We visited Italy one summer. The story will be in my upcoming book, The Stroll. Here’s where we went:
|Here’s Passagio Segreto Chapter One On Vernazza (PDF). Email feedback to email@example.com if you would be so kind :).|
Vernazza and the surrounding Cinque Terra national forest are beautiful. All five towns dotting the coast are worth a visit. Just don’t let the throngs of tourists from 2 to 5pm drive you away, as they nearly did to me upon our arrival.
(We spotted this guy a few times in the little harbor beach. We named him ‘The Mayor’.)
The Cinque Terra is a national forest crossed by numerous trails. In it sit five quaint colorful Italian towns built into cliffs. Keep in mind that this is a popular destination for Americans and Australians. Few Italians seem to know of this place, and even fewer visit. “Oh! The Cinque Terra! Right! – The place where American’s go?” Romans ask, adding, “Yeah, I’ve never been. Is it nice?” … Uh, yeah, it’s gorgeous.
A main trail links all five towns, plus, oodles of trails reach inland, into the national forest. There are lots of great spots to stop and enjoy the scenery.
Vernazza is immeasurably charming. I’d visit again given the chance. For the budget traveler who enjoys climbing stairs (see picture above), money can be saved booking a little room at the top of the Hotel Barbara. Here’s us giggling over lighting strikes. Here are some pictures from my hike behind Vernazza plus our hike south to the other Cinque Terra towns.
People of Vernazza:
Our flat atop the Hotel Barbara
Montorosso (to the north of Vernazza) is a beach town chock full of young partiers. If I was single and in my early twenties I’d stay there. Here are some pictures from the hike north to Montorosso:
Manarola (to the south) We passed through while hiking to Riomaggiore. This would be my second pick after Vernazza. It’s got all the charm but seems smaller. I suspect it may suffer less than Vernazza from douche-bag tourist spillage when the train pulls through.
Corniglia is as lovely as the other towns but vertical. The daily climb up to our Vernazza flat was a trifle compared to the vertical ascents people staying in Corniglia endure.
Riomaggiore. I’d consider staying here too. One odd thing: south of the town had a bit of a WWII nazi vibe.
Videos from the hike south to Riomaggiore:
One such place was the Lover’s walk between Manorola and Riomaggiore. Sweet. Our son snapped a photo of us on the Lover’s walk. It’s in the online picture album. Not bad for a three year old ginger.
|Passaggio Segreto, the book is nearly done. In the meantime, here’s Chapter 2 ‘Florence’.|
If you’re an art history major – make a point to see Florence. Everyone else – it’s probably worth a day trip, but I recommend finding accommodations outside of the town center. If I had to do it over again, I’d stay at an agriturismo out in the country and make small trips into town.
Architecturally, Florence is amazing. The Uffizi museum showcases great works of art. Even the clouds in the sky are just right. But town center is teeming with large groups of day-tripping tourists… and where there are that many day tripping tourists, it just feels icky. Charming cafes with locals are non-existent. Pick-pockets are everywhere, and prices for bottled water or basic sandwiches are astronomical. ‘Locals’ are in the business of extracting as much money from the tourists as possible. It lessens Florence’s charm.
Florence is how I imagine Disney would do Italy. The prices are about the same.
At the Uffizi rooftop cafe:
|Passaggio Segreto is nearly done. In the meantime, take a peek at Chapter 3 – Tuscany|
For one week we drove through Tuscany, seeing San Gimignano, Monteriggioni, Montepulciano, Volterra, Perugia and Foligno. It’s every bit as enchanting a place as I’d imagined. Here are some pictures:
Hill Towns of Tuscany
Foligno – La Maesta Agriturismo
|Passaggio Segreto, the book is nearly done. In the meantime, here’s Chapter 4 ‘Rome’.|
Our Flat in the Trastevere
La Passeggiata (The evening stroll) on our bicycles from Campo Fiori to the Spanish Steps.
Pantheon – Loved it!
Out and About
|Passaggio Segreto, the book is nearly done. In the meantime, here’s Chapter 5 ‘Puglia’.|
Marina Di Andrano
Marina di Andrano is located on the Italian boot heel. We spent a week there after Rome.