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Toscana

ITALY | Thursday, 28 February 2008 | Views [1396]

The river at Pisa

The river at Pisa

After a very early wake up call in Florence, we set out for Cinque Terre on the 7am train. This is a gorgeous National Park in the North of Italy's Western coast. There are five tiny old villages in between the hills which are only connected by train. And you can walk along the coast from the first town to the last in abour six hours (give or take lunch).

We arrived at the first village, Riomaggiore, dropped our bags (which were significantly heavier with shoes, cashmere scarves, pesto, tapenade and a camel leather jacket - I accept no responsibility for this...) and hit the track.

The breathtaking views from the cliffs to the sea are so amazing that they make people fall in love. Truly. The track is actually called "Via Dell'Amore" and you can buy a padlock to lock somewhere along the track as a symbol of your everlasting love. Instead of a padlock of eternal love, we chose to spend our five euros on pizza for lunch. How romantic!

The first section of track was a nice 20 minute walk to the cute town of Manarola. The second section was just as beautiful, and finished with the steepest lot of 383 steps I have ever climbed. So I really did deserve the pizza! From Corniglia, there was a proper New Zealand-type track to the fishing town of Vernazza. Needless to say, lots of people just took the train instead of doing the two hour hike. More fool them. The scenery is spectacular, and reminded me of beautiful NZ.

Another two hours and we met Luigi, tending to his grapevines on the slopes. He sold us some of his home made limoncello liqueur - just what we needed after our hike. Good thing we tasted it before he offered us his home made organic wine. Not a recommended purchase. His linguistic skills were better than his distilling skills - while we were there he spoke to passers by in Italian, English, French and German. Not bad for a rural vintner!

We made it to Monterosso just before dark and caught the train back to the first town. We managed to sample some local delicacies for dinner: stuffed anchovies, pesto, mussels and beef with eggs and spinach.

Next morning we set off on aching legs to the tourist trap that is Pisa. We saw the tower. It was leaning. And they were asking NZ$30 to go to the top! Whatever Trevor! The thing to see, which most tourists don't (as they are too busy taking photos where they are 'holding up' the tower, and buying t-shirts made in China with pictures of Daffy Duck holding up the Tower of Pisa) is the Cathedral right beside it. Amazing frescoes all over the walls and ceiling. Renaissance art at its best.

We met up with Francesca, the Italian teacher from my school, and went to her home town of Lucca. We were really lucky to be able to stay with an Italian family during our trip. Francesca showed us round the medieval walled town (lots more walking) and we watched the sun set and ate fresh foccacia - yum!

Her father, Marco, made us a traditional dinner typically eaten at New Year. The 'prima piatti' was pasta (of course) with a really spicy tomato sauce and lots of parmesan cheese (of course). Then came mashed potatoes and a huge, fatty, delicious sausage. And we finished with a chocolate 'sausage' - imagine Girl Guide biscuits mixed with melted chocolate and rolled into a sausage shape. Marco and Francesca don't speak English, and we don't speak Italian, so good old French came to the rescue again.

The next morning we saw Lucca by day, and Francesca cooked us lunch - it's all about the food! We started with, yes, pasta, this time with zucchini and parmesan. And then a green vegetable called rape (read ra-pay) with lots of creamy, soft white stracchino cheese. Sweet local apples finished the meal. La dolce vita indeed!

Tags: Adventures

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