Tuesday, September 29, 2015

A Trip Through Italy, Part 3

A view of the town of Vernazza from the
 top of the castle tower.
We continued our Italy trip by leaving Rome behind and heading for Cinque Terre, (The Five Lands), which I think was my favorite part of the trip. I have a lot of wonderful memories from this vacation, some from each stop, but most come from our three days visiting these five towns.

Each of the towns,  Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore, have their own unique characteristics. They even have there own dialects. But one thing they have in common is beautiful scenery and great food! They are known for their white wines, which I must say were delightful!

We spent some time in each town but we stayed in Monterosso al Mare, which has a beautiful beach area.  The beach was always crowded but you could hardly see the people for all the colorful umbrellas.  They made for pretty pictures.

The beach on Monterosso al Mare.
We stayed in a Bed and Breakfast at the top of the hill on Monterosso. We walked with our bags to the top, and thought we were going to have a stroke.  But it was so worth it.  (We took a cab down the day we left!) Hotel Villa Steno had a big patio that overlooked the town and the water. We loved sitting out there as the sun set, watching the stuff going on down the hill but not hearing the noise.  This B&B had a garden full of fruit trees, flowers and herbs.  Most of the town is one building after another, attached together with very little green space. It was a nice little garden to walk through and we could see it from the patio where we ate breakfast.

Lots of umbrellas!!
We walked through all the little alleys of the town and couldn't believe how they twisted and turned. At each junction, you had another beautiful building and many had flowers or decorations of some sort.

My friend Kathy and I, walked down to the end of the beach and stuck our feet in the water.  It was so nice and warm. There was a private, gated club there, too, but I don't think it could have been any nicer than where we stayed, at Hotel Villa Steno.  And the staff was as nice as they could be. Click the link above to see some of the views from the hotel.  If you go to Cinque Terre, I would highly recommend you check them out.

There are trails between each of the towns that you can walk, if they have not had bad rains that wash them out.  We came in right after one of those rains, so the main trail was closed but the alternate route was open.  Out of Corniglia, it took you up one mountain, through the small town of Volastra and then down to Manarola.  It took us about 4 hours to do it but we did stop in Volastra for a snack (wine, beer, meat and cheese).  They have train service between the towns so we decided to take it back to our town.

View of Vernazza, from the little restaurant on the hill.
The next day we were going to walk from Vernazza over to Corniglia but decided we had enough fun the day before hiking, so we just went up the trail high enough to get some good pictures of Vernazza.  There was a cute little restaurant up there that we sat at and enjoyed the view for awhile. The picture at the top of the blog was taken from the castle out on the point, in this picture of Vernazza.  This town is the only one of the five that had a natural harbor.

Cinque Terre is a unique, beautiful area of Italy to visit.  If you haven't been there, make sure to check it out on your next trip over the pond!

Other views of Cinque Terre!

Riomaggiore, Cinque Terre, Italy
Riomaggiore, Cinque Terre, Italy
Corniglia, Cinque Terre, Italy
Manarola, Cinque Terre, Italy
The coastline as seen from Vernazza, Cinque Terre, Italy.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

A Trip Through Italy, Part 2

A window box with beautiful flowers in
Piazza Navona, one of my favorite squares in Rome.
If you have never been to Rome, I would recommend you add it to your bucket list. We were blessed to spend three days there, this trip, and it was great! We were there several years ago and wanted to see all the sites, but it rained and made it very difficult. One of my strongest memories is standing in the rain, holding an umbrella, looking at the Forum and trying to figure out what was what.  Without someone there to explain it, it was really difficult to discern exactly what we were seeing.  So we made a promise to ourselves that if we ever got back, we would hire a guide to walk us through the many ancient ruins, so we would know what they were, and we would pray that it didn't rain.

 Views of the Forum from on top of Palatine Hill.  From
 the top  of this hill you could see most of Rome. 
Well, we did just that.  We had beautiful weather this time around and our little guide was fantastic.  She had a great knowledge of the history of Rome and all that it entailed.  She took us to the Coliseum and explained the history there, then down to the Forum to walk through the ruins in that area.  What a fascinating tour!  I remember going to Boston one year, and really enjoying the walking tour, hearing about how things were so old...over 200 years old.  In Rome, there are things that date back hundreds of years; in some cases over a thousand years.  It is amazing to see the many structures the Romans built, all those years ago, and how many of them are still standing.  Their craftsmanship and attention to detail were amazing.

We had an afternoon tour of the Pantheon, Spanish Steps and a few other locations, but they paled in comparison to our morning sites.  We did have a gelato stop in the afternoon that was the highlight of the tour.  (We tasted gelato in every town we toured.)  The best was in a little place, on a small street, in downtown Rome.  I loved the way they looked when they first opened the stores, before anyone has placed an order.  They were beautiful colors and they always had so many different flavors.  Decisions, decisions! My favorite combination was the peach along with the plain cream. Yum!

Each day we walked almost everywhere we went.  We wore our Fitbits and put lots of steps on them during the trip.  I think you get a much more intimate look at a city when you walk through it.  I always try to remember to look up too, because there is so much beautiful architecture there and a lot of it is up high.

We went to the catacombs on of the days we were there and I found them very interesting, but if pressed for time in Rome, would probably skip them.  We rode the train to a certain stop, then got on a bus that took us to the outskirts of town, where the catacombs are located.  I never realized how many there were.  Just in the one we toured, there were thousands of little cubicles, cut out of the rock, where they laid the dead.  Once again, the way they built them was very interesting. They started high and as they finished a level, they would dig down, lower the walkways and continue on another level.  At one time, there were Popes buried there, too, but they have since been moved to another location.

Rome is beautiful at night, too.  If you ever get there, make sure you take a ride through the town after dark.  All the big monuments and major ruins are lit up and it is so pretty.  

One of my favorite things to do, in Rome, is go to the Trevi Fountain. Unfortunately, right now, it is closed for renovation. They say if you throw a coin into the fountain, it will ensure you a future trip to Rome.  With it closed off, we couldn't do that, but I feel certain we will find a way to get back to this romantic, exciting city, at some point in our future.  Caio, for now! 

Thursday, September 10, 2015

A Trip Through Italy

Well, it has been some time since I have posted, but I have a very good reason.  I was on a fabulous vacation to Italy.  We were blessed to be able to spend 15 days, in country, seeing Rome, Cinque Terre, Naples, Isle of Capri, Pompei, Mt. Vesuvius and Sicily.  It was a relaxing experience and the weather was picture perfect.  Here are a few pictures of the trip. We made a lot of great memories and have many fun stories to tell.  More to come in another blog. 

Vernazza, Cinque Terre, Italy
Monument in Rome.
Riomaggiore, Cinque Terre, Italy
A church in the Roman Forum.

One of the many beautiful fountains in Rome.
Isle of Capri

St. Peter's Basillica in Rome.
Do you see something odd about this picture?