Monday, June 25, 2012

Riomaggiore, Italy

Our last stop in the Cinque Terre was the village of Riomaggiore. After our leisurely walk along the Via dell Amore we arrived in Riomaggiore.

Riomaggiore reminded us so much of Manarola. It is such a small village and probably even quieter than Manarola. Oddly there was a police presence in Riomaggiore that I never noticed anywhere else in the Cinque Terre.

The wikipedia article is here. A good web site on Riomaggiore is here.

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Thursday, June 21, 2012

Via dell Amore, Italy

The trail between Manarola and Riomaggiore is known as the Via dell Amore (The Way of Love). It is a gentle flat walk (excluding the climb at the train station in Manarola).

Walking at a steady pace you could probably make the trip in less than 20 minutes but trust me you'll stop again and again enjoying the views and the buskers.

The Smithsonian has a nice article by Rick Steves here.

The trail was built as part of the construction of a train tunnel in the 1920s. Before the trail was opened it was a long and difficult journey between Manarola and Riomaggiore. So much that the two villages even had different dialects.

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Monday, June 18, 2012

Porto Venere, Italy

One day we made the climb back up the hill to the parking lot and drove down to Porto Venere. To get there you skirt around La Spezia. La Spezia is a busy industrial town but Porto Venere is a classic Italian beach town.

Porto Venere is not one of the Cinque Terre villages but it is just a 30 minute drive away. Driving is the most expeditious way to get there. The Cinque Terre local train doesn't go there so you have to connect in La Spezia and the last Cinque Terre ferry leaves late afternoon so don't miss it.

The Church of St. Peter is incredible. It was consecrated in 1198. It overlooks huge breakers in the harbor.

Just offshore from Porto Venere is the island of Palmaria. Locanda Lorena is a restaurant on Palmaria. It was on our very short list but we didn't get out there. They will send their boat over to the mainland to pick you up.

There's much more "town" to Porto Venere than any of the Cinque Terre villages. If we return to the Cinque Terre region in the future we're likely to stay in Porto Venere.

The wikipedia article is here. Porto Venere's official web site is here.

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Thursday, June 14, 2012

Monterosso, Italy

We ended our ferry ride in Monterosso. Monterosso is divided into two distinct parts: the old town and the new town. The two areas are divided by a tunnel that caters to pedestrians and the very few cars in the town. We walked through the tunnel and strolled along the coast. We ate lunch at Bar Eden Gelateria overlooking the beach.

The wikipedia article is here. A good web site on Monterosso is here.

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Monday, June 11, 2012

Vernazza, Italy

Further north on the ferry from Manarola to Monterosso we passed Vernazza. Vernazza is called out in Rick Steves' book on the Cinque Terre as his favorite village. Obviously lots of people read Rick Steves. When the ferry got to the harbor of Vernazza the dock was absolutely packed as were the streets beyond it. We stayed on the ferry.

The wikipedia article is here. A good web site on Vernazza is here.

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Thursday, June 07, 2012

Corniglia, Italy

As we rode the ferry from Manarola to Monterosso we passed Corniglia. Corniglia is the only one of the 5 villages that does not have a harbor. It is far up on a cliff. The walkways to Corniglia are steep and dangerous so we didn't venture there.

The wikipedia article is here. A good web site on Corniglia is here.

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Monday, June 04, 2012

Cinque Terre Ferry, Italy

To travel between the 5 villages of the Cinque Terre you have 3 choices, the train, walking, or the ferry. You can get a Cinque Terre Card but we didn't think we were going to use it that much.

One afternoon we decided to go to Monterosso so we bought tickets on the ferry. You get a good perspective on the coastline from the ferry. The Ligurian Sea is rough near the coast so a couple of days while we were in Manarola the ferry didn't run. Most of the villages have what they call a harbor but there aren't very good docks.

The ferry schedule is posted all around town.

Here is the ferry we took approaching Manarola.

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Thursday, May 31, 2012

Manarola, Italy

Manarola is a tiny village in the Cinque Terre (Five Lands). There are no cars allowed in town (other than small service vehicles) so you have to park in the public lot outside town (the second one you come to) and walk in. Remember this when you pack. If you plan carefully there is a shuttle between town center and the parking lot for 1.5€. The schedule can be found near the post office. There are still a lot of steps between town center and Arpaiu.

Manarola has its share of tourists during the day (not the most in the Cinque Terre) but after 5:00 PM reverts back to a small Italian fishing village. There are so few overnight guests in town that we began to recognize the others and visit with them in the restaurants and walkways. As we walked through the village at night we'd often encounter locals preparing olives or grapes. Look closely at our pictures.

The first night we were eating at Trattoria La Scogliera. We picked out the husband and wife owners and their children. I was sitting with my back to the door and my wife cracked up and motioned for me to turn around. In the door burst the grandfather with a fish wrapped in a newspaper! He obviously had run down to the seaside to buy a fish for another diner.

We ate at most of the restaurants in Manarola and never had a bad meal. Some of the places we ate were Marina Piccola, Trattoria Dal Billy, and Aristide. Aristide also has a little deli that served wonderful and reasonable breakfast and lunch.

The wikipedia article is here. A good web site on Manarola is here.

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Monday, May 28, 2012

Arpaiu, Manarola, Italy

For our next leg we drove up to Manarola and stayed at Arpaiu. There really aren't what I'd call hotels in Manarola. Arpaiu is a building with 4 bedrooms, 2 on each floor, and a common area on the upper level. The rooms are independent only sharing hallways. The manager comes over each morning and checks with the guests. Payment is cash only.

Their web site is here and the TripAdvisor review is here. After our daughter looked at the pictures on the web site she described the rooms as "spartan." Well put. It was clean and had a nice bathroom. The ants came and went. The manager said that they were always a problem in the fall. We were there in October.

The web site says that each room has "internet wi-fi connection." They don't. The building was built in the 900s (not a typo) and made of solid rock. The router is in the common area on the upper level and the Wi-Fi signal won't penetrate the floors. So to use the Internet we "had" to go sit on the upper level and look at the ocean. Tough job.

The view makes up for the ants and the limited Internet.

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Monday, May 21, 2012

Jewish Ghetto, Rome, Italy

The guide for Rome Photo Tours suggested we walk through the Jewish ghetto as we left Campo de Fiori. She pointed out that the Roman Empire had conquered Israel and brought many Jews to Rome as servants. Over the centuries much of the Jewish culture was assimilated into Roman culture.

While there we ate lunch at Nonna Betta at Via del Portico d'Ottavia 16 for 29€. It was so hard to find that I had to use my phone's GPS and we were less than 100 feet from it. Their web site is here.

The wikipedia article is here and Nonna Betta's TripAdvisor review is here.

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Thursday, May 17, 2012

Campo de Fiori, Rome, Italy

Our photo tour ended in Campo de Fiori. This is a traditional open air market that is packed with bright colorful vendors. Campo de Fiori, translated literally from Italian, means "field of flowers." Remember that the vendors close early, at least by 3:00 PM. We came back by after lunch and most were gone.

The wikipedia article is here.

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Monday, May 14, 2012

Photo Tour, Rome, Italy

We took a photo tour with Rome Photo Tours. I'm just using a point and shoot but thought that this would show us good places to shoot and maybe I'd learn something. I was right on both points.

Our tour guide was an American ex-patriot named Stephanie who had lived in Rome for several years. She knew all the "good" places to shoot. She took us places we would have never found on our own.

We walked over 10 miles that day but didn't realize it until we sat down back in the hotel that night.

Rome Photo Tours review on TripAdvisor is here.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Triton Fountain, Rome, Italy

We used Triton Fountain in Piazza Barberini as a rendezvous point for our photo tour (more later). Triton is the first of Bernini's Roman fountains.

The Piazza Barberini is a quiet respite in the center of a myriad of shops. There's also a metro stop nearby.

The wikipedia article is here.

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Monday, May 07, 2012

Piazza Navone, Rome, Italy

Less than a kilometer away from the Pantheon is the Piazza Navone, one of our favorite places in Rome.

We ate dinner there and certainly paid too much (68€). While the food was just so-so, the atmosphere was divine. After dinner we enjoyed the street performers and the gelato.

The wikipedia article is here.

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Thursday, May 03, 2012

Pantheon, Rome, Italy

Less than a kilometer from the Trevi Fountain is the Pantheon.

We visited there several times on this trip. First on a guided tour with Angel Tours Rome and then again with Rome Photo Tours.

We had scheduled a free tour with Angel Tours Rome. The tour guide was a Brit who gave us a great experience. We tipped him 20€.

Before we went inside we walked around the outside. It had a foul odor. We asked our tour guide about it. He pointed out that the Pantheon is in a bowl, much lower than the more modern buildings around it. This puts the Pantheon basically on the level of the sewers!

He pointed out that there were originally 12 steps up to the main floor of the Pantheon. Now there's barely one step.

The wikipedia article is here and a good web site is here.

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Monday, April 30, 2012

Trevi Fountain, Rome, Italy

Less than a kilometer from the Spanish Steps is the Trevi Fountain. Both times we were there the whole area was absolutely packed with tourists.

On the southeast corner is a church. Climb the steps and you'll have a slightly better view as you'll be above all the tourists.

The wikipedia article is here and their web site is was here.

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Thursday, April 26, 2012

Spanish Steps, Rome, Italy

After the guided tour of the Colosseum and the Forum we took a taxi to Spanish Steps for 10€.

While the Spanish Steps are awesome, I had never heard anybody mention the beautiful fountain at their foot.

While there we played a little "Where's Waldo?"

The wikipedia article is here.

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Monday, April 23, 2012

Forum, Rome, Italy

As I mentioned previously we took a combined Colosseum and Forum tour from Tickitaly . It was well worth having a guide in the Forum as so much is just piles of rubble. A guide really makes it come together.

The wikipedia article is here.

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Thursday, April 19, 2012

Colosseum, Rome, Italy

What can I say about the Colosseum that hasn't been said? Oh, have you had the Colosseum Underground tour? No? Then there's lots.

In 2010 they opened what is called an subterranean tour. Besides the underground part, It actually includes visiting the top of the Colosseum that is not normally open to tourists. It is a different ticket than normal, limited in volume and subject to weather. ABC News has a good article on the tour here.

As we had been through the Colosseum before my wife didn't want to go back. Previously though we hadn't been through the Forum as it is so rambling we didn't know what we were seeing. I finally negotiated with her that she would go on the Colosseum underground tour if we could get a tour guide for the Forum. We booked a tour with Tickitaly that was wonderful. It cost 67€ for both of us.

By the way the meeting place is right here but the tour guide was not easy to spot.

Incidentally Tickitaly has a good article on the Colosseum here.

The wikipedia article is here.

We walked from our hotel to the Colosseum that morning as we had heard that there was a transportation strike planned for that date. Interestingly the Roman transportation strikes start after everybody gets to work and are over before they get off so as to not disturb the workers. Only in Rome! There's a subway map here.

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Monday, April 16, 2012

iQ Hotel Roma, Rome, Italy

We stayed at the iQ Hotel Roma at Via Firenze n. 8. This is literally across the street from the Rome opera, Teatro dell'Opera. Often we would hear the orchestra. The iQ Hotel is new and very nice. While the lobby is air-conditioned the rooms are not but were comfortable when we were there in early October. There are reasonably priced vending machines available and a nice roof terrace. There is free (for guests) Wi-Fi available throughout the building.

Their web site is here and their write-up on TripAdvisor is here.

We decided to avoid the taxis at Rome's Fiumicino airport and booked a limo with Rome Shuttle Limousine for 40€. That is actually less than taxi fare and we had a driver waiting for us in the arrivals lounge and a shiny new black Mercedes to the front door of the hotel. I strongly recommend this. Rome Shuttle's web site is here. We also used Rome Shuttle Limousine on our departure from Rome to Cinque Terre as it was much cheaper to book a rental car round trip from Fiumicino than to pick it up in Rome and drop it back at Fiumicino.

We had stayed in this area of Rome on our previous trip at Welcome House at Via Nazionale, 230. It appears that they are no longer open. No great loss.

This area is very near Termini station and we again took bus #110 for an orientation ride. The write-up on TripAdvisor is here. Don't be swayed as you walk toward the train station. The sidewalks are full of booths offering bus tours. Most are actually more expensive than the 18€ per person for #110. The #110 tickets are valid for 48 hours so we actually used it instead of a taxi for 2 days. It was not always the most direct route but it was dependable and familiar. The downstairs seating section, while not a good viewpoint, is air-conditioned. From the upper section the view was more exciting.

Someone later made fun of us for buying the #110 tickets. She said that nobody pays to ride the buses. Still navigating the bus routes was too much for us. Another piece of advice she offered was to make sure that the taxi drivers don't have the meter set on zone #2. Every ride in the center city should be zone #1 which is cheaper.

One night we had dinner at nearby Ristorante del Giglio Via Torino, 137 for 60€. Their web site is here.

We often found ourselves here having gelato at the end of a long day. It is so European to sit at a sidewalk table and enjoy ice cream.

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