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5000 stairsteps, 40 ciao bellas, 12 trains, 8 pizzas, 3 women, 1 report

5000 stairsteps, 40 ciao bellas, 12 trains, 8 pizzas, 3 women, 1 report

Old Jun 11th, 2013, 12:55 PM
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Nikons have often been mentioned when I've asked about nice shots. IPhones are starting to get some attention too.

We're all waiting impatiently for Florence!
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Old Jun 11th, 2013, 04:58 PM
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Cinque Terre was so my favorite. I think we must have been there a week before you. Didn't you love the way they hung laundry? I was so excited when I found a clothes line outside our window in the apartment. We all hand washed some things and hung it out to dry. It is a beautiful place.
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Old Jun 11th, 2013, 05:56 PM
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Bookmarking for a later leisurely read. Looks like a terrific report.
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Old Jun 11th, 2013, 06:13 PM
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Enjoying your report, thank you for posting it! I am glad to read that your daughters loved Rome. I have been many times and it still stuns me with its beauty and liveliness. I will jot down your apartment info; I live in a city and never travel without Tylenol PM, so noise isn't that problematic for me.

Thanks again.
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Old Jun 11th, 2013, 06:43 PM
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Kay,

Really enjoying your trip report. Loved the pictures of the Cinque Terre. It brings back nice memories and it looks like nothing has changed since my visit there in 2000. Especially loved the pic of your daughter with the goat!
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Old Jun 11th, 2013, 07:27 PM
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<<Yes, I finally figured out that for some reason making change is sort of frowned upon in Italy. After a supermarket incident similar to tom18 and the taxi - I finally learned to get change from 10E bills whenever I could and to keep a stash of the 1 and 2 Euro coins.>>

So laughing now... although I wasn't at the time. I was driving from Orvieto to Sorrento and came to a toll booth. I was alone and trying to navigate traffic and had no clue how much the toll was. Gave the attendant a 20 or 50 euro note and he starts yelling at me in Italian. I've no idea what he's saying. Finally after way too long of this, he points to the toll cost and the large note that I'm giving him... I quickly found some smaller notes! But not quick enough for either of us!

Loving your report. Thanks!
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Old Jun 11th, 2013, 07:42 PM
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I seem to pick one thing before every major trip to hyperfocus on and to worry about. Anyone else do this? This time it was train travel. I knew that we would be taking many trains. this was a new experience for all of us and I worried. I worried that we would miss our train, or get on the wrong train, or that we wouldn't be able to lift on our bags, or that we would forget to validate our tickets, or...

I shouldn't have worried. The trains were easy.

We arrived at Termini in plenty of time for our 9:30 departure to La Spezia. I had ordered these tickets in advance. We had time to get a coffee and then stood watching the board for our platform to be announced. As we were standing there we were approached two different times by people wanting to "help" us. We declined both, one actually had the nerve to act offended and aggravated with us. Seriously? Doesn't exactly make me wish that I had walked off with you, guy.

We easily found our car and seats. It was what the girls called a "Harry Potter" train. Separate compartments with 6 seats in each. We were the first ones to arrive and of course we were thinking what most people would have been thinking, "I hope that nobody else sits with us." However we were soon joined by a trio from Indonesia.

This ended up being such a fun and fascinating experience! Within 5 minutes the woman was pulling out snacks to share. We had the best time talking with them for the next three hours. She was from Bali, but now lived part time in Jakarta and part time in New York. She had traveled all around the world. They told us all about Bali and Jakarta and asked a lot of questions about the U.S. One of the guys in the group wanted to know if the restaurant Hooters was still around. Ha!

They started telling us how they had all the American restaurants in Jakarta - KFC, and Taco Bell, and Burger King and McDonalds. I so wanted to try to explain that these don't truly represent America! To tell about all the ethnic restaurants and small family owned restaurants and the things we cook at home and that many people never eat fast food...the girls later mentioned that they were embarrassed that this was the view that much of the world has of what we eat!

E-mail addresses were exchanged as they got off in Pisa. We continued on to La Spezia, detrained, then quickly bought our tickets from the ticket machine - easy! Then it was just a short ride, minutes, to Manarola, our home base in Cinque Terre. The tunnel from the train station in Manarola is long, but we finally emerged into the town. We had rented an apartment through Arbaspaa. They were easy to find, just above the Tabacchi shop in town. A young man named Stefano showed us to our apartment.

We started walking up...and up...and up...pulling our bags up steep ramps and then carrying them up stairs. El gave out first. Stefano took her bag. She was quickly followed by Em. Now Stefano had two bags. Even he was starting to sweat! However, I still was carrying my own bag. Me! The oldest in the group by decades. We finally got to our apartment which was very near the top of the town. There were steep stairs down to our apartment. I suddently felt faint and found myself sitting on the top step with my head down.

One of my daughters came running back to me wracked with guilt, "Mom, I'm so sorry, I should have taken your bag!" I felt better after a moment and was able to get down the stairs and listen to Stefano tell me the details of the apartment.

The apartment was very nice. It was also the most expensive place we stayed. I was late booking rooms for Cinque Terre and the less expensive places were taken so we decided this would be our splurge. It had two bedrooms - which meant I got my own - wonderful. To our surprise it also had two bathrooms - which meant I got my own - even more wonderful. Great wifi, but the very, very best thing was the view! Yes, it was at the top of the hill, but after the climb with the bags the walk up was never again a problem.

We almost immediately went back down into town to Aristide to grab a very late lunch. El decided to try some anchovies. She was not a fan. The rest of the afternoon was spent leisurely exploring Manarola. Cinque Terre had been a "must see" for the girls and they were in love.
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Old Jun 12th, 2013, 05:49 AM
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Yes, that's a great thing about train travel - you can just by chance meet someone and start up a conversation and learn so much about each other. My wife and I were taking the Thalys one day from Paris to Amsterdam and ended up in a compartment with two young men. One was a Dutch student, the other a Frenchman whose parents had immigrated from Vietnam. We talked the whole time from Paris to Amsterdam. Interestingly, the young Dutch guy loved American major league baseball and would listen to games on the Internet. Go figure!
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Old Jun 12th, 2013, 06:07 AM
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Manarola was gorgeous. It didn't hurt that the skies were clear blue - finally - and that the air was warmer - finally! We walked all over Manarola, exploring every little shop and alleyway, went up the hill to the graveyard, down to their little "harbor". The waves were rough! We were so happy with our little town.

That night for dinner we "got cute" as my girls say. Meaning we cleaned up and dressed up a bit. Dinner was at Il Porticciolo. Delicious. We started with pasta shells stuffed with squid. I had sea bass and potatoes. Em had ravioli and lobster, El had trofie with pesto. The food was all very good and so was the service. I definitely recommend this place. As we were nearing the end of our meal I saw Stefano of bag carrying fame pop in and speak with our young, male, waiter.

In a minute the waiter came over and said, "so you just arrived today? Stefano mentioned you." The girls laughing response after he walked away? Great, just great, I'm sure that Stefano is telling everyone about the two horrible American girls who couldn't carry their own bags and didn't help their mom!!! I laughed and suggested that perhaps instead he was telling his friend that two cute girls had arrived in town today, but they weren't buying it.

We lingered over a Nutella tiramisu - yum. It was getting really late and we were in danger of closing down the restaurant so we had no choice but to make the steep trek up to our apartment. The climb was tiring, but I never again felt horrible after doing it. I did ask on several occasions, how long do you think you'd have to live here before you got used to the climb?
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Old Jun 12th, 2013, 06:52 AM
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Oh my yes, DH and I always worried about the wrong things! Still part of the fun of travel! More, please!
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Old Jun 12th, 2013, 04:09 PM
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Today we had plans to hike one of the high trails. We were so excited about it. However, I woke to thunder and rain so I let the girls sleep in. By the time we got out at noon the rain had stopped and the temperatures were warming up a little. We ate lunch at a sandwich place in Manarola and then went to the tourist information near the train station to buy our tickets and get a train schedule. We stared at the schedule blankly for a couple of minutes and then went right back up to the window to ask them to explain how to read it. Once we understood how it worked - piece of cake!

Because we were getting a late start and because the weather was still looking a bit uncertain we decided to do the hike between Vernazza and Monterosso rather than one of the others. This was the only trail between the cities currently open.

Checking our trusty train schedule we realized that we had time to stop in Corniglia, spend a couple of hours there and then catch another train to Vernazza and do the hike. We loved Corniglia! However, I must admit that we were glad that we weren't staying there - the walk up to our apartment was plenty. There are close to 400 stairs to Corniglia, but goodness, it is a beautiful place. Lots of winding, little alleyways, some pretty piazzas tucked away, great views.

We were walking down one of those little alleyways, nobody else around. On one side was a building, on the other a high wall which had a garden at the top. Em and I had already passed by when El exclaimed, (you have to imagine this in a very southern accent) "OH MY GOSH! Y'all!!! There's a goat above my head!" He was on top of the wall glaring at her as if he was expecting her to answer a question in order to pass by. Em and I were dying with laughter - but not laughing so hard that we couldn't snap a few photos.

We had a great time wandering around Corniglia and stopping for an excellent lemon granita. I wish I had written down the name of the place we got it - delicious and refreshing. We were so caught up in our explorations that we almost forgot the time and ended up making a mad dash down all those stairs to catch the train to Vernazza. We came running onto our platform just as the train pulled in.

We didn't spend any time in Vernazza this day - just passed through to the trail. This was a glorious hike and the weather continued to improve as we went along. I'm so glad I did it, but there were moments when I was a little fearful. The path is narrow and the drop off is huge. I was glad we were going towards Monterosso because the hikers were passing on the right and this meant I could hug the wall.

There was one moment when the girls were horsing around a bit and I in a panic told then that they had to stop it RIGHT NOW because I couldn't lose one of them! They humored me. When the trail drops off straight to the ocean there is usually a rail - although not always a particularly sturdy rail - sometimes there was a drop of 6 or 7 feet without a rail. I kept thinking - that's enough of a fall to break an ankle...and what if I kept rolling!? Being middle aged - not always fun.

There are also lots of stairs, you go up, up, up the mountain before you start going down, down, down to Monterosso. There are so many stops for pictures that I didn't find the hike terribly strenuous. We also do a lot of hiking at home with steep bits. However, if you have bad knees or balance issues or fear of heights...this is not the hike for you!
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Old Jun 12th, 2013, 06:56 PM
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I stayed in Corniglia with two girlfriends when we were all, ahem, a bit younger. It was fab. But yes, you need strong legs and lungs for those stairs.
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Old Jun 12th, 2013, 07:11 PM
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TTT
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Old Jun 13th, 2013, 03:04 AM
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Loving your report and pictures! Thanks for sharing!
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Old Jun 13th, 2013, 04:11 AM
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The trail was very narrow in places but oh so beautiful. We had 96 steps to our apartment in Florence but think yours beat us. I got a bit dizzy on the hike and wondered about the elevation there. Could have been your reason for feeling faint. I do want to take my husband back to Cinque Terre. I enjoyed it so much and you have me wanting more!
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Old Jun 13th, 2013, 08:06 AM
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We were looking at an apartment with Arbaspaa too, but ended up going with Arpaiu after we added an extra day and 4 nights weren't available at the one we had chosen with them. That company certainly seems like it was very helpful though.
I'm looking forward to reading all the details of CT since we'll be there in 3 months (I'd better start packing! )
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Old Jun 13th, 2013, 12:17 PM
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Thanks again everyone.

kwren - Arbaspaa was extremely helpful. They were very easy and nice to deal with.

On the down side of the hike towards Monterosso we rounded a corner and found a party going on! About 15 people were gathered around laughing and drinking. A gentleman was selling wine, limoncello, and lemonade on the side of the steep stairs from a little cave-like place on his property. And let me tell you, he was holding court! Entertaining and selling like crazy. It was just an additional little happy moment to our hike. We bought lemonade. No way was I going to drink anything alcoholic and then try to continue on down those stairs.

We spent some time exploring Monterosso and the girls had to get their feet in the sea even though the weather was getting cold again. The town was nicer than I had heard, but we were glad that we hadn't stayed there.

It was on the way back to Manarola that we had our only near miss with a train mistake. We joined many others at the station. The train arrived right on time and we got on along with the rest of the crowd. Almost immediately we realized something was a wrong. It was a train with compartments...and people were reading...and napping...and had a lot of luggage...not typical for a 3 minute train ride between the five cities. We asked, "where is this train going?" and were told, "well, I'm going to Pisa." We realized that we needed to get off of there immediately - so we jostled our way back through the crowds - followed by many others who had made the same mistake.

As we were getting off the train we observed an altercation between a young woman who worked on the train and an older woman - an Italian tourist. As all of us hapless tourists scrambled back off the train the young woman was mumbling angrily under her breath, (in Italian of course) "Jesus Christ." The older Italian woman, who had made the same mistake as many of the rest of us, heard the mumbling and turned and blessed the young woman down in hand gesturing, loud, fast Italian. The gist of her tirade was, "you just need to calm down."

Our train to Manarola arrived a couple of minutes later and whisked us back to our town and the steep climb to our apartment.

Dinner that night was at La Scogliera - it was...meh. Not terrible, but not great. We got gelato afterward which is always a consolation for a mediocre meal. We much preferred Il Porticciolo. I'll admit we were pretty tired so that might have infuenced our feelings about the place.
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Old Jun 13th, 2013, 12:51 PM
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On our last full day in Cinque Terre we woke again to rain and cold and thunder. We had learned to anticipate better weather in the afternoon so we dragged our sleepy, disheveled, selves to Aristide for breakfast and then back up the hill to the apartment to wait out the rain and get ready for the day.

Aristide is a very pleasant little coffee bar plus lots of other things. It became our go to place in Manarola to grab a quick pastry or coffee or small bite to eat. I think that they had dinner as well. They had free wifi and the service was very pleasant. They advertise an English breakfast. As far as I could tell this meant that they had eggs. Still it was nice to have a place to go to get some protein for breakfast.

As anticipated the weather cleared and we went out into a beautiful and much warmer afternoon. We decided not to hike, but rather to explore the towns we hadn't yet seen and to relax a bit in the sunshine. First to Vernazza. Lovely town. More shops and definitely more crowded than Manarola. The girls had the fun experience of walking into an art shop in Vernazza where the owner was watching the Bachelorette on her computer. They talked about the show for quite a while and were able to get caught up on what they had missed. We really enjoyed our time in this town. You could still see ongoing repairs from the landslides, they have done such a great job with their recovery.

We ended up spending several hours in Vernazza including a long, very late lunch at Il Pirata. This was the meal that the girls say they will remember and crave forever. They had gnocchi with gorgonzola pesto sauce. I was seriously afraid that they were going to pick up and lick their plates. Everything here was delicious. Even a simple caprese salad was somehow better than anywhere else. We also had the best desserts of the trip. Some decandant chocolately thing and the best panna cotta I've ever had. It was incredibly creamy and covered in fresh fruit. We ate every single bite of everything we were served. We would have come back for dinner except that the place was completely reserved.

I was told that two brothers own the place, but only one was there. He was an absolute flirt who told every woman who walked in that she was beautiful. We thought it was a little over the top, but not enough to stop us from eating there! He was amusing and most people seemed to enjoy his schtick. However, there was one incident where a young couple came in and the owner told the woman, "you are beautiful, where are you from?" She answered, "America." "No, but where are you from?" the owner insisted. Her response was given curtly and with tightened lips, "My parents were born in Mexico, but *I* am American." She was obviously offended.

From Vernazza is was on to Riomaggiore. I wasn't expecting to like it - not really recommended by most of the guidebooks or even here, but we liked it! We liked seeing people where they lived, children playing in the piazza near the church while their mothers chatted on the stairs, people calling out to one another as they walked around. It was the most lived in of all the villages and very pleasant. Still after visiting and visiting well all of the towns - we like Manarola the best! We were happy with our choice to stay there.

This was a slow and easy day with lots of wandering and snacking and people watching and sitting in piazzas in the sunshine - one of our favorite days of the trip.

Because of our very late lunch we simply got foccacia and a couple of things from the grocery store for dinner and enjoyed our last night in Cinque Terre sitting on our deck and watching the sunset. Gorgeous way to end this part of our journey.
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Old Jun 13th, 2013, 01:30 PM
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Thanks KayTKay, very enjoyable and entertaining report.
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Old Jun 13th, 2013, 01:31 PM
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Nice trip report!
You make me so happy that we chose Manarola as our base!
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