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Trip Report Piedmont, Cinque Terre, Lucca trip report

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Just returned from our fall trip to Italy and wanted to provide an overview of the places we stayed and the great time we had.
We flew from New York to Milan then took the train to Levanto so that we could visit Cinque Terre. Lepanto was a really good choice since it is known as a beach town and it is easy to walk around.
I booked this trip about 10 months ago when I got an awesome roundtrip fare. We had to switch to the Centrale train station from the airport, then take the train to Levanto. Spent a bit of time trying to figure this all out and because of it, had to take a later train.

We stayed at the La Dolce Vita B&B in town. Valeria picked us up at the train station and brought us to her lovely place. Our room and I think 2 others were on the second floor. Also, right out our door was the shared breakfast room and small lounge. She has a high end coffee machine and purchases fresh pastries every day. We communicated using What's App when we had a problem with our electric plug and she was very helpful. Valeria gave dinning suggestions and told us about where to get the train and the boat. Wonderful place to stay but it is near the Duomo and there was lots of bells ringing. Fortunately, we wanted to start our day early, so the 7am ringing didn't really bother us.
Friday when we arrived there was a great wine and cheese craft show in the town square. Home made wines and beer, just wonderful. We ate two nights at Pizzeria L Igea nice, renovated place, good food next to a camping ground.

We caught the 10am boat ride to the Cinque Terre towns the next morning. It was a short walk to the dock. This worked our really well, the weather was beautiful and the towns were fun. We even saw a local wedding, where the bride and groom moved, after the ceremony, to a second floor balcony and tossed candies to the crowd in celebration. We also, exited the boat on one of the towns just in time to see divers from a small but narrow cliff. The towns all were steep to walk and the shops seemed to have the same touristy items but it was fun anyway. The one town we couldn't get to by boat was Corniglia. We took the train there the second day climbed up the zigzag stairs past all kinds of lemon, olive and pomegranate trees to a small lovely town. We continued our walk to a cliff side park and sat there of almost 2 hours relaxing. Me with my knitting, my husband with his crossword puzzles.
Looked like there was an abandoned marina down below. Really beautiful.

Next, we took the train to La Spezia and rented a car. Beware, they do not give out maps!! We opted not to buy GPS but we had one Michelin map I had purchased from home and discovered our phone GPS works even if we have it on airplane mode.

As recommended by a friend, we traveled to Carrrara and went to the largest old Marble quarries for a tour. It was the one that was built inside a train tunnel. Very cool and you could get a bite to eat there as well. We had the vege quiche, delicious! We stopped at a local tourist store on the way up the mountain to ask the tour bus operators there how to get to the quarry. Four tunnels later, we were there.

Lots of driving, lots of hills both to the quarry and then to our next stop Barga. Our plan was to stay in Lucca for two nights and traveled this way to see a bit of country side. It was a beautiful ride. You could see many vistas and even see the sea in the distance where they used move the marble by train, in order to transport it all around the world.

Unfortunately, we didn't made it to the upper or walled part of Barga, I was a bit overwhelmed with information at this point and didn't read my notes. The ride was amazing though.

We followed the signs to Lucca, We stayed at Villa Romantica I remember I had looked at the inn on google earth and saw that it was near a large stadium. So,of course, we followed the signs for the stadium and just asked at a gas station for our inn. We were two blocks away, amazing. Surprisingly private place because of the gardens and trees they planted. The breakfast was delicious and an easy walk to town. We walked into the walled city that evening.

Next day we took a walk on the top of the wall and met our private tour guide, Wanda Martinelli. She was amazing, I highly recommend her. We were with her for three hours, where she gave us a wonderful understanding of the history of the city, details about the cathedrals, recommendations for where to eat and where to shop!! Well worth it. The next morning we didn't want to leave Lucca so we visited one of the Mansions, Masi Via Galle Tassi, ate gelato at De Colteli on Via San Paolino and had chick pea pizza at Pizzeria da Felice,( best pizza in Lucca according to Wanda)

Next up Alba, At Wanda's suggestion we stopped in Pietro Santo at the Sculpture Museum. Amazing place (free) where we viewed castings both small size and big. The real finished ones are on display all around the world.

It took us a couple of hours to get to Alba. We stayed at the Villa La Meridiana. It is on a hill where you could walk to the town of Alba. Beautiful place with a kitchen. Breakfast in another building. At this point we were getting a bit wary of the same breakfasts but they had a bowl of oranges and other fruit was I enjoyed.

We were here for five nights and visited all the usual towns plus more undiscovered towns. Things that stood out were the tower in Barbarresco,, Nieve (love it) and Asti (big city). We bought some homemade almond cake and Barolo chocolate. In Neive, we at e at the Borgo Neive Vecchio. One of our best meals in a small local place. Pasta with sage and butter.

Saturday we went truffle hunting at Tre Arte e Querce in Monchiero. The drive there was beautiful. We hunted in their private forest with Phillipi and dog Lola. As recommended on Fodors, we had a lovely lunch outdoors. Our friends, who were traveling in the same area, met us for lunch. Amazing food.

That after noon we traveled to La Morra and Barola and I think, Monteforte Alba. Every town has a castle, a tower and at least one cathedral. Took lots of pictures. Great fun exploring.

Next day we drove to the winery Vietti for a wondering tour and description of the history and wine. We did a tasting and tried to ship some wine home but they told us the customs laws had changed and we were not able to do that. We bought two bottles to take home in our luggage at least.

Since we already went to La Morra and Barolo we visited Vicoforte and Mondovi. Both really authentic non touristy towns. Lovely local lunch in Vicoforte where there was the typical Italian family with Nona and grandkids having their Sunday afternoon dinner. Lovely to watch.

Since did so much driving yesterday, we stayed at the Truffle festival in Alba most of the day. It was interesting. We met friends for lunch and bought some spinach from the market to cook up at the Inn. We were able to walk there and back both during the day and in the evening. The Truffle evening fair was completely different. Lots of fun games involving bottles of wine with food such as truffles and pasta of course. We had sausage sandwiches and gelato. I loved watching how nicely dressed all the young ladies were.

Mondovi was having a chestnut roasting festival. They had big iron pots over wood fires where the town men were cooking the chestnuts. They were so friendly to us. They found us an english speaking person who spent lots of time telling us what to see in the town. The clock tower with the panoramic view, the many sundials, the cathedral with the special "perspective" ceiling and the funicular. As someone named Edwardo gave us a glass of his homemade Nebbiolo, I asked why was everyone being so kind? He said they didn't get many folks from New York visiting their town and were honored to have us. Ah the Italians, gotta love them. We followed the signs for Cuneo and went to a recommended restrurant called Il Caminetto Pizzeria and Ristorante. Via Sant'Anna 84 Mondovi. Amazing food, and service. They spoke very little English and it was really fun to communicate with their family. Every where we went the wines were amazing.

That's about it, We left early in the morning and drove to the Milan airport about 2 hours from Alba.
and took a 9 hour flight home.

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