Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Road Trip: Cinque Terre and the Italian Riviera

On Friday Dr. C. and I took off from Spello, hoping to avoid the crowds that would come to Assisi that day  for Pope Francis’ first visit to the place where his namesake ministered.  It was a cloudy and rainy day, and we drove to Panzano and spent the night in a beautiful hotel tucked into the hills surrounding Panzano, also home to Dario Cecchini. If you haven’t been to Chianti, I highly recommend it, the countryside is gorgeous, people are friendly, the food and wine are terrific too.   

On Saturday we had hired a private guide to take us to the Cinque Terre.  Knowing that we would get confused, and probably not see all the important things, we decided that hiring a guide was the best option, especially in an area that is flooded with tourists, even in this "off season".  We highly recommend Loredona.  She asked what we wanted to see, and how much walking we were comfortable with, and kept us ahead of the tour groups at each stop so that we could wander a bit, and enjoy the ambiance of each place.  

Dr. Monterosso



 The five villages each have their own character, and we thoroughly enjoyed each one, and we loved taking the local ferry to each one, getting a view from the water, as well as the towns. We had a great day, even with the clouds and a bit of a drizzle every once in a while.  
Fisherman fixing his nets

After I took this one, I think he was going to charge me!

Food art

Tools of the trade

Graffiti on cactus?  Who knew?

Dr. C. and I above Vernazza

Instead of cars on the street, fishing boats

Some fishy things for a snack

Monday we were on our own, it was another cloudy and rainy day and took a drive to Portofino, the old fishing village that became home to movie stars in the 50’s and 60’s—with Greta Garbo swimming naked in the harbor to the delight of the local residents.  Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton would escape here from Rome when filming Cleopatra.  The only time I’d seen Portofino was when I watched the Andrea Bocelli special that was taped here for PBS---the square looks a lot bigger in the TV version J  The saying “beautiful ruin” which describes some of these old towns that have seen better days, and I felt that way about Portofino.  

Definitely a beautiful ruin

Tourist taking photos!

Bocelli was here!

 Santa Margherita is another seaside town here that is a little more lively, with a real “centro” and nice harbor area, and Rapallo is delightful.  We’d thought we’d drive to Monte Carlo (about 2 1/2 hours) but with the rain, we decided to spend a leisurely day, walking in these beautiful old towns.  

On Tuesday, our last day here, we took the train to Genoa with Loredona for a half day tour of Genoa---home to Christopher Columbus and the shipping center of the Mediterranean.  There is a beautiful historical center and the contrast with the modern buildings works well here.  A center of commerce, the old city, functions well alongside the new buildings and enterprises.  

It's porcini season

Did you know that foccacia originated in Genoa?
 We took a tour through the market (my favorite part!) and then through the historical center and then a “lift” to the top for a great view of this lively and bustling city.  Dr. C. was interested in seeing where Christopher Columbus lived, and took off from (unfortunately, he took off from Portugal and there were no trains that day!)

There are over 400 of these in the city center

The Ducal palace

Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria

I'm positive these grow overnight!

Dr. C. in front of Christopher Columbus' house

With Loredona

Gates to enter the old city

Yep, he lives here

I highly recommend getting a private guide when you go to new places that you know nothing about—they steer you to what you are interested in, navigate around the huge hordes of tourists, and they take into account your time, and what there is to see---plus they become a new friend, which is always a plus in my book! Grazie Loredona!

No comments:

Post a Comment