July 1, 2014
Since the Cinque Terre region was known for its hiking, and we had only completed one hike given the rest of the coastal path was under construction due to the floods of 2011 and 2013, I opted for one last hike before we left this morning.
I walked down the ten stories of stairs in to town for a coffee and croissant only to find breakfast places in Manarola are not open before 7am…neither was the grocery store. The path to Volastra, 0.55 KM, was estimated to take 30 mins according to the posted sign.
I started out on the route by the trekking store. It began with stairs. I climbed past the farmed terrain of mostly grapes and tomatoes up to a path directly across from our apartment. I crossed over the path and continued up more stairs as I followed a cable car route up the mountain past Manarola’s world famous nativity scene which is lit up for approximately two months over the winter and past shrines to Mary and other saints that were prevalent in every town.
Eventually I reached a path that turned to the right and was level for a few hundred yards as it led me by workers in the vineyards and old stone buildings. I thought I had finally reached the the top. Not so. A sign led me to the left up more stairs which continued the rest of the way. I wouldn’t be surprised if I climbed 1,000 stairs. Upon reaching Volastra at the top of the mountain, I hoped to enjoy a coffee and croissant. Again, I found nothing open, but I did find a church!
I continued on the path to Corniglia for just a bit because I wanted to see Manarola below. I finally got a view. It was a long way away! As I walked back down, a local was running the stairs…WOW. I took the loop path, so returning was a less steep grade that crossed the road a few times and then followed the river. It was pleasant, but not as pretty as the steep way up which I’ve learned in Italy also seems to be called “panoramic”.
The shops were finally open, so I grabbed us breakfast and ventured back up to our abode to enjoy our patio view one last time before we ventured to Pisa and then Rome past fields of sunflowers.
Pisa was a fly by trip. We stopped to see the leaning tower and to have lunch. While the tower is famous for its “leaning”, it is also unique in that when constructed it was not attached to or erected near the church. While it is not the only example, it is rare.
The tower is made of limestone and is divided into eight segments called orders. A spiral staircase, with 293 steps, reaches six open galleries, an inner shaft closed by a vault and belfry at the top. We didn’t wait in the long line to climb the tower, but instead snacked on a pizza lunch before making the four drive to Rome’s airport to drop off our rental car.
Eventually we made it into parking garage B. All I could think of are the folks on the Amazing Race. I think we’ve been lost almost everyday…only by a few feet at times, but still circling!
Our Taxi driver was awesome. He took us directly to our Hotel S. Anna located next to the Vatican. A taxi ride from the airport is a flat 48 euro. We could have taken a subway and a bus for cheaper, but didn’t feel like lugging our bags around Rome! Our hotel was lovely with sizable rooms and a nice bath.
We freshened up and took a 30 minute walk to Campo di Fiori, a lively piazza. The Argentinians just scored in the World Cup, so chants of Messi were echoing from the restaurant patios eventhough he didn’t score. We found a restaurant recommended by Rick Steves, Trattoria der Pallaro, just off the beaten path, that serves you whatever they want for 25 euro. Wine, water, and an after dinner liqueur are included. We got plates full of surprises…tomatoes, mozzarella, lentils, bread, prosciutto, rice balls, two types of pasta, pork, salad, potato chips and pie. It was a feast and fun!
We finished up just in time to saunter back to Campo di Fiori to join the USA and Belgium crowds cheering for their respective teams. It was a valiant effort and at least the extra time was good, but the USA couldn’t claim victory. I suppose I will root for Belgium to win the World Cup. They looked pretty good, especially with one of their best players out. We strolled back to the hotel after midnight and stopped at Piazza Navona with the famous Four Rivers Fountain by Bernini before finally slipping into our twin beds around 1am. ETB