Archive for September, 2010

Sept. 19; Tour Pesaro

Sunday, September 19th, 2010

Last night we returned to Pesaro and we walked to our hotel from the train station stopping at a grocery store for an antipasto, salad and bread dinner. As we ate in our room we watched storm front after storm front rolling through with lightning, thunder and downpours! Today we woke to a chilly rain so we had a leisurely breakfast down in the lobby with fabulous cappucinnos. A little break in the weather finally lured us outside to explore the town.

We headed straight for the beach which was empty due to the cold wind whipping in.

We moved one block in, away from the brisk wind along the beach, and walked through a neighborhood of what looked like vacation villas. Some of the villas were all buttoned up for the season already.

Detail of an outdoor restaurant that was closed for the season.

We walked through town to the train station. A street fair was in progress with tables selling everything from fabric to furniture. There were very few shoppers tho due to the weather. We continued past the station to Parco Miralfiore, a public park with a private villa from the 15th century in the center.

A path in Parco Miralfiore leading to the private villa.

A very Italian looking landscape in the park.

We returned to town via the path along the Foglia river flowing towards the Adriatic. It appears swollen and silt laden from the storms last night.

In town the Piazza del Popolo was filling up with late afternoon shoppers. An energy fair was set up around the fountain.

We continued on to the Rocca Costanza, a defensive fortification built in 1474 and completed in 1505.

As the sun began setting we passed this unique facade of the Chiesa di Santa Maria Maddalena.

We completed our circular tour by returning to the Adriatic to see the moon reflected in the waves.

We picked up a pizza on our way back to the hotel. All the pizza we've had in Europe have come with an egg cooked right in the middle. We don't know why, but it's good!

Sept. 18; Day Trip to San Marino

Saturday, September 18th, 2010

An interesting spot on the map just north and west of Pesaro warranted a closer look. San Marino it turns out is the third smallest country in the world after the Vatican and Monaco. It is also “the oldest surviving sovereign state and constitutional republic in the world, as the continuation of the monastic community founded on 3 September 301, by stonecutter Marinus of Arbe.” We decided we had to visit! A half hour train ride to the resort town of Rimini and an hour long bus ride to and up the slopes of Mount Titano brought us to the main city of San Marino. The weather wasn’t conducive to beautiful photos so mine will have to do, or find great images HERE.

The view from Mount Titano looking west towards the Apennine Mountains.

We walked through the medieval stone lanes filled with shoppers looking for duty free bargains in all the shops lining the streets and came to the Piazza della Liberta to view the changing of the guards.

The Public Palace on 'Liberty Square'.

The changing of the guard.

The "Guard of the Rock".

They guard the members of the Great and General Council, who apparently have to wear Disney costumes to perform their duties.

At a viewpoint looking east towards the Adriatic sea.

Approaching the first of three castle-like fortifications on Mnt. Titano that have protected the country of San Marino for centuries.

Looking back at Guaita (the 1st tower) from Cesta (the 2nd tower).

Montale (the 3rd tower, sorry no good pictures of the 2nd tower) was used as a prison. The doorway was halfway up the wall accessible by ladder only, it truly must have been a 'pit' of a prison!

Colorful flowers and lots of park-like settings with sculptures offset the gray skies.

A rare empty street, no shops here.

Between the 2nd & 3rd tower and continuing around the slightly less steep NE face of Mnt. Titano is a Nature Park, very serene.

Sept. 17; Across Italy to Pesaro

Friday, September 17th, 2010

We had our hearts set on traveling to Triglav National Park in Slovenia, but a check of the weather forecast at an internet cafe put the kibosh on that. Instead we checked train schedules to see what interesting place we could get to in a few hours and chose Pesaro on the Adriatic Coast almost directly east of Pisa. We caught the train to Firenze (Florence) then north to Bologna, then east and south along the Adriatic coast. On disembarking we discovered that the high tourist season was over, the Information center near the station was closed and no one spoke english! Eventually through hand gestures and lots of smiles we got directions through town to the main Information center. When they opened after the noon siesta we discovered a trove of information and the most helpful staff of our entire trip! Not only did they find a hotel for us (many were already closed for the season) but they called and negotiated a good rate for us!

On our walk from the train station across town to the Information center we passed this church turned post office.

We crossed the Piazza del Popolo and caught a glimpse into the 'Palace of Government'.

We finally made it to the Piazzale della Liberta fronting the sandy beach of the Adriatic Sea.

While we waited for the Info center to open we explored the Piazzale della Liberta or Freedom Square. An interesting Art Nouveau private villa, the Villino Ruggeri is on the square, as well as the boardwalk that follows the beach.

The Ruggeri Villa with its Art Nouveau decoration.

The Sfera Grande, focal point of Freedom Square.

A few blocks walk and we found our hotel on a quiet residential street across from a park.

Our 'private' balcony on the top floor of the hotel.

We settled into our room at Hotel Athena, a spacious room, a marble bathroom with a bidet and the biggest shower yet (still small compared to American standards), and a wall of windows looking over buildings towards Mount Ardizio and a peek-a-boo view of the Adriatic. This turned out to be the nicest and most economical place we stayed on our travels. We headed out to find an internet cafe and a restaurant.

'Osteria di Pinocchio' was recommended as a good restaurant so we tried it out. Of course the decor was all Pinocchio!

After an appetizer of clams Robert ordered the sea bass with grilled vegetables.

At the recommendation of our waiter I ordered something in Italian that he could translate only as 'frogfish'. It was definitely a fish, but not fishy tasting at all, very sweet, succulent and delicious!

Sept. 16; On to Pisa

Thursday, September 16th, 2010

This batch of posts will cover our vacation from Sept. 16 to Sept. 30 when we returned home.

On Sept. 16 in Vernazza, Italy we woke to a change in the weather. The hot humidity gave way to a light rain and wind. The sea was choppy and washed up on the rocks we had used as a bench last evening to relax and watch the waves reflect the moonlight. Today is a travel day, we’re heading to Pisa, just a little way down the Mediterranean coast.

The waves crashing on the jetty in Vernazza.

Waiting for the train at the Vernazza station.

The weather cleared by the time we got to Pisa. We found lodging near the train station (we didn’t want to walk too far with those backpacks!) then went for a stroll to see the sights.

We crossed the Arno river on our walk to the Piazza dei Miracoli, the Plaza of Miracles.

Our first view of 'The Leaning Tower of Pisa' at the end of Via Santa Maria.

The Piazza dei Miracoli, also known as the Piazza del Duomo (“Cathedral Square”), is the focal point for tourists, but it is also a functioning Cathedral complex.

Our 1st full view of the Tower coming onto the Piazza. The tower is leaning towards us so the angle is not as apparent.

The Leaning Tower is the campanile (a bell tower, especially one freestanding from the body of a church) of the magnificent Duomo or Cathedral.

A detail of the tower which is being restored and cleaned, hence the scaffolding near the top.

A view of the tower from the side of the Duomo showing the pronounced lean.

Everything leans in the souvenir shop!

We eventually made it around to the front of the Duomo.

Detail above the front entrance.

The Baptistry opposite the Duomo.

Detail of the elaborate carving above the main door of the Baptistry.

We continued our walk around Pisa, especially looking for the ancient walls that protected the medieval city, and which bordered 2 sides of the Piazza dei Miracoli. Another corner incorporated the Fortezza di San Gallo and encircled a beautiful park and the Giardino Scotto (Scotto Garden).

The Saint Gallo Fortress.

We returned to our room to nap before heading out for the evening, returning to the Piazza and eventually finding something to eat.

Reflections on the Arno river.

The Duomo facade at night.

Sept. 15 #5 Corniglia

Wednesday, September 15th, 2010

We arrived in Corniglia after a short level walk. We meandered the streets since we were unable to do so last night. It looks like the smallest and cleanest of the 5 villages. The inhabitants were out for their evening walks with the kids or just to go to the plaza to gossip or watch the sunset.

A colorful narrow street led to.....

...and opened out onto a plaza with fabulous views over the sea.

The view looking over the wall down the steep cliff to the sea.

Looking back towards Manarola.

A resident kitty soaking up the warmth from the plaza flagstones.

The sun began to set.

The setting sun reflected on a nearby building with the terraces of vineyards and gardens in the background.

We reluctantly walked the narrow lanes to the bus station for the ride down to the train station.

The sun was setting.

The beautiful, colorful night sky as we wait for the train back to Vernazza and a good nites sleep!

Sept. 15; #4 Manarola towards Corniglia

Wednesday, September 15th, 2010

As we approached Manarola we realized we were pretty hungry. We walked the main street, filled with fishing boats, and found a great little restaurant.

The inside was quaint, but it was so nice out that everyone was eating outside on the deck.

We ordered an appetizer of swordfish marinated in lemon juice.

I had an entree of clams fettucini.

Robert had spaghetti with octopus and tomatoes. The octopus was tender and delicious!

The view as we left Manarola towards Corniglia.

The blue waters of the Mediterranean were looking very inviting, and most of our hiking was done now!

A suspension bridge crossed a small gorge.

Looking back towards Manarola along the pebbly beach.

A stairway down to the beach!

And a dip in the cool, blue, salty water!

Sept. 15; # 3 Via dell’Amore, Riomaggiore to Manarola

Wednesday, September 15th, 2010

We left Riomaggiore heading north towards Manarola on the section of the trail called the Via dell’Amore, the ‘Way of Love’.

The logo for the famous 'Lovers Lane'.

Looking back at the pathway from Riomaggiore to the beginning of the Via.

Over the entrance gate to the Via is a heart emblem with many small locks attached. The locks apparently symbolize the unbreakable bond between lovers.

The rocks seem to flow down to the sea.

Oh, young lovers......

A logo bench with clumps of locks on the railing behind!

Sept 15; # 2, Riomaggiore

Wednesday, September 15th, 2010

Riomaggiore

We arrived in Vernazza in the afternoon and relaxed a little before tackling the last section of the coast route. Then we caught the train to the southernmost town- Riomaggiore, to start the hike north back to Vernazza eventually. The town of Riomaggiore was so interesting in itself, I have to devote a post to it.

We were greeted at the train station with murals dedicated to the pioneers of the communities.

Mosaics decorate the tunnel from the train station to the town center.

Murals also decorated a wall facing a small public plaza in Riomaggiore.

From the same square we could look left, down to the port.

The narrow main street of the village led up, up ,up.

Every day is laundry day! Make good use of the Mediterranean sunshine!

This is a typical small storefront in the small villages of the Cinque Terre, the products inside are sure to please. The fresh produce, the cured meats, the gelato, the wines, were all superb!

Sept. 15; # 1 – Hiking the Cinque Terre

Wednesday, September 15th, 2010

Today was a long day filled with arduous stair climbing, hot sticky weather and breathtaking, magnificent, fabulous views! We determined to hike the remaining portions of the Coast Route, known as “sentiero azzurro” (“blue path”) to the other villages. It was such a long day it will have to be recounted in several posts! Here is a map to give you an idea of the area. The longest sections of the coast route are from Monterosso to Vernazza, and Vernazza to Corniglia (which we completed last night).

Monterosso to Vernazza

We started out the morning slow, looking for breakfast in town. We ended up getting foccacia bread, cheese, sausage, yogurt and orange juice from the small grocery and eating on our veranda. We then caught the train to Monterosso, the northernmost village, to hike back to Vernazza.

Monterosso has the biggest beach and it looked so inviting, but we had some hiking to do first!

As we started our southward trek we came upon a local artist.

She was capturing the vibrant colors of the water and beach.

A vase as public art maybe?

Around the next corner was a relic of WWII. We wondered if it saw use.

The blue, blue Mediterranean

Panorama of the 2nd beach of Monterosso.

The vineyards on the terraces above town.

The rock walls of the terraces, some laid with only sand as mortar!

The stairs, and there were lots of them!

Looking back at Monterosso.

Monterosso farther away to the north.

Looking south towards Vernazza. The path is getting crowded with tourists from all over the world!

Approaching Vernazza!

Vernazza! Notice the ferry to the right, off loading passengers from the bow.


Sept. 14; To Vernazza, Italy

Tuesday, September 14th, 2010

Today our train trip took us out of France, through Monaco- Monte Carlo (didn’t see anything but the train station) and into Italy along the Mediterranean coast. We did see lots of huge yachts out in the water though. Our destination is Vernazza, the 2nd town of the Cinque Terre, translated as ‘five lands’, referring to the 5 villages along an 18 km stretch of the rugged Mediterranean coast in northern Italy.

Waiting for the next train, what station are we in now?

The 2nd set of stairs to our room, but there are stairs everywhere, the town is built into a cliffside! Our room is the veranda above the shutters.

Our room!

The doors to the veranda.

Our cute but tiny veranda, a great spot to relax in the evening and have a continental breakfast in the morning!

We unpacked then went out to explore the surroundings.

The colorful main square fronting the small bay and beach.

The tiny port of Vernazza.

Fishing boats in the bay.

Starting up the hill on the path southward. Our room is somewhere in the maze below!

Farther up you can see the curved breakwater forming the bay.

We decided to see how far we could walk this evening towards the 3rd town of Corniglia.

Looking south, the path is somewhere among the steep terraces.

Looking back north you can make out the path we just came up on.

Our destination - Corniglia (pronounced Corneeleeah).

The sun was setting as we entered the village.

After almost 2 hours of walking we made it to Corniglia! This village is perched high on the cliffs while the train station serving it is down near the water. We were able to catch the last commuter bus to avoid the long walk down, and were lucky to immediately catch the train back to Vernazza. In 5 minutes we were back in Vernazza and looking for a pizza dinner!