CINQUE TERRE, LINGUIA
Cinque Terre is one of my favorite places in Italy. It is made up of 5 coastal towns (Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, Monterrosso). You can get to these towns by a boat (from La Spezia via Portovenere) and train. You can also hike on a trail that connects the towns. It is perhaps less crowded than some parts of the Amalfi coast which are comparable in beauty.
Unfortunately, we chose to visit Cinque Terre on a busy holiday weekend, so the closest accommodations we could get to Cinque Terre is Portovenere. We stayed at the Royal Sporting Hotel. This hotel offers spa treatments including Turkish baths. This is where I had my first (and most likely my last) Turkish bath. I love heat and sitting in a sauna, but Turkish baths are the extreme. It was not as relaxing as I thought it would be. However, I relaxed plenty on the beautiful ocean view balcony. Most of the rooms at this hotel have ocean view balconies.
From there, it was easy to take the ferry to Cinque Terre. We had amazing weather. We had a lunch picnic on the rocks in Riomaggiore, met other some fascinating people from South Africa in Vernazza and on the last day we took a final stroll through Portovenere. On our stroll, we had the most delicious dish for lunch. We stopped in La Bottega del Pesto. They served us a dish called Trofie al Pesto into a large cup that we could eat on the go. I would not go to this area without trying Trofie.
A big event happened in the Catholic church in 2014. Pope Francis canonized two former popes, John Paul II and John XXIII, in a ceremony at St. Peter’s in Vatican City on April 27. Close to a million people made the journey to Rome for the ceremony. My husband and I did the same.
We spent the day before the ceremony touring Rome. We were prepared for a rainy weekend but got mostly sunny skies instead. We found Rome a very walkable city. From our hotel near the train station, we walked to the Colosseum and continued in the steps of Julius Caesar in the Roman Forum. We used Rick Steves’ free audio guide on our phones as we walked through the Forum. We then used another of Rick Steves’ free audio guides at the Pantheon, which was extremely crowded. We then climbed the Spanish Steps and had over-priced drinks at Hotel Hassler. It was worth it though to imagine that I was sitting in the same spot as Audrey Hepburn did during the filming of Roman Holiday. We then continued the adventure with one last stop to throw a coin into the Trevi Fountain. It was a full day for sure.
The next morning we got up very early to start our walk to Vatican City. We got as far as Castel Sant’Angelo (still a good distance from St. Peter’s Square) before the we hit the massive crowds. So many people from so many different countries gathered together to hear Pope Francis honor previous beloved popes. I had never seen anything like it. The ceremony was beautiful though the rain that was predicted finally came. Once the ceremony concluded the crowds left Vatican City, so we ventured to St. Peter’s Square. There was still a large line of people waiting to get into St. Peter’s Basilica, so we did not go inside, but it was nice to just walk around the empty square and look at the amazing architecture.
During the month of May, Trenitalia was running a 2 for 1 deal on non-regional train tickets on Saturdays. We utilized this deal by taking a day trip to Genoa (Genova). In the morning we took a tour of Palazzo Reale. We took our time and had the place to ourselves for most of the morning. The gardens are beautiful but the beauty is diminished by modern development right up to the property line. I imagine that at one point there was nothing between the palace gardens and the ocean waters but now there is.
After visiting Palazzo Reale, we took a walk along the waterfront. We came upon the aquarium (Acquario di Genova), which is the largest in Italy. I can’t even remember the last time I went to an aquarium. I enjoyed it immensely. I stared at the sharks for a long time.
After the aquarium, we walked to the San Lorenzo Cathedral, Santo Stefano Church and Christopher Columbus’ Home. Our last stop was to sit and people watch in Piazza de Ferrari before taking the train back home.
We continued taking advantage of the 2 for 1 train deal by traveling to the region of Emilia-Romagno. I had two reasons for wanting to see Bologna. The first being that I had read a lot about the delicious foods found in there. There are very few times in my life when I can honestly say that I explored a new city for the food. This was definitely one of those times. It was worth the trip. The food was in fact amazing. We had lunch at Tamburini near Piazza Maggiore and the Neptune’s Fountain (Fonatana di Nettuno). The dining experience was amazing. It was a cafeteria style restaurant where you put what you want on a tray, pay, and then sit down and eat. I, of course, had to try their tortellini (specialty in Bologna) and we shared a carafe of delicious San Giovese wine that was poured from a tap. One day, my house will have wine flowing from a tap.
My second reason for going to Bologna was to take some pictures of the arcades. The arcades are an architectural covering that continues for miles. (See picture below). We walked for miles and miles in the arcades. They extend outside of the central more active part of Bologna, so it can be a very peaceful walk.
Don’t miss walking through Montagnola Park, climbing Asinelli’s Tower (two towers), and visiting cathedrals like Cathedral of San Pietro, Basilica of San Petronio, and Basilica of Santo Stefano.