We spent a lot of time walking around the main part of this city.  We also took some down time for a day.  I will try to catch up a bit, but we are busy packing for our last move to Milan before heading home.

The old city walls are centered around The towers we mentioned earlier and two adjacent piazzas, Piazza Nettuna (Neptune) and Piazza Maggiore.  The first, as implied, honors the God Neptune.  Word has it that the Pope of the time was not pleased with the "endowment" portrayed in the sculpture, so he ordered it to be altered.  The artist, Giambologna, did so, but supposedly arranged Neptune's out stretched hand to look like something else when viewed from the right angle.  Don't know of any truth there, but it makes a good story.

The main piazza next to Nettuna, is Maggiore, a large public square on which the large church, Basilica of St Petronius, that is currently covered in scaffolding.  Inside this church there is a large sundial carved into the floor, as well as a pendulum swinging on one side, strange oddities for a church, given they contradict the geocentric biblical views of their time.

To the west of the piazza is a large building housing museums and the town hall.  Surrounding the piazzas on the side streets are many shops, restaurants, and markets.

Today, we did something a bit different, and hiked to a church which stands out on a hillside south of the city, San Luca.  To get there, we had to cross town from our hotel, then climb up the hill to the church.  From the hotel, this was about a 9.25 mile round trip.  The unique part of the trip, however, is the majority of the trail, up the hillside, is covered by a very long portico (3.5 km long).  So, starting in the morning, we made good time and stayed pretty cool most of the trip.  The walkway under the portico is made up of stone ramps and stairways and is a pretty easy climb.  The views were good and the change from the city appreciated.

Now we prepare for the train to Milan for one day before flying home.
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Piazza Magiore.  The basilica is being renovated.  A summer movie screen has also been setup for the public, in the square.

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Inside the basilica, photos were not allowed, but I has to get a quick picture of Beth in her spiffy getup.  She was too exposed and had to wear a paper gown inside.

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Beth at a stone "living room" sculpture next to the piazza.

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Neptune for the Pope.

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Neptune for the artist.

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Evidentally, the Pope had no problem with women displaying spraying mammeries underneath Neptune...

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Many shops surround the piazza.  This one made us think of Trevor with a display of various bird calls for hunting.

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A staircase/ramp at the library next to the piazza.  The Pope had the stairs widened so his carriage could ride up ...

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A blurry photo of the church on the hillside, San Luca.  There is a good view of it and the city from the top of the hotel.

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Portico leading to San Luca.

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A pretty walk.

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It keeps on going ...

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and going ...

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and going !

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Each archway of the portico is numbered.  Many are dedicated in memory of loved ones.

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The are 666 of them, but for some reason they stopped around here :-)

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At the top, there is a view of Bologna below.

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and the hillsides to the south.

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At the top!

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A stairwell at San Luca.

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A sunset over Bologna.

 
 
We've been here a couple of days now.  This city is a strange mix, unlike where we have been before.  It is a combination of old and new, modern and antique, traditional and radical.  It boasts the oldest university in the western world, and is very much a large university city in places.  They tend to be strewn with graffiti, protests at times, mixed with the usual bars, cafe's and night spots that come with academia.  On another side is a large commercial scene with high end clothes and shoe stores.  These line the main streets where most of the walkways are covered archways and porticoes.    You can walk across the inner city, as usual defined by old city walls, without getting in the sun or weather. 

The city lies strategically between the ports of Venice and Rome and Southern Italy.  Hence, it has a merchant history and a very large rail yard, which is being expanded still.  Unfortunately, the industry and rail lines made Bologna an obvious target for allied bombing during WWII, which is why the city construction is a mix of more modern buildings and the older Gothic ones.  The numerous museums and churches, however, seemed to have been spared (probably more fortune than intention).  There are two large, precariously leaning towers in the center of town that, evidently, narrowly missed being bombed.  They are actively being worked on to prevent their fall.

We are still busy exploring this place.  The hotel (yes, we are in a real hotel now) we are staying at is a bit far from the city center, but we can use the exercise :- )  We plan on hitting some local food tonight after wetting our appetites walking through the market and food shops earlier!
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A more modern feel near the hotel.

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The large rail yard where we arrived.

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Working the yards.

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Part of the old city wall.  There is much more decay here than we have seen elsewhere.

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Part of the many miles of Porticoes here, lined with fancy shops.

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Ok, they're not all fancy.  Here's a "dollar" store for Jerry. :- )

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More portico.  I have to admit, these are nice relief from the sun.  Walking down the street, you find yourself planning your path, crossing streets, to stay under them.

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One of the two towers.  This one was reduced in the past to stabilize it.  Both are being worked on and are leaning towards a large Basilica.

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Both towers.

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Market time on a small street.

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A large selection of meats.

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Pasta dishes at a deli.

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Tortellinis.  You buy them by the kilo.

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And ravioli ....

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Hello from Bologna!

 

Breve!

07/18/2010

6 Comments

 
“Breve”, I say , motioning with my hands.  “Si, si” is the reply.  It’s hot.  We’ve been here a week and I’ve been debating over and over in my head (and with someone else) about a short haircut.  The heat and hat in the humidity were becoming uncomfortable, especially with the hiking in Cinque Terra.  Finally, in Siena, I’ve gotten up the courage, swallowed hard, and walked into the small salon down the street.  “Trenta?”, he asks.  Hmmmmm.   “Ahhhh!”, he is saying it will be thirty minutes.  “Si” I reply and sit down on the bench.  He is working on a beautiful Italian woman with dark black hair, careful snipping and sculpting the back of her head.  I try not to stare.  I pick up a magazine for distraction.  It appears to be something similar to an Italian version of “People Magazine”.  I flip through casually, as if I can read it.  I feel like a little kid again trying to figure out what is going on by looking at the pictures and catching a bit of excitement when I recognize a word or two.  I come across a full page ad showing a muscular man, full nude frontal with white text boxes across his head, torso, and privates.  In each, from top to bottom, it says in English: “For the office”, “For the gym”, “For the bedroom”.  It’s an ad for razors ….  I put the magazine down.  The stylist is still working over the woman’s hair, lightly conversing with her.  I close my eyes for a moment, having second thoughts about this venture ….  “Senor!”  I look up.  The assistant is motioning me back to her station.  “Shampoo” she says.  I feel a bit silly having to do this.  They’re just going to cut it off anyway, but I don’t know how to protest and follow her to the back.  The water feels cool on my head and the massage is relaxing.  Soon she is done and I am moved to a cutting station.  Next to me, the stylist is finishing up the woman.  I wait as the assistant places scissors, and clippers on the table in front of my chair.  The woman stands and inspects her hair with a hand mirror.  She looks happy.  There is a flurry of chatter between them, then she places some money by his register and leaves.  My stomach tightens.  What am I doing!?  If I were at home, I’d probably chicken out now and tell him “Just trim it up a little”, but here, I wouldn’t know how.  I try to look calm, like I do this all the time.  He speaks a little English: “Short?”  “Yes” I say, making it sound confident.  He starts on the side with the clippers …”Bzzzzzzzzt”.  A big clump of hair slips to the floor.  “Ok?” he asks.  I run my fingers across the cut spot.  “Ummmmm, ok”  I reply.   “Ok, I can make shorter, but not longer” he jokes.  “Si, si” I say, smiling.   He runs the clippers over the rest of my head.  My heart sinks as I watch in the mirror.  It will grow back, I keep telling myself.  He is quickly done.  Then, out come the scissors.  “Snip”, “Snip” “Snip”.  He works quickly around my head, trimming up stray bits.  A bit of a shave on the neck, then the mirror is handed to me.  The face staring back looks strange.  I can’t believe I did this!  Oh well, too late now.  Wonder what Beth will think.  “Clean up now”, he says, pointing to his assistant.  I follow her back to the washing station and she shampoos my head again. When she’s done, I get up and go to the front by the register.  He writes down the bill and I pay with a tip.  “Grazia” he replies.  I walk back to the hotel.  The sun feels hot, and the breeze cool, on my scalp.  It is a strange sensation. 

Back in the room, Beth is very reassuring.  “It looks fine.”  “You’re just not used to it.”  I try to believe her.  It does feel cooler.  I’ve gotten more used to it now, and it’s already grown quite quickly.  Something to remember, I guess.  At least I got to have an Italian woman rub my head … twice ! :- )

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  July 14, 15 and 16, 2010


14th

Been a busy few days.  Wednesday, we went out and hit the market in Siena.  Many venders packed along a few of the streets, most selling clothing at cheap prices.  Beth got a couple of items and I finally scored a gnocchi board!  We also picked up a cheapo knife for cutting salami and cheese on the go.  It's one we can leave if needed.  There is also the meat, cheese and vegy venders, with huge selections of all kinds of goodies.  We were impressed with the sheer size of the produce.  There were red and yellow peppers almost the size of footballs.  And grapes that were nearly golf ball size.  Quite amazing.  All kinds of cured meats too.  We picked up a "small" salami (salumi).  It was so tempting to get some of everything, but ...... 

After the market, we walked through and around the old fort (Fortenza).  The view from the walls is quite good.  There is a large amphitheater in the middle too, where they show movies and have concerts.  Evidently, jazz is very popular.

 

15th

We got up earlier to do some touristy things, which in Siena means go up the Piazza tower (Torre Del Mangia) and vist the Duomo, the large Basilica and Cathedral, which opposes the Piazza del Campo.  First off was the Torre del Mangia overlooking the Piazza.  It is a very long climb (400 steps)  to the top through very narrow stairwells, maybe 2.5-3 feet wide in spots.  They only let ~25 people up at a time, so it took a while.  Once up at the top, the view is spectacular.  A sea of terracotta tiles.  Green in the distance.  The cathedral dome and tower close by.  Far below, the Piazza del Campo.  We stayed up there longer than we were supposed to, but it was hard to leave.

 

The Duomo was next.  It too has a large tower, but you do not get to climb that one.  It has an interesting design with layers of black and white marble forming a striped pattern all the way up.  It reminds me of a lego sculpture a child would make.  Inside the cathedral you are surrounded by artistic designs at every level.  The floors are intricate mosaics of marble, the ceiling is a great mural with too much detail to seemingly take in.  In between, the columns and walls are covered with statuary and carvings.  The altar is, of course, very elaborate with deep rows of pews facing it.  To one side is a "library" housing several old hymnals.  These are large books, maybe 2 feet tall, with large calligraphy and notes, accented by elaborate color and gold leaf paintings describing various biblical scenes.  It is easy to imagine the scribes hunched over these works, carefully filling them in ... then again, maybe I've just scene too much Monty Python :- )

 

16th

 

If you can't beat them .... Today, we decided to do something different, so last night we arranged to go on a scooter tour around the local countryside.  Yes, for those who remember the Cooks, I let Beth get on a scooter again :- )  We started this morning when a van (Grandpa) picked us up at the hotel.  We drove about 20 minutes outside of the city to a small ranch.  These people also offer horseback riding, which seems to be their main gig.  There were several people there getting ready to ride.  We waited for our guide to arrive, patting the several farm dogs wandering around.  When he got there, we did a few practice runs around a small dirt field getting our "scooter legs" back.  Our guide was a young Australian expat working part time doing tours.  He also is working at a local winery.  Sorry Jess, he was a cute chicken, but .... there evidently is an Italian honey involved too.  We took off down the local highway for a bit, then pulled on to a smaller country road and wound our way up hill through Tuscany.  This was a nice break from the city, walls and heat.  We made a few stops for pictures and water at a fountain. Eventually we made our way to a small town, Castello Monterggioni, built on an old fort designed to guard Siena from the arch enemies, Forenzia (Florence).  This is a small town on a hill top, surrounded by castle like walls.  Dante was one an inhabitant.  Now, there is a winery (out guides), so we stopped and tasted (and bought) some of the wine.  They are trying to build up their label and the wines are very good.  After this, we made our way back, traveling through some busy intersections.  Did I mention that in Italy, the lines on the roads are merely suggestions!  It was a fun trip and nice get away from what we have been doing.

 

Now, we'll have to see what tomorrow brings .... Oh!  Did I forget to mention I got a haircut too?  Needed to cool  off!

 

Love you all,

Bill and Beth
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A chalk artist on the streets.  Think of all this work (he was at it all day) and ... the street cleaners come through every day ...

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A motorcycle parking lot.  Find your bike there!

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Flowers at the market.

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Flower venders.

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Pork anyone?

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Yes, that's a giant salami she's cutting.

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Jess, here's some chicken :- )

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The Fortenza wall.

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The view from the wall.

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A sculpture near the fort.

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The next day, climbing the Torre del Mangia.

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Near the entrance.

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Miles of red roof ...

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Many little courtyards too.

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Radial Piazza below.

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and us on top.

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The Duomo, where we are going next.

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It's large striped tower.

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Marble mosaics on the floor.  Most are roped off to protect them.

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Modesty.  We did not have to, but many women were given paper gowns to wear inside if they had too much exposed skin.  Quite a contrast given what is the norm in Italian society where much more exposure isn't even given a second thought.

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The dome ceiling.

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and the cathedral ceiling.

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and the walls.  This is in the "library" housing the hymnals.

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These are large books with elaborate writing and decoration.

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A painting in one of the hymnals.

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The front of the cathedral.

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Horses at the stables.

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Scooter Beth.

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Like the hair?

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On the road.

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Tuscany

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Riding

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A rest stop at a fountain.

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The taken chicken.  Sorry, Jess :-(

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Castello Monterggioni in the distance.

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The old well and church in town.

 

Siena

07/14/2010

1 Comment

 
July 12-13, 2010


Errrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr,.......,Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhh .......  Zoooooooooooommmm!!!  The scooters are whipping by, close enough to touch.  We are back in the city, away from the relative quiet of Cinque Terra.  We arrived to Siena in the late afternoon, after goodbyes to Jerry and Steve in La Spezia and a longish train trip with several changes.  Walking here requires more ears than eyes, as the traffic sweeps endlessly along the streets.  In the narrow claustrophobic and steep sided, narrow streets of the old city, you hear the scooters echoing off the walls behind you, growing louder and more insistent.  You instinctively move towards the walls (there are no sidewalks) and wait for the rider to pass.  We are becoming more used to it, but I still find myself cringing on occasion, especially when the scooter turns out to be a bus or delivery truck.  They all yield very little and love the speed.  I find myself wondering if these same streets and alleys were witness to a similar feeling when horses and carriages moved along them. 

 

The city is built on a hill over looking the Tuscany countryside.  The surroundings are beautiful, probably similar in terrain to what the Palouse would be if it were covered with large patches of trees, grass and greenery.  The temperatures are still warm, but we are inland now and less humid.  There is a large wall around the entire city with eight gateways, or portas.  Each is an elaborate archway with old fortifications including archery slots and peep holes.  Some still have the huge swinging gates still attached on large iron hinges. 

 

The old city itself is centered around the famous landmark, Piazza Del Campo.  This is a huge open space, anchored at one side by the chapel and a tall, narrow tower.  The piazza spreads out, slightly upward in a radial fashion patterned in brick spokes away from the tower.  Directly opposing the chapel and tower across the piazza is a fountain, and surrounding the whole curved half moon shape of the space are the tall brick buildings with rows of shutters and verandas.  Below them are cafes, restaurants, and shops.  During the day the sun beats heavily on the brick piazza.  People crowd into the shade of the tower standing or sitting, slowly moving with the shadow.  A water spigot at the fountain also attracts a crowd.  More recently, the piazza has been the scene for books of the Twilight series or as an action scene in the most recent James Bond movie, but the piazza has long been more famous for a daring horse race around it’s perimeter: The Palio.  This race is a competition among the 17 neighborhoods, or contrade.  The race is highly contested and the winner gains bragging rights and may fly their flags on the streets of their borough.  We have just missed the race, which was held the day we arrived, July 2, but we would have loved to see the spectacle.  Maybe some time.  Eves dropping at dinner the other night, however, I heard that the rooms facing the piazza were running 6000 Euros a night.  We’ll be saving a while for that one!  The contrade are all unique, each with their own flag, animal mascot, and colors.  The streets of each are decorated with these symbols making a colorful display.  There are elephants, turtles, horses, porcupines, and even snails among them.  Some of the decorations are done in iron and are very elaborate.  All in all, it keeps the eyes wandering ... even as the ears are listening to the buzz of the scooters from behind.

 

Tomorrow, we hope to climb the tower and go to the large church, the Doma.......

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The Tuscany hillsides.  This is the view from the front of the hotel.

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A Porta.  The streets run through them now.

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Slots for archery looking out from the porta wall.

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A view over the city.  The Piazza Del Campo tower in the background.

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This is a wide street.  Many are more narrow with taller sides.

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Like this ...

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Beth wants one of these giant jars of Nutella.

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These lamps line m,any of the streets.  Each is done in the symbols and colors of the corresponding contrade.

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Dog and Cat street.

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A contrade mascot.

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Some ornamentation.

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More ...

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This one is safe for now.

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View from one side of the Piazza Del Campo.

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The tower and chapel.

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The clock has no minute hand, but does give the day of the month.

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The tower at sunset.

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The fountain across from the tower.

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Thirsty.

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You see some interesting things on the piazza.

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Including new hair styles.  How about the verde afro?

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At the Gelateria, or ice cream store.

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On a side alley from the piazza.

 
 
July 11, 2010

Kari, Paul, and Steven had to leave today, to continue their trip by car through Pisa and on to Monaco, where they will meet a friend before heading home.   We saw them all off at the train station the next morning.  Jerry, Steve, Beth, and I planned to take it easy and enjoy the town a bit.  But first, Beth and I decided to go back to Monterolla (by train this time!) to buy a large platter we spied the day before.  Jerry went with us, while Steve relaxed in Vernazza.  After we made the round trip, we all had some pizza by the waterfront.  I had been eying this woodstove pizza place since we arrived and finally got to try it.  Of course, I was ogling, watching them work :-  )  I picked up some ideas and techniques here and there.  The prosciutto and pesto pizzas were polished off by the four of us in short time.

 

After lunch, Steve and Jerry went to relax and Beth and I took a swim in the harbor.  This is a popular swimming hole and it was full of people.  The water was cool to start, but quickly felt good.  We swam, watching the people, children, boats, water polo game and town before us.  A quick shower afterwards and we gathered with Jerry and Steve for our final dinner together.  Another wonderful meal with good friends.

 

Oh, and did we mention it was the World Cup finals that night …  Surprisingly, only a few spots in Vernazza were tuned in.  Being a small town with other attractions, it is not a “sports bar” kind of place.  Beth and I settled into a small bar that we had all enjoyed for a drink before dinner.  When we returned there towards the end of the game, we had to stand towards the back of the narrow, one room bar.  The small TV on the wall was fuzzy and wavy, with someone in the crowd occasionally running up close to it to see the time remaining and shouting the information back to the crowd.  The wonderful barkeep would honk a loud horn or play her Jamaican music (no idea what that came from!) when something exciting happened.  Most there were rooting for Spain, with a few German tourists quietly urging Holland on.  All in all, it was a memorable place to recall where we were for the final game.  The hap-hazard TV, flickering on and off and the crowd gasping every time it happened, along  with the bartender made it all the better.  Tired and ready for new adventures, we stumbled back to our room, up the many steps, to a waiting bed.

 

We are in Siena now, but it is very late, so that will have to wait.  I will try to post more often as we will be here for a week (until the 19th).  There is much, much to see and tell here.  Until then …

 

Bill and Beth    

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A quick trip back to Monterossa to get a beautiful platter.    Now all we have to do is get that sucker home!

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Swimming at Vernazza.

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GrandPa rowing the grandchildren out into the harbor.

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The busy beach.

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Before our final dinner together.

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Vernazza at night.

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The church clock tower.

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Our bartender ...

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The World Cup Final.

 
 
July 10, 2010

Another chance to catch up.  After our first day and hike in Cinque Terra, we all decided to hike to the three towns south of Vernazza. The plan was to hike down, take the boat back, and have a celebration dinner at one of the restaurants up on the top of the rock outcrops.   

 

We attempted to gather a bit earlier this time; not an easy task with this crew  : - )   It was still hot.  A few of us waited for the others, watching the activities around town.  Fishermen preparing for the day, markets opening and the beginning of the tourist crowds.  Finally we started off.  The first part of this trip was not as easy as some of us hoped, but the views were fantastic.  The first stop on the way was Corniglia.  The trail headed up, on rock stairs in many places, and wandered along the sea side.  After much sweating, mainly from the humidity and heat, we reached the town. Here we stopped and had beers and shared an amazing pesto lasagna, as well as pizza.  That was a meal to remember!  Cooled and refreshed for the rest of the tripAfter looking around, we passed through, dropping down to sea level to the train station and tracks along an amazing zig-zagging staircase of brick.  Fortunately, we were heading down …

 

Once at sea level, the trail/path was flat to the town of Monterolla.  Afetr that, we headed  off towards Riomaggiore, a town that looks similar in layout to Vernazza with an outcrop of rock forming a small harbor.  This is a very pretty spot, but since we missed the boat, so to speak, the day before, we anxiously inquired about the schedule and whereabouts.  We bought tickets and headed around the rocks to a small canopy to wait.  Sure enough, the boat soon appeared.  We, and others, queued up, ready to board, when the plank leading to the boat was promptly withdrawn with terse Italian yelled back to shore!  Evidently, this was the wrong boat.  No worries, though.  A short wait and another boat appeared and soon we were quickly riding back to Vernazza, enjoying the view and the cool sea breeze.

 

After cleaning up, Kari and I headed to the market for a bottle of wine, which we all gathered for on the jetty.  That’s a nice perk of Italy, where there are no “open container” or “drinking in public” attitudes.  No one gives it a second thought.  The opening was a bit of a surprise, with a loud POP!  We hadn’t realized it was a bottle of sparkling red wine, however, it tasted fine, especially with the setting sun and views of town.  When the time for our dinner reservations came up, we walked up to the restaurant on top of the rocks.  We enjoyed a wonderful meal, laughing and talking with our good friends.  After dinner, we decided to have a walk about the piazza below, and found, to Beth and Kari’s delight, a dance had been set up for all.  We all danced to pop music with a large drunk crowd, champagne spraying around, and people of all ages enjoying the night.  Beth decided it was all for her birthday celebration, but I still think it is too early! :- )  After a long day, we all headed to bed to sleep well.

Bill and Beth
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Waiting in the morning before the hike south.

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A fisherman getting his boat ready.

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The local market in Vernazza. There is a COOP too.

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This bakery was outside our window.  The smell every morning was a great beginning.

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Keeping an eye on the harbor.

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Hiking out, looking back at the back side of Vernazza.

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Steep steps up....

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A friend guards a gate at a home along the trail.

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Wild figs growing next to the trail.

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Approaching Corniglia.

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Self portrait.

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Lunch in Monterossa.

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A little bit of pesto lasagna ...

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On the trail to the final town, Riomaggiore.

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In sight!

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Small boats in Riomaggiore.

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Couples place locks on the rails to confirm their commitment to one another.  The locks are everywhere.

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Waiting for the right boat, the local kids were swimming and playing on the dock.

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Coming in ...

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... and the ride back.  Easier than hiking!

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Having some wine on the jetty before dinner.  The "Sisters" Kari and Beth.

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... and this guy! :-)

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The view of the sunset off the jetty.

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Kari at dinner.

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And the dancing afterwards.

 
 
July 8-9,
I finally have chance to catch up.  No internet here, but the shop next door sells time on her connection.  And before we get started – Happy birthday to Jess.  We miss you!

On the morning of the 8th, we walked down to the train station in Pisa.  The plan was to meet Jerry and Steve, who were coming in from Ravenna, on the east coast of Italy.  They got in about mid-morning and we all had some beers and snacks across from the station.  No, we did not eat at the McDonalds, although we must admit, their menu here looks much better than home!  We were all waiting for Kari, Paul and their son Steven to fly in from Madrid, where they had spent their earlier time.  Eventually we all were together and bungled about until we figured out which train to take to Vernazza, Cinque Terra (via La Spezia).  The train ride was about an hour, but was hot with no air conditioning in the train.

Cinque Terra is a small region on the west coast made up of a series of five towns, literally built into the cliffs.  The towns themselves are boggling mazes of streets, alleys, stairs, all lined with doors, shops, and resterantes.  Our room is up a long, very steep staircase and overlooks the main street.  We have had the windows open to try and cool things down, only partially successful.  Vernazza is built around a small harbor and jetty and, like most of Cinque Terra, is a tourist destination.  There are swimming areas, as well as boating, fishing and hiking opportunities.  Fishing is also a big, and traditional, occupation here.  Anchovies are the specialty, but other small fish and critters are common.
On the morning after we arrived, we awoke to the rhythm of this small town.  The trains began coming though and by about 6:00.  Then the deliveries to the small shops and restaurants on the main street followed.  Slowly you could hear the shops opening, awnings being unrolled, and voices of the locals below.   Soon the streets were bustling with tourists and local women shopping for produce.  And the produce, like elsewhere here, is amazing.  Huge prosciutto hams, basically entire hind quarters, dried over a year, hanging in the back of the shops.  If only I could figure out a way to get one of those back home!
Today we hiked a trail over to the next town, Monterossa.  It was a very hot and tiring hike, with much uphill climbing on small narrow stepped paths.  Even in the high hills overlooking the town and city, there were homes.  Many were surrounded by vineyards and small family gardens full of basil and tomatoes.  The tomatoes are grown almost like grapes with long trellised rows.  
The humidity is very high and it was hot in the sun.  Surprisingly, there was little breeze on the hillside.  Eventually, after unintentionally straying off the path into a few vineyards, we found our way to Monterossa.  This town has a large beach, so we rented some lounge chairs and umbrellas and swam away the afternoon.  We had planned on taking a boat or water taxi back to Vernazza (we weren’t anxious to hike back !), but the last one had left by the time we packed up.  So, we caught the regional train back, a quick 10 minute trip.  A nice dinner with everyone after-wards.  Pasta and pesto for me, and others having ravioli in walnut sauce,  a regional anchovy dish, stuffed mussels, and, of course, wine.   It was all unbelievably good.  
Tomorrow we will try to hike to some of the other towns (and plan better for the boat trip back!).  That hike should be easier too J
B&B
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At the train station in Pisa, traveling to Vernazza.

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Buildings in Vernazza up the hill sides.

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The maze of streets here.

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The view from our room.

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Fishing is a traditional occupation.  This eel was about 2 feet long.

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Beginning the hike to Monterossa, looking back at Vernazza.

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Vineyards on the way ...

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and gardens ...

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Exotic creatures too. 

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Wild poppies were common ... and some white flowered weed Jess would know :-)

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Us.

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Paragraph.

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Miss these trail markers and you might end up in someone's garden.

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Many steps up and down.

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Finally, Monterossa.

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A cold beer after the hike.

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and a cool dip.  It felt great.

 

Pisa

07/07/2010

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Our day in Pisa.  We started out walking by the river Arno, very beautiful.  We made our way to the market which is open most days from 8 to 6.  After some more touring, we picked up some fruit, bread, cheese, and beer for a picnic later.  This is a much sm,aller town than Rome, but the are many tourists here to see -- The Tower.  We too made our way there, did the tourista thing, and had our lunch.  After siesta (everything here closes from 1 to 3) we went out for the night.  After a light appetizer of chips and a couple of glasses of wine, we were ready for dinner.  The town was pretty rowdy as the World Cup game (Spain Germany) was on.  Many locals were wearing Spanish flags or gear.  A few German tourists tried to keep up, but were out numbered.  We had a nice pasta dinner and walked home among the singing, drunk fans.

Tomorrow we head to Cinque Terra.  We are supposed to meet Jerry and Steve when they come in via train here.  Kari and family may arrive too, and we will all head out together.  We'll see what the connection is like there.  Until then ...
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Along the river.

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A lot of narrow streets full of people, cars, and speeding Vespas.

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The produce market.

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Tomatoes, fruits, squash, ... everything!

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Pancetta, hams, salamis, wow!

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A pick-me-up for Beth.

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The big attraction.

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... and the tourista picture ...

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Finally we get to eat!  Picnic was good!

 
 
Had trouble getting internet, but can post a bit now.  This is our trip to Pisa.  A few refreshments on the way.  Nice train ride- about 3 hrs.  Much agriculture on the way- wheat (pasta), vineyards, olive groves, sunflowers, ...  Also many wood ovens in the small backyards.  We are staying in a B&B in a quiet neighborhood, quite different than the bustle of Rome.  More to come...
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Some birre and a new Vespa!

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A pleasant ride.

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Sunflowers.  The country side is hot and surprisingly dry, even though we were riding up the coastline.