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
At the train station in Pisa, traveling to Vernazza.

Buildings in Vernazza up the hill sides.

The maze of streets here.

The view from our room.

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

Beginning the hike to Monterossa, looking back at Vernazza.

Vineyards on the way ...

and gardens ...

Exotic creatures too. 

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



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

Many steps up and down.

Finally, Monterossa.

A cold beer after the hike.

and a cool dip.  It felt great.



07/10/2010 09:20

WOW!!!What a beautiful place and the gang's all there!(except the vespa!) Oh I see, it broke down & you had to walk!!
Got your card yesterday & thought about changing my handle BUT it's too late now & besides what would it be?? It is a bit cooler here today & with the fand running it's probably better than where you are, Enjoy the experience & say "HI" to all from the "old folks @ home"

Lynn Price
07/10/2010 20:03

Gorgeous virtual tour, both visual and written! The foods sound even better than imagined (is that possible?!) and no doubt enhanced in the company of great friends. Hoping the boat thing worked out :-)

Proc Freq
07/11/2010 19:26

No L. draba pictures? What a tease!!! Looking awesome. Thanks for the great birthday gifts. Wish I had been with you all this weekend. Hope your loving every minute. Miss you guys! My love to the crew and a big fat CHEERS, wait, sorry, SALUTE!

07/12/2010 17:54

Hey Bill and Beth!!

You guys are so lucky! It's super duper windy here, it's hard to walk in. I'm close to getting the clutch down and Greg's a good teacher. I even had my first accident last week. I'm ok, im sure you'll hear all about when you guys get back im sure. Oh and btw, I have to drive at least once, a Mini Cooper before I die. Haha=P
Have fun see you guys later.

07/14/2010 01:12

Ciao Fidela - Glad you are getting the clutch figured out...it's not easy. We are in Siena now, I have been watching for the "Voltare - vampire royalty" no sightings yet. I did come around the corner and saw an "Eclipse" poster. Hope you are enjoying the summer..."drivers camp" has to be better than "math camp." I am sure party plans are in full swing.
See you soon - Arrivederci

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