My report began in France;
and finishes with 4 days in Pisa/Cinque Terre Milan, based on my emails to family & friends at home.
My report began in France;
and finishes with 4 days in Pisa/Cinque Terre Milan, based on my emails to family & friends at home.
Monday 17 June – Day 9
The hotel bed in Pisa was rock hard, but I must have really been exhausted because I still slept very well. For the first time this holiday, hubby actually woke before me. We had 8.30am tickets to climb the tower, needed to go early to squeeze it in before our train, but we were so glad of the timing given the weather. We’ve finally found where summer is in Europe – it’s going to be 31 degrees in Pisa today, and was 21 overnight. The climb was a hoot, many of the marble steps are wider than our usual ones, so climbing the 300 to the top was a good workout. The lean is really pronounced when you walk up the stairs, it was a 5.5 degree lean in 1990 and they closed the tower for 10 years while they worked to straighten it, is now a 5 degree lean. Hubby was standing/laying against the inside bottom wall and reckoned he could nod off, it felt like more recline than he’s had on some plane seats. The view from the top across the Cathedral to the mountains was beautiful, good to have a closer vantage point for the intricate work on the Cathedral roof.
Back to the hotel to checkout and walk to the train station for our final destination, Monterosso, one of the 5 villages that make up the Cinque Terre (5 lands). The plan was that these 3 days would be filled with hiking to walk off the excesses of our time in France. I didn’t factor in that 30+ degree days are not conducive to hiking without heart failure. Actually, before we left Australia I’d been constantly checking the temperature here and it will still quite cool for summer, temps of only 20 degrees max. In the last week however summer has well and truly arrived, and we did not pack appropriately. We both have only 1 pair of shorts, which after 1 walk are dripping with sweat – we didn’t even bring swimmers and the Mediterranean glistens enticingly right below us! Luckily we do have a washing line right outside our door and plenty of sunlight to dry them with. After 4 nights of hotel hopping, it is fabulous to stay in the one place for 3 nights. Our guesthouse has stunning views across Monterosso and down to the ocean. The only catch with the stunning views is that you need to climb many many stairs to get there. Super hubby really had his work cut out for him, lugging both 22kg suitcases up the never-ending flights of stairs.
We waited till the temperature dropped (slightly) in the evening to do our first hike, caught the ferry to Vernazza and then hiked back to Monterosso. Time estimate was 90mins, we expected to do in less, but that was spot on. It was an extreme workout, thankfully we were in shade most of the time, but so so many thigh burning steps. Views were just stunning though, especially the outlook over Vernazza with its beautiful harbour and multicoloured buildings. Boy were we relieved to finally make it into Monterosso, although a bit of a downer to stagger back through the village, only to realise we still have to negotiate the guesthouse steps before we could shower and collapse. Eventually made it to a beautiful seafood dinner at Miky’s Restaurant at 10pm, which was a recommendation from a friend at work.
Coffee update is still a bit on the bleak side – slightly better coffee yesterday. A cafe just below where I posted yesterdays coffee photos claims to be the best coffee in town so will hopefully get to try one this afternoon and confirm their claim!
The Cinque Terre is my new favourite place – you can do heaps either side of the day – but because it is warmer it enforces some down time (even for Mum!) Italians also do “space” so well, love the little piazzas.
I am very glad for every bicep curl I have ever done at the gym in the last few years – with lugging a ½ dozen box of champagne bottles around France and then having to carry our 2 x 22kg bags up the many many steps to our current apartment I would never have managed without a little extra muscle – was wishing I had done a lot more!
Tuesday 18 June – Day 10
Given that the best walking time is early morning/evening we got up early Tuesday to walk around to the Punta Mesco lighthouse. Was a lovely walk around the coastline at the edge of Monterosso (found the nudist beach...perhaps we can swim after all?!) but then came to abrupt halt when the narrow track around the edge of the cliffs had been washed away. Came back for our first full breakfast at the guesthouse. The owner’s Dad has very little English and spends his day tending the outdoor bar/breakfast area, boy does he make a nice breakfast. Lays out slices of prosciutto ham and salami, soft cheese spreads, sweet cakes, yoghurt, fruit etc. Also makes cappuccino and utterly decadent practically solid hot chocolate. My hot chocolate that morning wiped out all the all the benefit of my morning walk.
Back on the ferry that links the 5 villages this morning to visit the 2 furthest from us, Riomaggiore and Manarola. Chatted with a nice couple from Melbourne and were lucky enough to spot dolphins swimming along with the boat. The villages are just so stunning, particularly viewed from the ocean. The houses are painted in all different hues, flowers cascading out of their window boxes and stacked at seemingly impossible angles along the cliffs, really beautiful to photograph against blue sea and blue sky backgrounds. 2 of the 4 lower/coastal walks between the villages are closed due to landslides, including the easy “Via Dell Amore” (lovers walk), which would have been so nice to do after all yesterday’s stairs. We walked as far as we could on that, which at least gave us good views across Riomaggiore. Hopped back on the ferry to Manarola where they go all out to welcome you. We stepped off thinking we were back at the Moulin Rouge when we glanced over the railing at the wharf to see 4 topless sunbathers spread out on the concrete below. There was a healthy crowd enjoying the view. We finally got our feet wet on our return to Monterosso (ours is the only village that actually has a beach) and went for a paddle. Collapsed for a nap by the time we returned, even if you don’t hike the trails during the day, just wandering the villages is a workout in itself as there’s plenty of stairs to negotiate to get around in them. Stayed local for our evening walk as I had actually twinged my knee on our first big hike last night. It’s fine going up stairs (I can’t say the same for my heart rate), but downstairs really pulls. After a seafood dinner near our guesthouse (swordfish for hubby and calamari for me) we ended up wandering up the road above Monterosso so still got the heart rate going, just less of the stairs part. Found a little local track along a stream and really enjoyed wandering off the beaten path.
Wednesday 19 June – Day 11
As this was our last chance to sleep in we decided to be lazy and forego the early morning walk for a later start to the day with our final balcony breakfast. Caught the 9.30am train into Corniglia, which is the only one of the 5 villages way up the cliff that can’t be reached by ferry. Really enjoyed this village, had some unique shops where we bought another T Shirt for hubby and one for his Dad, along with a few other goodies. There is a 300 stair walk from Corniglia train station to the village, or you can walk along the road which is less direct as it bends around, which we took. We trained on to Riomaggiore to get the ferry to Portovenere. It’s a larger town just beyond the Cinque Terre with a stunning old fort and church up on the cliffs as you sail in, very dramatic entrance. Beautiful scenery as we travelled along the coast too, with so many hamlets seemingly dangling from impossible sites.
My knee had been going well so we decided to finish with the only open coastal walk we were yet to do, the stretch between Vernazza and Corniglia. We started in Vernazza as to walk in that direction mean we’d have more stairs up than down (which is usually something I would do my level best to avoid!) Even with waiting till 6.30pm to start the climb, it was still ridiculously hot and in full sun as we hauled ourselves up way too many stairs. We were rewarded with simply stunning views, and every now and then a slight breeze came through and all that sweat we were drenched in cooled us down somewhat. Thankfully my knee held up perfectly and we finished in 70mins (average time was listed as 90mins so we were very pleased with ourselves). Had enough time to grab a quick and delicious lasagne for dinner at the same cafe with wifi we’d had morning tea at earlier that day before taking the train back to Monterosso.
After a bit of searching on our return we found a restaurant that would let us order dessert to go, so clutching crème caramel, walnut flan and an incredibly delicious vanilla mouse/meringue/cake slice we navigated the 130 steps (yes we’ve now counted them) to our guesthouse for the final time. Spent our last evening consuming one more bottle of champagne (the things we do to ensure our luggage is under the limit) and eating dessert from the balcony, which was a very nice end to the holiday.
Currently travelling on the train on the way to Milan, one thing in common with trains in Italy is the number of dogs that travel. Some smaller ones in carry bags (one the other day snoozed most the way with its head on the rim of the bag looking very content), other larger ones on the floor between the owner’s legs. The train journey is giving me neck strain as our bags are at the end of the carriage about 10 rows behind and each stop I need to check that they are still secure, given the stories of bags that get lifted off trains.
I leave Monterosso very clean after averaging 3 showers a day, each sojourn into a village caused my body to go into perspiration overdrive – such that it looked like I had changed shirts during the outing as the colour generally took a darker (wetter) look. My favourite village would have been Vernazza, one of the stores actually sold a 2000 piece jigsaw of the village. Was going to buy, however luggage space is a bit of a premium so Mum resorted to purchasing online. I have decided this will be my winter project (whilst watching the Ashes!) and I least I can think of the days when the weather was warm enough to sweat.
I have to comment that I have seen more variety of breasts on this holiday than my preceeding 45 years. Between Moulin Rouge and the Italians desire to topless bathe regardless of the location and proximately to others or the rest of the general population – again as per Moulin Rouge Mum did the planning so no-one can claim any ulterior motives on my part. I have also decided that one piece swim suits must have been outlawed in Italy as nearly all shapes and sizes felt the necessity to squeeze into a bikini!
On the topic of most seen in the last 45 years – this trip would also have to be the most I have seen Mum run – between trying to get to trains (that we missed) and tight timing on ferries (and trains) between the villages Mum clocked up more running metres than I can remember in the rest of our married life! All that morning walking certainly paid off (which was my comment when we finished the 90min trek between villages in just under 70!).
I love the Italian washing lines outside of their apartment windows generally having sheets waving in the breeze. Took a photo of one that was particularly ordered with all the socks very neatly lined up (just the way daughter and I like it). My search for the perfect coffee took an unexpected turn when an affogato took the prize – will see what Milan has to offer.
Very happy we made it through the trip in 1 piece (which is more that can be said for one of our bags which now has 2 broken handles – only 1 left which needs to last until we board the plane....). Mum had a slight knee tweak on the walks but came good after a slightly easier day. The Cinque Terre was a wonderful way to finish the trip.
I am really enjoying your trip reports. Thank you for taking the time to post.
Will finish my report here, although our last day was in Milan it may be of use to others planning to train from Cinque Terre to Milan
Thursday 20 June – Day 12
We left our guesthouse by 6.30am to catch the 6.55am train to Milan, hubby had one last go lugging the 2 suitcases down the 130 stairs. We had takeaway breakfast of packaged croissants from the guesthouse on the train, the 3 hours flew by as I was writing my days 10/11 blog and enjoying the country views, trains in Europe are a great way to travel. We were thrilled to get to Milan train station and find free wifi, so could send my email and quickly check in with home. We had a long walk around the station to find the left luggage counter, as it has recently moved and all the signage still directs you to the old location.
Finally we were ready to explore Milan and made a rookie mistake. We walked out of the station and past heaps of cabs, but rather than hop in one like sensible people we decided to use our very dodgy little map and walk what we thought was 30mins to the Milan Duomo. Rule number 1 of international travel should be; 1. If time is short, don’t try to save cash in a city you don’t know, just get in the taxi! Instead we asked a taxi driver to point us in the direction, and he was obviously peeved we weren’t going to give him a fare, so pointed us the wrong way! After a fair while trying to use an app to sort out our direction (and not a sign in sight) we realised our error, and eventually made it there, after multiple wrong turns. I could not believe the main attraction in Milan could be so hard to find! The only good thing to come out of it was that we stumbled on the Magnum store, which is in the style of Cold Rock. You choose your ice cream flavour, then the flavour of chocolate for it to be dipped into, then 3 toppings to be pressed into the chocolate, and finally melted chocolate to drizzle on top. The dipped chocolate is way thicker than a regular magnum, it was just delicious to eat.
By the time we finally made it to the Duomo, we were a bit over it so snapped a couple of quick shots and I popped in for a brief look inside. It was actually quite dark inside, I didn’t enjoy it nearly as much as the other cathedrals we’ve seen, so didn’t stay long. There was also a €2 charge if you wanted to take photos in there, which annoyed me so I left. Our next stop was to be La Scala Opera theatre. The phone app found it immediately, we followed the dot on the screen to our location, and were supposedly right on top of it (according to the phone), but couldn’t see it. After wandering around a huge building and asking for directions we did eventually find it, only to arrive at 12.33pm during the time when it’s closed for lunch (12.30 – 1.30pm). Who closes such major attractions for lunch?! When I consulted my trip plan notes, I had actually included that in there, but after so much frustrated wanderings had lost track of time and plans.
We decided to cut our losses and grab a cab to get to our next destination, the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie, whose claim to fame is that Leonardo Da Vinci painted “The Last Supper” on the wall of their monastery dining hall. We arrived quite early for our 2pm booking, so had lunch at a restaurant across from the church. During lunch there was a crack and power went off, which did concern me as we were so close to the venue, and I was worried if it was widespread it would delay our booking. We went over early and were glad we did, as we ended up waiting about 40mins for power to be restored. The painting is now in a sealed, climate controlled environment. You enter through one set of electric doors and wait until the first set of doors close and then another set open, so obviously there’s no viewing the painting when electricity is down. By the time we got in we were lucky enough to be able to tag along with a tour group whose guide gave a detailed (in English) explanation of the paintings history and each of the disciples shown, it really added to our appreciation of it. Hopped straight into another cab then to collect our luggage from the station and board the bus to the airport for the first of our 5 flights to get home. Another wonderful holiday comes to an end :( Thank goodness for memories and travel blogs!
t h a n k you,
loved trip report/s for france and loved italy
- both reports brought back many, many memories - now reliving by reviewing our photos
This T.R. is just as great as your France one. We stayed in Levanto in April and trained to Monterosso several times. We liked it there. Took a private boat tour out of Monterosso (Angelo's boat tours) it was the best day of our trip.
I had to laugh because I only brought 1 pair of shorts also, at least our temps were cooler so they didn't need washed as frequently.
I'm right along there with you sister about this being a beautiful place. Thanks for taking the time to share your wild adventures I have enjoyed them.
Thanks Vada and Indygirl, we were tempted with angelo's but just ran out of time...
Great Trip Report about Cinque Terre and Milan - very interested as heading to Italy next May/June with Hubby. I visited CT in July 2010 with 2 of my sons after hubby had to head back home earlier than us for work...
We stayed in Vernazza which we really loved as I found us a wee bedsit that was only 1 flight of stairs up and overlooked the small beach. I hate a lot of stairs so this was perfect - but I did put all my efforts into walking the track between Vernazza and Rio which was a definite killer in parts but worth it for the views and overall experience!
Thinking of doing 3 nights at Porto Venere beginning of June next year so I can show hubby CT but he thinks it will be not warm enough to swim and feel beachy - I can only hope we have warm weather like you had!
PS Thinking that puzzle might be worth surfing the net for!! Love Vernazza!!