We left our beautiful villa by Lake Lugano, going via Switzerland to fill up with fuel, so much cheaper than Italy, then headed south. We were planning to visit the Cinque Terre on the med. As we travelled south, the weather got wetter, and wetter. Not what we’d ordered at all. The Cinque Terre are 5 villages nestled into the hills around the Mediterranean, all south facing they are not accessible by car. The villages are built into the cliffs, and the remaining cliffs being terraced and used for growing vines and olives. Some of the farmers have set up monorails which allow them to bring their produce down more easily. We took the train to Riomaggiore the furthest east of the five. There was a very easy path around the sea, but this was closed, so we walked over the top to the next village Manarola. This was a path through the terraces, going up and up over a scramble path, but the views across the top and out into the med were magnificent.
Manarola was also beautiful and after a picnic lunch by the sea, we set off by train to Corniglia, the next village as the coastal path was closed. Corniglia is the only one of the 5 villages where the town is up on the top of the cliff away from the sea, so off we set up the hill to what was another beautiful walk but this time the rain had started. Despite out waterproof coats and trousers we did get very wet, although not cold as the walk was such hard work. Vernazza, the next village was lovely, but all the bars were filled with people like us trying to keep dry! As such we headed back on the train to get to Monterosso, the last of the Cinque Terre. Much more open with a beach, but still built into the surrounding cliffs.
Our next stop was Pisa. We popped into the square just to make sure that the tower does lean, and can confirm this is the case! What was perhaps more impressive were the buildings in the same square, the cathedral and the baptistery. A beautiful setting and one that we were pleased to have seen.
We had planned to then visit Florence, but the weather had taken a definite turn for the worse and we didn’t relish the prospect of site seeing the great city in the rain, so decided to put this off. Maybe on the way north again.
Instead we headed for Rome, we had tickets for the Vatican museum and decided that an extra day in Rome was no bad thing. We visited many of the same places that we did last time, but also spent a good time wandering around the Vatican museum. The museum was huge, with loads to see, but I most enjoyed the map room. This is one room with painted maps of Italy. These was beautiful. We also really enjoyed looking at the Pope’s official carriages and cars. The whole museum is very ornate with painted ceilings and really most impressive. The Sistine chapel was the main reason for us going and was certainly impressive, but with the benefit of hindsight not the most impressive of the things to see. It is obviously wonderful, but so much of the rest of the museum is as wonderful too.
Rome was wonderful. Of note we went to Scara Sancta basilica, where there is a flight of stairs that can only be climbed on your knees up to the altar at the top. Very humbling to do – but very painful. Loads of magnificent buildings, packed in so closely that you can’t seem to get far enough from them to see them, just lovely. At the end of our trip there, we treated ourselves to a Segway ride in one of the parks. A fun way to finish Rome, and gave the feet a rest from pounding the footpaths.
Our next step was Pompei. Such a huge site. I loved the sunken roads, which are worn with cart tracks. Whilst the site is in ruins there was much to see, and you got a good impression of how it might have been, amazing to see the painted frescoes on walls that were painted prior to Vesuvius erupting in AD79. I was surprised at how ornate and sophisticated. Buildings would have been.
We had wanted to climb Vesuvius but were thwarted due to the entrance we found being closed, and the Italians not seeming to like helpful tourist direction signs. Together with the driving around Naples, which was particularly disturbing, it was a pleasure to head east towards our next stop in Apulia region.
A lovely road trip, and our spirits weren’t dampened by the wet weather we had. Lovely views, sites and lovely people.