Tuesday 8th August 2017
We said our farewells to beautiful Villa Violetta, and to the delightful neighbours, Auriana, Danilo and their daughter Daniela, with many promises to return and partake of extreme hospitality.
And off we sped, in our trusty little Panda, to the Cinque Terre, via Lucca.
We only had time for a swift lunch and a photo of a grand church and of a grand composer – Giacomo Puccini, Lucca’s most famous son. (We saw photos and he does indeed look like his statue, I am happy to report.)
I climbed onto the high wall surrounding the town and saw, in a pit, some mysterious life-size horses. In a hurry…no time to find out…and Google hasn’t helped. Anyone? Are they ancient, or someone’s high school art project?
As we sped along the autostrada – Pandas can go FAST!! – we saw impressive white mountains . Snow?? No! Carrara marble! No wonderful majestic photos, just a quick shot from a speeding Panda…(We do not let grass grow under our feet!)
|Mountains with contrails!|
Arrived in La Spezia, a large town, with the adjoining village one of the Cinque Terre…we were befuddled and bewildered. Hadn’t done sufficient research on how to manage to five towns with…a Panda!
So we drove along the glorious steep winding mountain road we looked anxiously down into the valleys – what to do, where to go?? In the end we plunged down down down, feeling like Tour de France riders. WHEEE! (We were a bit worried how our Panda was going to get back up…the answer was – in first gear all the way!!)
And now what? Well…there was a car park. 15 euros per day (approx. $22). But worth it! Because along with parking came…a free shuttle van down to the town.
After a few expensive sallies we found Giuseppe, very happy to let us have a room right in the centre of the main area, near the little black beach.
Only $90…about half what a room with a view. Or a window…would command. But we loved our room; it was spacious and had facilities – WiFi, a fridge, a lovely shower, a whirring fan. Perfecto! And only 32 steps from ground level – most rooms are several hundred steps, steep and stoney.
OK in daylight and sunlight…Margot wrote on Facebook that the whole time they were in Cinque Terre it rained. I can’t even imagine! The pathways must be waterfalls!
Christopher and Anastasia at the bar where we had cocktails – on their honeymoon, very happily married after only knowing each other for there months. She is Russia and and works in Shanghai where she lives with her teenage children; he is American and lives in Las Vegas. I think they will be just fine; they were delightful!
I found a lovely shop opposite the café where we had our morning coffee. Selling dresses exactly like mine, which cost 10 euros in Sansepolcro. So how much in the Cinque Terre?? Why…69 euros thank you very much! (SHOCK!) So the Italian mamas and their families are probably making a mozza from the hordes.
We met a young Chinese couple along the way, who asked us to take photos of them against the stunning backdrop. I hopped to it and took far and near photos while Pete smiled benignly. They were very happy and said, in slow Chinglish… “When we are very old, like you two, we hope we are as lovely!” BLINK…yes I know we really are old but…we still feel very youthful and it is always a bit chastening to see how ancient we appear to the Chinese in particular.
Our first night in Vernazza we had dinner high up on a terrace, and I took Pete in to meet the Boss Mama because when I went to pay with my card she sent me off – cash only! (But…we could come back any time; all of the Italians we have met thus far are kindly and generous and easygoing.)
Europeans seem to love their animals and the whole system is geared to being kind and helpful to our companion pets. They are allowed in restaurants, on trains and buses, in cafes and shops. It makes me realised how rigid and severe we are in Australia…And everyone clears up the poo; it is not an issue!
|Beloved Tino travels in a pram and is hand-fed|
Early on in Vernazza I asked if I could take a photo of a lovely (hot) dog in Riomaggiore. Sure thing; his owner was a very nice French man. We came to know him and his wife and daughters very well because…we ran into them everywhere! In Riomaggiore; back in Vernazza; up near the battlements; down on the terraces…in the same café at lunch! At lunchtime I asked him who was following whom and he said he had been wondering the same thing…
We caught the train to Riomaggiore, which is just as cute and beautiful as Vernazza. There is a steep and rocky “beach” in the blazing sun where people happily bake, swim, and disport themselves. Pete and I were like Afghan shade-seeking spiders, creeping along from shadow to shadow – how do these cheery Europeans manage to lie sizzling in the sun for hours on end?? It was VERY hot! And very sunny!
I was fascinated to read about the pirate incursions into these Cinque Terre towns. It must have been frightful, seeing the ships zooming in and feeling powerless as the pirates leapt in to loot and plunder and pillage.
We caught the ferry back from Riomaggiore to Vernazza, so we could admire the coastline. But…it was far too hot for us to sit outside where we could see the view.
So I found a new bestie…Sandra, from Perth. We covered a lot of ground during our 30 minutes together… She was on holiday in Italy with her lovely son, a consultant physician, who had given her, for her 65th birthday, a business class return ticket to Italy and the promise of many weeks travel with him in this beautiful country. (He was outside, in the the sunshine…)
When we got back to Vernazza it was…HOT! And I didn’t have my entire bathing costume…I only had a bikini top and bottom and not a singlet to cover the middle. (We had left most of our stuff in Panda on the Hill.) Nobody EVER sees my middle…It is not totally ghastly but it is 67 years old and not for public viewing. Except…I thought…
- · I will never see any of these people again
- · And nobody will be looking at me
So down I went, with a dress over my bathers, and…off with the dress, straight into the warm soupy sea off the little black beach! And oh it was delightful! I bobbed around with a whole lot of people, none of whom were looking at me (of course!) There were large rollypolly Italian mamas, gorgeous young chickybabies; young men; children. All just bobbing around cooling down and looking at the beautiful little town.
We had dinner in the closest restaurant and met a whole tableful of lovely South Africans – Heike, Johan, Daniel (baby), Andre, Chrizelle. Maybe they will all come and stay in Tasmania!
So today we zoomed back along the autostrada, not without a few *cough* navigation issues…But here we are back in beautiful (HOT!) Arezzo and tomorrow we are catching an early train to Naples, heading for the Amalfi Coast.
As I said…the grass does not grow beneath our feet!!
PS one more issue – not happy Jan! I bough 16 postcards to send off to Australia and got them for 30 cents each (about 60 cents Aus.) All well and good. But…when I went to the post office the lovely official sucked in her breath and said, EXPENSIVA! Indeed! Two euros ninety cents for each stamp! It cost me well over $50 to send them! Not really worth it…I don’t even know if anyone loves postcard THAT much! What is it with postal services?? Postage from England was eye-wateringly expensive as well!