Showing posts with label riomaggiore. Show all posts
Showing posts with label riomaggiore. Show all posts

An afteroon at Pisa

Being exhausted from last evening we got up bit late and had very good breakfast before hitting the road. According to our itinerary, distance to be covered was long one as our hotel was booked at Florence.

We took train to La Spezia, it was a crowded, got packed with each passing stations of Cinque Terre but became empty as soon as we crossed Riomaggiore. We had to wait a bit at La Spezia as train was coming from north was late. We heard trains in Italy sometime get delayed by few minutes to hours.

On our way to Florence we planned to visit the amazing 180 feet high Leaning Tower of Pisa - stop for taking pictures as we were crunched with time for visiting top sights.

doumo-pisa

At Pisa, we left our luggage at locker room of railway station went to “Duomo” by local bus, which was a quick way to get a glimpse of this old city. Pisa is also known for its famous university. As soon as we got down from bus we found the entrance was packed with hawkers and souvenir shops. It is a pretty common site in Italy to find people from North African countries trying to lure tourist with fake designer bags to sunglass.

After years of restoration leaning tower of Pisa now allows visitors to climb up 500 plus stairs to get a breath taking view and unique experience. But there was a small catch – we were told to wait for next five hours for our turn to come. With exhausted legs from yesterday’s hiking and dampened by the long queue we dropped the idea.

The Baptistery

In the same campus there are three other key buildings which was also build around the same time. The bell tower only looks leaning once it is referenced against it surrounding. We started with the cathedral (duomo) influenced by Byzantine architecture with magnificent red tiles on the top.

After that we visited Baptistery- famous for its acoustics. And we were very fortunate to witness the same. There was a group visiting the same at the same time and one among them sang beautifully. Though we did not understand any words what that gentleman was singing but we experienced the power of music. It was a superb impromptu performance as every one inside stopped and made sure there was pin drop silence.

From there we went Camposanto (cemetery) which are guarded together by wall called as Field of Miracles. As we have nothing much to do we tried plenty of pictures where we tried to give a push or hold the tower ;)

Baptistery-Pisa-santanu-small

Back at station we picked luggage and boarded train to Florence. The view from the train was superb as we crossed the Arno River few times. The lush green of wheat fields with mountains at backdrop were very scenic with sun setting in west.

Arno river is very famous river as it flows through the famous Tuscany region. To some Arno divides Italy in north and south as there is vast political and socio-economical difference in those two parts.

TIP: European trains are very particular in time not fit for people following Indian stretchable time. It’s always better to have some time in hand as they close the doors of train 5 minutes before departure.

Cinqueterre – Mediterranean nirvana

We got up early had a quick breakfast and dragged our bags to Milan Central Station; bought our ticket for next destination “Cinqueterre” - refers to five small villages (Corniglia, Manarola, Monterosso al Mare, Riomaggiore and Vernazza) - cling to the rugged mountains along Mediterranean coastline with breath taking view.

cinque_terre

This UNSECO heritage site is not on the main train line or motor-way that connects Milan to Rome. To get there, we have to cross the mountain to reach the western side of Italy. Need to change train at Genoa- known for its pesto sauce and native place of Columbus. It is said that as the western side of the Liguria hills gets the best sun light which is perfect for tomato and basil. As we had to change train from main line to local line we could only get glimpse from train.

There are special trains from Levanto to La Spezia which stops in these five villages. As I write down about different trains lines I am sure you got an idea how remote these little villages are ; yes they are really small villages. Tourist attraction has not yet turned them into mini town.

hotel-levanto

Cost of hotels in those five small villages were enormous so we booked hotel at Levanto, north of Cinqueterre a small village with sandy beach, bustling day-time markets. Later, while exchanging travel notes with friends we found Levanto was a better choice in terms of food, spacious room and most importantly price and service.

After checking into the hotel in afternoon we rushed back to the rail-station to head towards the south most station Riomaggiore. We got one day “Cinque Terre Card” that allowed us to hike and ride public transport in Cinqueterre. This small amount helps to maintain this National Park.

The best way to explore Cinqueterre is to hike the trails between the 5 villages; there are other numerous trail which connects vineyards and sea. Of course, there are public transport or ferry to hop between villages.

 Hiking at cinque terre

We planned to hike south to north in one go; the distance between Riomaggiore to Monterosso al Mare is 12kms, a lot of the trail is steep and rocky. The hike started with steep stairs leading to famous Via dell’Amore, (which needs no translation I hope - Path of love). The walk from Riomaggiore to Manarola is the easiest which takes about 15-20 minutes depending on how long you stop to gaze at the view! It is paved all the way and fairly flat.

The next section of the walk is from Manarola to Corniglia ( 3km long and takes about 1 hour). Parts of this trail are pretty easy, but it is steeper at times, the ground is sometimes uneven. The most exhausting part of this section is at the end. As you arrive at Corniglia train station there are also signs to reach secluded or public beach along the way. That means you need to hike down to the sea. The station is located by the sea side, while the town of Corniglia is on top of the hill which is connected by long flight of stairs!!!

The section between Corniglia and Vernazza is most scenic part passing through vineyards, fragrant herb bushes and rocky outcrops with spectacular views. It took about 1.5 hours to complete, though we stopped quite a bit to admire the views and took some breathe.

Cinque Terre

Toughest section is between Vernazza and Monterosso with lots of ups and downs and steep stairs. It is a real bridle path which unwinds itself by the seaside.

From here, we returned back to Levanto by train full of sun-burned tourists.

TIP: Need good pair of shoes to avoid weary legs and hiking pole will save your knees. We hiked this part in late afternoon as we were crunched with time but will advice to start in the morning so that you take more frequent stops to admire the beauty and give rest to your legs and lungs.

At the end, we almost had to run as we were not prepared for hiking in dark and it was only us on that trail. You can spend few days in these villages to unwind and explore churches and other historic buildings if those interest you. </p