Friday, November 2, 2012

Fall, 2012 Italy Trip

The highlight of my fall was a trip to Italy.  My brother, Gary, had worked hard to set up a tour of Venice, Rome, and Cinque Terre.  We left in mid-Oct. and met up in Venice. I'll give you the approximate cost of things so you can see how expensive or reasonable a trip like this can be.

We arrived ahead of Gary and Jane and proceeded to take a train ride to the Venice train station and then hop on a water taxi to Rialto Bridge.  Then we had to hike over a few blocks and down several streets to find our Hotel, Casa Cosmo  (  ($600 E for 4 days)

This was the alley our hotel was located in.  It didn't look inviting but we opened our room on the third floor to find a clean but spartan room.

Gary was suppose to arrive by 1:00 pm but his connections were changed when he flew from Grand Rapids to Chicago.  Having missed his flight out, he was now scheduled to arrive close to 10:00 pm.  So having some time to kill we went out to explore the area around Calle di Mezzo.  Venice is surrounded by a large grand canal and tons of tiny canals with little walk-over bridges.

We had pasta for dinner at a small place and then came back to rest.  The owner had left and put a sign in the window for Gary.  I opened my 3rd floor window and crashed at 9:00 pm (who know what time it was to our bodies). At 10:00 pm I could hear tiny wheels coming down our tiny alley.  "Buonasera", Gary and Jane.  We opened the locked door and gave them their room key.  There are only 6 rooms and the owners live out on Lido Island.  After they unpacked, we went out with them to find something for them to eat.  We went across the Rialto Bridge and found a small shop to eat.

Next day it was off to St. Mark's Square.  It was only a short walk and no cars or traffic to deal with.  Lots of people were in the square and we waited in line to enter the church.  I got stopped because I had a backpack on and got separated from the group.

We went to the Fish Market to see the fresh vegetables and fresh fish.  Wow what a sight.

We took a water taxi around the whole city.  It was nice to get a feel for the ancient city.  We had 4 gelatos for the day.  What a great way to end our first full day in Italy.

Next day we left for Murano Island to see the glass blowing area.  I found David Penso and watched his style of glass bead making.  It was neat to see the glass shops and displays.

We saw a wedding party coming over the bridge and stopped for our gelato break. 

Then it was back on the water taxi to Burano to see the lace shops.

We met a group of Virgina Tech students studying in Europe for one year and followed them around the island. Nice to talk to some Americans for a spell.

Finally we used up our time in Venice and had to take the water taxi to the train station for our tickets on the "fast train" to Rome.  It was $80 euros but it was traveling 250 kmh!  We got to Rome around 1:20 and walked the two blocks to Hotel Maryelen (  ($400 E for 3 days)Then it was off to see the Colosseum, the Forum, and some of the ruins.  Rome is noisy, busy, and full of people.

We walked blocks and blocks and just explored.  We always found a gelato shop near by.

Next day we walked to the Vatican City.  We bought our tickets ($30 E) and followed along in a huge crowd.  It was impressive but crowded.

Next day we visited Partheon, Spanish Steps,  Trevi Fountain and some plaza.  We walked all over the city and never took the bus.

Last day in Rome we got our train tickets (77 E) to La Spezia .  It was a regular train and it was nice to watch the county side pass by. There we got on a smaller train (1.8 E)to the Cinque Terre area.  Around 1:30 we arrived in Manarola and met our host at the end of the tunnel.  We wheeled our luggage up a long ramp street to our bay-side apartments. We had Baluardo # 1 and 2.

It was nice to have a kitchen area that had a seaview window and three small terraces.  The view was worth the $600 E for the 6 days.  We were up above the bay and could see the Ligurian Sea and hear it through our bedroom door.

Manarola is the second smallest of the five  Cinque Terre towns.  The town is built up on the high mountain valley right against the sea.

After we unpacked, we walked down to have a Shrimp seafood bow tie pasta dinner ($34 E for two).  It was a nice outside patio.  There are 4 places to eat so we will eat in a different place every night.  A stop at The Coop (grocery store) to get milk, cereal, yogurt, cheese, bread, juice and pesto for $13 E.

The mudslides and rain has the famous lower hiking trails between the towns closed.  This was a major disappointment to us.  Checking the maps of the Cinque Terre area showed that some of the longer, upper paths were open.

We packed water and rain jackets and started hiking the upper trails. We hiked from Manarola to Corniglia.  The trails were narrow and traveled through the vineyards and across the valleys.  Sometimes we could see the sea and sometimes were were in the woods.

It took us 4 hours to hike to the next town.  We had pizza and beer and went down the 400 steps to the train station for a quick ride back to Manarola.  Next day we got $25 E all day boat pass and went to Porto Venere.  I swam in the bay there.  Salt water helps you float.  Then we took a boat ride around the three island before head back up the coast.  It was nice to see the landscape and towns from the sea.  First up we hit Riomaggiore, then Manarola, Corniglia (doesn't have a port), Vernazza, and last Monterosso.
The boat pass allowed us to get on and off where ever we wanted. We had a double gelato and then took the train back to Manarola for $1.8 E.  It was easy to use the local train to get somewhere and hike back or vise versa.

The boat loading was a little tricky with the waves and wind rocking the boat up and down.

We found a real Sicilian pastry shop run by the Connelli Brothers.  This one was filled with real ricotta cheese. The brothers were a hoot and very entertaining.

We got back and headed up to terrace for a sip of local white wine.

As we wind down our trip to Italy, we had a dinner at one of our favor stops.  The seafood pasta was superb.

After packing up, we left Manarola and took the train to Genoa. We had a nice stop near the airport where we stayed at the Marina Place Resort. The marina had some huge boats from several counties.  I think they leave their big boats here and then fly down to use them.

The room was very nice with a great breakfast buffett.  The bathroom had two toilets but I wasn't sure how to use the one on the left! :-)

The glass door shower was huge and it was very nice to end the trip in a relaxing place.  The next morning we flew out at 12:00pm so we could take our time getting ready.  A taxi ($2 E) dropped us off at the Genoa airport and we flew home after a wonderful trip.

If you travel to Italy, please consider Venice and Cinque Terre as possible destinations.  These places offer a wide range of activities. So, Ciao!