September 16, 2013
Another early morning start, we packed up our backpacks full of leather souvenirs from the Florence leather market, we made our way to our next destination with a quick stop over in the city of Pisa.
Pisa is one of those cities that every traveler who sets foot in Italy must see at one point or another. The city’s famous leaning tower is one of the most recognized symbols of Italy, so it makes sense that it’s so high on most visitors’ to-do lists.
We had no problem checking our bags at the station for our side trip to visit the Leaning Tower and enjoy a quick lunch break.
The Leaning Tower of Pisa – While this is what we all call this tower, it was really just the bell tower for the big cathedral (the one that never seems to get any attention) next to it. Sometimes you can climb it, sometimes it’s structurally unsound. It’s kind of a coin toss. And FYI, buying tickets to climb the leaning tower before you go is a good idea.
Duomo – The cathedral next to the leaning tower is beautiful both inside and out, and it’s surrounded by some of the greenest grass you’ll ever see. The piazza, incidentally, is called the Campo dei Miracoli – or Field of Miracles.
Baptistery – On the opposite side of the cathedral from the tower, this is the largest baptistery in the entire country. The acoustics inside are amazing, and if the folks working there are in a good mood they might demonstrate for you with a song.
After a quick bite to eat we were back on the train on our way to the beautiful Cinque Terre.
This was one of the original motivations to plan this whole backpacking adventure. If you never heard of the place I highly recommend you google it now! This is one place I know with out a doubt I will be returning to. It was more than I could have imagined!
(CHINK-weh TAY-reh, which means “five lands”)
The Cinque Terre, while most often described as one place, is actually five villages on a remote stretch of the Riviera coastline, connected by hiking trails, a slow-moving train, and a ridiculously windy road. Each town is a variation on the same theme: a pastel jumble of homes, undisturbed by traffic or modern development.
The villages are, starting from the northernmost one, Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore. The coastline, the five villages, and the surrounding hillsides are all part of the Cinque Terre National Park and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The town of Vernazza really stood out to me while I did my research months ago. Colorful, antique homes cling to impossible cliffs. A lovely small harbor nestles under the shadows of an ancient castle and a dramatic seaside church.
Vernazza has the only proper harbor in the Cinque Terre and is a charming, small fishing village. Vernazza was founded about 1000 A.D. Vernazza’s medieval castle towers above the harbor and was built in the mid-1500’s, primarily to protect the village from pirates.
The Village is surrounded by very steeply-terraced Olive groves which are said to produce among the finest Olive oil in the country. It is also home to a hidden path though a cave brings that leads you to a lovely sandy beach. Vernazza is a quaint, tiny place, with a population of about 1,000
On October 25, 2011, Vernazza was struck by torrential rains, massive flooding and mudslides that left the town buried in over 4 meters (over 13 feet) of mud and debris, causing over 100 million euro worth of damage. The town was evacuated and in a state of emergency for many months. Vernazza has returned and with hard work and help from people around the world it is open to travelers again. Most of the shops and restaurants are back in business and as lovely as ever.
Rooms La Torre
Finding our guesthouse was not a challenge, but getting there was! We climbed well over 300 to meet up with the owner Andrea Carro. We were warned about the steps but were promised an incredible view. ‘incredible’ does not serve this view justice. It was simply breathtaking. Our room was under a mid-evil fort at the very top of the village, almost carved right into the rock cliffs. An apartment with a small living room, a bedroom with the double bed, a private bathroom with the shower and our very own private terrace overlooking the town and the Mediterranean sea! A cascading cliff to the left with the roaring and crashing sea, the tower and vineyards behind us, the churches, the colorful village, the cove and castle on the horizon. A slice of heaven even with dark clouds rolling in! The sea breeze was warm and the sky was dramatic as we unpacked and ventured back down the hill into town to explore.
The fishing village is very charming with all of its shops and wonderful restaurants and their colorful umbrellas lining the streets. Children challenged adults to a game of Foosball along the harbor and cats lazed around in the fleeting evening sun. The water was rough that day and a crowd gathered on the other side of the breakwater to watch the wave crash against the cliffs.
We sat down at a table along the waterfront and browsed the menu for our first meal in Cinque Terre. We had a great conversation with the couple next to us from the US. They had just visited a few places on our itinerary and they were full of wonderful tips and advise! The food was delicious, the company was entertaining and the scenery was magical!