Friday, May 10, 2013

Every Mile A Memory ( Part 2 ) Livorno to Cinque Terre

Buon Giorno !!

I tried to get a shot of the sunrise today in our balcony but I was not successful... the temperature was around 13 degrees. It felt like it was 10 degrees with the wind factor on our balcony. We arrived at Livorno, Italy at 7:00am. We had to get dressed, eat breakfast at the Lido buffet and run down to the Vista Lounge to get our bus schedule. Our shore excursion today was Cinque Terre which is approximately a 9 hour tour.

The trip to Cinque Terre from the port in Livorno took 1 1/2 hours with a pitstop at Auto Grill. The Auto Grill is my favorite pitstop while driving through the autostrada. They have restrooms, good coffee, newspapers, great maps, sometimes a sit-down restaurant. Most Autogrill stops are designed with the same layout. You enter into the cafe,  the restrooms are nearby. 

At the cafe you first go to the cashier to pay. For breakfast there are fresh pastries and croissants. They have good sandwiches. Go look at what's available at the counter - the sandwiches all have names. I had a prosciutto crudo. 

Then go to the cashier and tell him/her what you want, pay and take the receipt to the service counter to get your food/beverages. There are also items you can buy at the Auto Grill :

For wine lovers --- try out their Valpolicella or Montepulciano d' Abruzzo. There are more expensive brands like Barolo and Brunello di Montalcino. The Brunello di Montalcino is one of the most famous and prestigious wines of Italy. It is made out of Sangiovese grapes grown on the slopes of Montalcino --- a classic Tuscan village south of Sienna. 

Parmagiano Reggiano or " Italian hard cheese". There are other Italian cheeses you can try which are  Aged Asiago, Pecorino, Fontina, Romano and Provolone. However the better known cheeses are Mozarella and Ricotta.

Limoncello - One of the most famous after-dinner drink ( called digestivo ) in Italy. Limoncello is also the pride and joy of Italy’s Campania and Liguria regions. If you’ve ever had a sip of this sweet, almost fluorescent-yellow liqueur you would know that it’s not like any other digestivo. Limoncello isn’t sour or bitter, it’s tangy and refreshing. It’s also balanced between acidity and sweetness. The best limoncellos don’t burn your throat, neither are they sickly sweet. Other after-dinner drinks in Italy are Amaretto di Saronno, Sambucca and Frangelico. 

Prosciutto - There are two categories of prosciutto, one is "  cotto  " ( cooked ), while the other is "  crudo " meaning raw but seasoned. The best quality of Prosciutto is San Daniele del Fruli. The prosciutto from San Daniele is sweet with a full bouquet and a lingering aftertaste. This delicacy is best shaved thin and consumed with bread or grissini, perhaps combined with a small amount of fresh soft cheese, to appreciate its sweetness. Another brand is Prosciutto di Parma. The prosciutto from Parma is savory. It can support sauteing while retaining its distinct taste.

different  Italian dry salamis

After our pitstop at the Auto Grill -- we proceeded to our destination... Cinque Terre. Our bus took us to Portovenere. It is a typical fishing town. Beautiful views, nice atmosphere, plenty of small shops with local produce. I just felt bad that when we visited Portovenere and Cinque Terre --- it was drizzling the whole time and Lulu got drenched in the rain. 

Portovenere is so "Old Italian", colourful, interesting and full of history. Portovenere’s waterfront is a colorful hodgepodge of narrow tower houses. Portovenere is a truly scenic seaside resort which can be reached by bus from La Spezia.

Trattorias, enotecas and bars line the bottom floor of the buildings. A walk through the old quarter, which consists of a main narrow street, is like taking a stroll in a different epoch, full of timeless charm--- old liquor shops and taverns, shops selling spices and herbs and a lot of artisan shops. 

We walked till we reached the St. Peter the Apostle cathedral. The old church high on the point overlooking the strait was well worth the climb  Out of the rock, the church of Peter the Apostle looms above us. According to our guide, this church is not functional anymore. They use it for weddings these days. 

We walked down to the harbor to take a ferry taxi to Cinque Terre ..

( courtesy of google maps )

The best view while taking photos on a ferry taxi is always at the deck. Although it was drizzling, Lulu and I went to the deck to take our photos.  

Cinque Terre consists of five beautiful hillside towns (Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, Monterosso) on the west coast of Italy. This portion of the Italian Riviera is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Cars aren't allowed,  you can take local trains or ferries to go from town to town or walk one of the spectacular trails that connect them.



Corniglia -  is located about 100-meter high up on a hill. According to our guide, there are two choices to go to the village: to climb a steep 400-step stairway, or to walk uphill following a vehicular road towards the village. Corniglia is the quietest village in Cinque Terre. It is less touristy and more peaceful. 

We visited 2 of the famous villages of Cinque Terre. Vernazza  and Monterosso. We were supposed to have a tour to walk along Via dell' Amore  ( the path of Love ) but it was not opened at that time. 

Vernazza - Vernazza is beautiful. With its colorful buildings and breathtaking views of the sea, how could it not be? A quaint and charming little village that seems to have just sprouted on the shore out of the Mediterranean sea and onto the sea-side cliffs. The houses were old, but colorful; the alleys were narrow and steps were steep. The character this little town has is almost too good to be true! It's just beautiful ...

Vernazza is a charming village tumbling down the hillside to a little harbor - it looked like a painting that comes alive before you. Stunning, no photos can do it justice. 

Monterosso - is probably the largest village in Cinque Terre. The village is divided into two parts: the old town and the new town, which are separated by a tunnel that accommodates pedestrians and cars. We toured the village by walking, checked out some local shops. This is where we had our lunch at Ristorante Belvedere. 

The old town

The city hall of Monterosso.  There is a piazza outside the door of the City Hall, which hosts band concerts and other functions throughout the year. 

The church of San Francesco  that was devastated by the floods but recently renovated once more. 

The new town is where we walked to passing a tunnel to a new and a modern scenery of Monterosso. We took the train on top of the hill to get back to La Spezia where we will catch our bus to take us back to the Livorno port. The train ride from Monterosso to La Spezia was 25 minutes stopping in all the other villages of Cinque Terre. 

 Each of the five Cinque Terre villages are beautifully unique in their own way. The way in which the village seems to tumble down to its harbour sets it apart. The charm, beauty and atmosphere was not spoilt by the many tourists. The narrow streets, the colourful houses and the many restaurants create a wonderful ambience. I would like to think that I liked Vernazza the best of these villages of Cinque Terre. 

I would certainly recommend to take the beautiful tour to Cinque Terre to travelers who prefer a less stressful holiday than one in the main cities. Cinque Terre is full of the typical colours of Italy, especially for those who can pick out the more subtle hues of the Liguria.


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