Our long train ride on Tuesday the 21st took us from Arles, France, across the border into Italy, where we stopped for the night at a generic hotel in Savona, a small city on the Mediterranean coast. We had been looking forward to Italian food, one of our favorite cuisines, and had a nice Italian dinner that night at a restaurant with rather funky decor.
The next morning, we explored the Priamar Fortress, which was originally built in the 1500s over some Roman-era ruins, with later additions giving it a rather mish-mash appearance with lots of ramps and buttresses to explore.
Then we took a short train ride to Genova (Genoa in English), where we visited the Palazzo Reale, an opulent mansion that was built in the 1600s for what was at the time a newly wealthy family, sold in the later 1600s to a different newly wealthy family, and then in the 1800s to the royal family. Jennifer speculated that the families of new wealth may have felt like they had to prove their value by having ornate decor, but perhaps it was just the fashion for everyone at the time who could afford it.
We ended our day on Wednesday by hopping on another train to Riomaggiore, the southern-most village in the Cinque Terre National Park on the Mediterranean coast. We had a light supper of pasta at a little restaurant overlooking the town, accompanied by a bright green lizard, before taking a 2-minute train ride to Manarola, the next village and our base for the next two nights.
On Thursday, we set out hiking. The Cinque Terre date back to the 11th century, and are surrounded by terraces carved into the cliffs, covered with grape vines and olive groves. Until relatively recently, they were only reachable via a network of trails snaking up and down the terraces; today there is a road and a railway, but most people go to the Cinque Terre to hike the old trails. Unfortunately, a few years ago there were floods and landslides, and the main “blue” trail was closed except the northernmost section between Monterosso and Varnazza. So, we took the well-named “Panoramica” trail instead to reach Corniglia, the middle village of the five. Since we set out fairly early, and there were many stairs to climb, we had that trail pretty much to ourselves until we got near the end.
Due to the washouts, there was no real way to hike to Varnazza, so we took a 2-minute train ride, and then set out on the blue trail to Monterrosso. I think we must have passed several hundred people in the 90 minutes we spent on that trail — being the only open section of the main trail, it was very popular… but it was pretty even though it was crowded. Monterrosso has a beach, so after enjoying some gelato, we dipped our feet in the quite cold Mediterranean before returning on the train to peaceful Manarola for the night.
Friday we said goodbye to Cinque Terre and took a train to Pisa, where we spent a couple of hours seeing the famous leaning tower and a bit of the town.
Then we hopped on another train to Firenze (Florence)… which we’ll leave to our next post. Stay tuned!