorosso. We found this section to not really be that bad, but really narrow so we had to wait for other hikers to pass and that got rather frustrating. We are pretty happy with our timing…two weeks from now it would be far too hot and crowded to enjoy!
In Montorosso we explored the market and bought random fixing for a picnic lunch. This has been our standard, going to the grocery stores for fresh salami, cheese, tomatoes, bread and blood-orange juice. Best lunches and they are WAY cheaper than going out everyday. The ladies behind the counter get a kick out of us trying to get across our order in very very poor Italian.
Eating and swimming have been the highlights here by far. All the food has been wonderful (ill Pirata is a great little pastry place run by Sicilian brothers that are hilarious, and we had dinner there last night, and we may go back again tonight). We are really enjoying the Italian custom of seating random couples at the same table. Where in the the states we would never seat two sets of two at a table for four, here that is not a problem at all! Last night we dined with a couple in their 70s from Tennessee and had a ball with them. Sharing stories and talking with total strangers can lead to a very interesting meal.
Like I mentioned, swimming is another highlight. Every afternoon we have gone downs to the rocks or the beach and jumped into the amazingly clear water. I have never seen water quite like this…and I have seen some pretty spectacular water in my travels! It is all crystal clear and deep turquoise, you can see straight to the bottom even far from shore. I have been swimming out along the coasts out along the harbor. It is nice to escape the beach crowd and you get amazing views of the villages! My new plan is to come here again and swim Cinque Terre instead of hiking it.
Today is our last day here, so we are just exploring our town of Vernazza. We had breakfast at our hotel (amazing cappachinos…mom is seriously missing out in Italy by not liking coffee!). We took the bus tour into the mountains and saw Vernazza from above, and all the terraced hillsides. We read that these stone terrace walls contain more stone than the great wall of china! Crazy to think about, but it makes sense, as all the sloped hillsides are covered for thousands of feet up. We had lunch from our favorite grocery store and ate in down on the rocks in the harbor. Then laid in the sun and swam for a few hours before heading back to ill Pirata for an afternoon canoli (that they had told us we had to try before we left). We ended up sitting there for over an hour chatting with the brothers, listening to other travellers, and watching the world go by. Nice relaxing day. It is great! I guess all we have left to do today is pick a place for dinner and find a place to watch the sunset. Life in Italy is rough.
Tomorrow we head to Pisa via train, and will stop to take a brief touristy picture of us holding it up. Hey, its what you do right? Then it is another short train ride to Lucca where we will be for two nights.