We spend a lot of time watching travel You Tube clips and researching top places to see. One of our favourite travel blogs is Walters World – five things you will love and hate about …. Mark from Walters World has given us perspective that we are not on a holiday (we know you are laughing) we are doing long term travel which means you need the right mindset and willing to be flexible, which is a skill you definitely learn teaching young students. We also believe being organised is key especially when it comes to money, transportation, food, accommodation and knowing what sort of adventures you wish to have. So we believe you don’t need to see everything that is out there just when it is time to move on you can reflect knowing that you are satisfied with some great memories. We could have easily made extra trips to places like Lucca in Tuscany but we were content with what we did together.
I especially loved looking back at our photos of Rob in what I call the light bulb moment or when he was contemplating the rich life of owning your own yacht. These memories you will not find in a travel blog, these memories are inspired by your travel. And so we left Castiglione to travel our last road trip to La Spezia.
Our travel experiences have been made richer here in Italy due to the wonderful spirit of those who have gone out of their way to help us (not rip us off)! We can now look back at our very expensive tram ride which taught us some good lessons, and due to this we are much better travellers being more aware of our surroundings, well fingers crossed!
We were taken back when our Airbnb host went out of her way to follow us to return our rental car and drive us back. This was an extra hour long event due to the fact that Budget car rentals close their doors and enjoy a nice long Italian lunch break. Also due to the fact there is no designated car spots. Finding parking was like a lucky dip, so we did as the Italians do curb side park half on a corner. During this time we really got to know our host and her boyfriend who admitted he was nervous meeting us as he was not able to speak English. We said we cannot speak Italian so fairs fair and even playing field. He complemented our attempts at speaking Italian. We shared many fun moments with these two. Our host had a call from her younger sister and then she turned to us and said, ‘I pick pocketed my sisters t-shirt and she is upset’. She also said Rob and I spoke good English. Innocently she said do you speak English in Australia. I tried so hard not to laugh and I said “Well I hope we speak it well, as it is our only language”. As a teacher you always wonder am I making sense? Do these students understand? Could I have explained it differently? Our host said we spoke quickly which made it hard for her to understand but at least she would say I don’t understand. And all along Rob and I thought Italians spoke very quickly!
Our three night stay in Le Spezia (which means spice in Italian) was a perfect base for us to spend two days exploring the five cliffhanging towns that make up Cinque Terre.
The train ride from La Spezia to the first town takes an easy 10 minutes. Buy your ticket from the machine which first warns you to secure your belongings and watch for pick pockets, jump aboard Trenitalia, choose your cosy window seat and before you get too comfortable the train floats right into the station. I do mean floats as the railway line is right alongside the spectacular coastline. No fuss here in winter just a few Japanese tourists. No worries about crowds, heat or parking. A little too easy! We gather summer is a different story but this is our winter experience!
Cinque Terre towns were a lot smaller and less busy than we expected. Pastel coloured teeny tiny villages really! We knew that many restaurants would be closed and we heard that a lot of the hiking trails had been closed due to landslides and dangerous trails. And after our Amalfi coast experience we were happy with flat ground.
What we did discover was that Cinque Terre was made up of the following five cute and cozy towns where the best thing to do was meander from the station down the main street of each town, stare out at the beautiful vista and sample some great Italian food. Nothing too strenuous like the hard effort of visiting the Amalfi Coast.
Here are the five:
Monterosso has a long sand beach called Fegina Beach. At the far end of the beach we found the giant broken sculpture of Neptune which was covered in scaffolding. Colourful match box houses line the cliffs. You become instantly aware of how dangerous and fragile this delicate area is when your eyes follow the cliff line and see all the safety nets which are in place to stop falling rocks. The ocean dances in hues of turquoise greens.
As you step off the station stairs you hear the torrents of water that flow beneath the road on a frantic race heading for freedom at the ocean front. We stood and read the signs of the horrible landslide and flash flooding that nearly wiped out this very town back in October 2011. It is easy to imagine the force of million of litres of water washing down this sloped street.
We spotted a very unique blow hole that had been carved away by water in the rocks. Now a great photo spot. You can see the stress that has been placed on the rocks over millions of years. Lines of sediment made striped patterns going horizontal which would have once been vertical – more evidence of the geographical upheaval in the area.
Perched on the ocean front we entered an impressive cobbled stoned church with beautiful views out its windows.
A gelato show caught Robs eye. This time we sampled blueberry and the darkest chocolate gelato. We have not yet been disappointed with our sampling. Surprisingly in winter though we were still having to dodge Japanese tourist groups – all dressed up and keen to take selfies.
These towns are covered with pick pocket signs around the station. The station themselves all have the most amazing ocean views.
Corniglia is the only town set high on a hill top. If you want to see this tiny gem you have to work for it. 382 steps zig zag up the cliff face along side olive, lemon and vineyards.
The stone walls are an art form. They are hand built using no mortar. Each rock is careful slotted into place. It is no wonder they have experience many landslides here in the wet season.
Here in this tiny land we enjoyed a pesto pizza together. Pesto is a culinary delight here!
On our second day it was Saturday which brought with it more tourists. Manarola was quaint with it many colourful boats parked on the side of the street for the winter.
It had a beautiful pavement mural in the square of local birds and sea life.
The local shops sell tiny expensive hand painted pottery bowls.
From the station we were more surprised by the antics of the Japanese tourists who were jumping down onto the train tracks to take photos of the view. Only minutes before an express train had flew through the station causing high wind gusts which blew a man’s hat away. The view is nice but not worth dying for.
Our last land to explore on the Ligurian Coast deserved a special lunch. We celebrate by having Pesto gnocchi and wait for it – funghi and prosciutto pizza. Well Rob said we will be leaving Italy soon so now or never!
We also enjoyed the long mural along the underground subway tunnel.
I was a little disappointed to find that the famous Via del’Amore – Walk of Love pathway that hugs the ocean cliff way was totally closed, gate padlock shut! There had been numerous landslide that had closed the trail. Understandable given the unique geography of this land with its steep cliffs and rocky terrain. Love locks as in Paris hang on the closed gate.
The day we left La Spezia there was a chill in the air zero degrees with a forecast of snow!
Last few days in Italy before we go to Switzerland