Thursday, 17 September 2009

Cinque Terre

Cinque Terre is a five (cinque) town (not terre?...?) hike just north of Tuscany (La Spezia is probably the easiest close city to find on a map). We have been using the Rick Steves Italy book for getting around some of the places. Fairly useful... He says you should go up the night before so you can get an early start but the hike (7 miles) should only take about 5 hours. He must be in pretty good shape... We did the hike from hardest to easiest. The book forewarns that the hike from the first town to the second is fairly challenging. It does not however point out that the hike from the second town to the third is at least as hard, if not worse (change of elevation wise). I've been running lately and I was a little sore the next day. Very pretty hike and nice little towns. Each town had its own feel.
We started off by driving to La Spezia Friday afternoon. We got to where we were staying around 9 pm. It was a small place up on the hill side. A man and his wife ran it. He, his parents, and his brother all lived on the same property. Above one of thier places, pretty sure it was above the parents, were a couple apartment like places. Not easy to find. I called the guy a couple times and he finally asked where we were and then came down the hill to get us. There is no way we would have found it otherwise. You literally pull into the guy's gated driveway.
La Spezia itself is pretty. Fairly modern. As we drove in there were restaurants, bars, big hotels... Not that there aren't restaurants and bars around, but these looked like bars in the states. Hard to explain at this point. After being here for three months, it was different.
Beautiful view from the room (bottom picture). It overlooked the city below and the harbor. La Spezia happens to also be an Italian Navy base.
We drove down to the train station and took the 10 minute train ride (vice hour drive) to the first town. The train just cut through the mountains were the road would have winded around them.
North to South.
Monterosso: The train station drops you off on a beach. The water is beautiful. Clear. Blue. A sandy beach.
From Monterosso to Vernazza is a pretty good hike up and down. You walk on the edge of vineyards and start to get some nice views.
In Vernazza we stopped for lunch. Really good pizza.
Next town was Corniglia. The hike to get there was somewhat painful. Probably because we, based on our book, figured the worst was past. Still nice views.
From Corniglia you go down 400 steps to regain the trail. On this side it is a very rocky, narrow beach. The trail itself is up about 40 feet and set back a little. Probably a good thing. At one point I looked over the side and laughed as I told Carey, "That old dude has no pants..." We kept walking for a short bit and noticed, either does that guy. I'm not in this to see a bunch of dudes butt cracks... Then it dawns on us (me, Carey, and Brianna), there are no women on that beach... Walk faster, nothing to see here... Just naked gay guys (a couple entertaining each other). Later we reread the book a little more and it does point out a nude beach that as soon as the land becomes available the country is going to suck up as part of the trail and "clean up".
That brings us to Manarola. Tons of boats. No cars. A really big boat ramp. Time for gelato...
From Manarola to Riomaggiore is really were the trail started around the 1940's. The trail was made so guys and girls could walk from one town to the other, a lover's trail.
Once in Riomaggiore we caught the train back to La Spezia.
That night we had dinner in a nice little restaurant around the corner from where we were staying. Very good. I like the Northern Italy food and sauce better I think. The sauce is thicker. Around here I've had sauce that wasn't much more than olive oil with a little tomato to make it red.
All in all it was a nice hike. Great views. Worth the trip.

Some pictures of Rome

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Day trip to Rome

Let's start by saying there should never be a DAY trip to Rome. You can't really see anything in Rome in a day... It will take days. Good thing we'll be spending the better part of a week there in November... Planning is a must. If you just decide to "go for it" or "wing it" you'll end up frustrating yourself...

We took a tour bus that you could hop on, hop off. It takes you by all the major sites (Coliseum, Pantheon, St Peters, the capital building...) It served its purpose. For instance, we can spend one entire day walking around the coliseum and the surrounding sites (probably just a few blocks worth of area). The area around the capital building could be another day. The capital is beautiful and there is what I think were ancient market areas behind it.

Long and short, Rome is amazing. It could be my (Randy) favorite place yet. OVER 2000 years of existance and history... Ruins, archeological sites, churches, the Vatican, museums, and it is laid out very nice (not crammed in like Florence). Clean too. We were excited to have the Retrosi's coming out in November to begin with, but now getting just a small taste of what we will be able to see...

Carey and I started our Italian class today also. Not your typical foreign language class. The instructor speaks Italian most of the time with a few key english words placed so you can follow some. Conversational from the start. I haven't done the homework yet but I did sit down with the Rosetta Stone and I will say just the one class made the Rosetta Stone make more sense. For instance verb conjugation (sono,e', siete, siamo...). All the same verb; I am, you are, we are, they are (don't quote me on the translation yet...). A long way to go!