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Old 06-11-2014   #16 (permalink)
aņejo
 
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The ride from Modena to the little town on the Italian Riviera where we stayed called Sestri Levante was spectacular once we got out of the Modena/Bologna area. Right through the Appenine Mountains, which are jagged and snow capped, even in May!! The Autostrada went through long tunnels and long bridges over deep chasms, just beautiful! That is, until we arrived in the town and tried to find our hotel

This was challenging drive time #1, really. Everything else, although a little bit frustrating at times by doing things like making wrong turns or missing exits, was pretty simple.

When we decided to include Cinque Terre in our itinerary, it was at the recommendation of some friends and also our youngest daughter, who spent a few days there in April 2012 after her semester in Barcelona while in college. In October of 2011, the area experienced a massive mudslide after getting 22 inches of rain in FOUR HOURS...2 of the 5 villages were completely flooded with mud and mostly destroyed. Not knowing how much they had come back, I decided that we would stay in a beach town north of the area and travel by train (less than an hour) to tour the towns on the one whole day we had there. This turned out to be a great decision - the town is a summer resort for wealthy italians, easy to tell from the quality of the merchandise in the shops that were open (it was still pre-season, and the hotel we stayed at closes up in the winter, even). I HIGHLY recommend this town if anyone travels to this area of Italy.

Anyway, back to the drive. We pull into the town, and we are following the map on my ipad, and I say to Glenn....ok, so turn left at the next street. We don't see a street, keep going, I see on the map that we passed it - ok, let's turn around, we missed it. We pass it again. I say....do you think they mean this little ALLEY we passed? He says....no way, that's not a street. I make him pull over, look closely at the map, and I say....it's the ONLY way to get there, you have to turn down that alley. Mind you, this alley is barely wider than just our little Fiat....what about cars coming the other way???? When we get to the alley again, we see a light about 2 feet in on the stone wall, flashing yellow. We turn in when it turns green....and proceed with caution, and he's going BANANAS...."What the $*%& did you get me into, what the HELL is this hotel, we're going to get killed, blah blah blah".... just a tad unravelled, as you can see. Finally, we do find the hotel after having to traverse several of these narrow alleys...we pull up to the door and he almost jumps out of the car.

Hotel Helvetia, and Sestri Levante. Hotel sits right on the beach.


Rooftop sundeck


Pool from the rooftop


View from the hotel terrace - The Baia di silenzio (Bay of Silence) beach



Woman on the beach carrying fruit she was selling. By the way, the italians are CRAZY. It was barely 65 degrees and the water was freezing, but MAN, they like their beach.



adorable alleyways of Sestri - this was early in the morning on the way to the train, so really nothing was open but the coffee shops...



One of those yellow awnings is our room, looking right out over the sea.


Just a beautiful town, I would go back there for a longer vacation. We had 2 great dinners at local places....one I had was giant prawns over house made linguini - fabulous. No pix, though...I was tired after the day in the mountains, next.
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Old 06-11-2014   #17 (permalink)
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Cinque terre

The Cinque Terre is a series of 5 villages situated along a mountainous coastline, about 1.5 hours ride south of Genoa, Italy. They are connected by hiking trails and a train. My grandmother was from Genoa, and the people there look like me!!! Light hair, light eyes, olive skin. People sometimes can't believe I'm Italian.

The villages have become famous for the hiking trails that connect them. I believe if you hike them all, it's a little over 5 miles and takes around 7 hours. Yes, 7 hours. These aren't sissy hikes. The terrain is insanely rough and rugged, up and down, and they certainly don't have the safety restrictions we do (as in, side-of-the-cliff-no-railings-don't-look-down).

We took the train to the southernmost village, called Riomaggiore, and decided we'd hike what we could, ride the train, etc.

Main street of Riomaggiore -shops, restaurants, bars, etc...


The building where the white sign is (a gelateria, of course) is where our Mallory stayed in 2012. Excited that I found it.


This is the beginning of the trails...from Riomaggiore to Manarola. The easy piece - only about 45 minutes and pretty flat. And a guard rail. It's called "Lover's Lane".



Alas, it is CLOSED!!! Something about rocks falling and injuring tourists. Babies. That's what I thought until I hiked the other part.



Ok so now the fun begins. Since the trail is closed, EVERYONE in the town has to get on the train to get to the next town, unless you want to take a trail that takes around 2 hours and is straight up a mountain. We go to the train station where there were so many people we didn't make the next train....it was overflowing...and then proceeds to get stuck on the tracks a ways up because it was overloaded. So we wait while some other train goes and picks up half those passengers, then we get on the next train. This is now about an hour waiting. We then find out that the trail from Manarolo to the middle village, Corniglia, is ALSO closed. So when we finally do get on the train, we bypass Manarola and get off at Corniglia.
What awaits here?? A 382 step 33-switchback stairway up the side of the cliff. And me with my torn miniscus. Ahhh, what fun.



Looking down, around halfway up


Made it up, yay!! Now for some lunch. We are UP there on the cliff.









After a nice lunch, we embark on the hike from Corniglia to Vernazza. Sign says 1.5 hours. Uh huh. We are already WAYYYY up on the cliff, and I'm thinking...it can't get any higher. The terrain is rough, ungroomed, and dangerous. Not for the faint of heart, at all.





I thought we couldn't get any higher...here's Corniglia behind us. and Manarola in the distance.


AND EVEN HIGHER AND FARTHER. The scenery is really breathtaking.


Finally, a glimpse of where we're going. Yup, all the way back down to the coastline. Looks close, right? Hah!!


Do NOT lose your footing....straight down.


But of course...before we descend....a cliffside caffe!!! We enjoyed a few lemon sodas, here.


Finally, down to Vernazza. This is the town that was completely destroyed by the mudslide. It's doing pretty well, although not as bustling as Riomaggiore. Lots of posters around town showing pictures of the disaster. It was crazy.




At this point, we know we're done hiking, and now the trains are running 1/2 hour late. We are hot and tired, so we skip the last town of Monterosso, and go straight on to Sestri Levante, where we had a rest and a great dinner. After all, we are up early to go to Florence tomorrow!!
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Old 06-12-2014   #18 (permalink)
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All caught up now. Some beautiful shots! My daughter and mother in law did an Italy trip for her high school grad trip. I recognize many of your pics from hers! She loved Italy and her home decor is decorated with pics and paintings from the trip. Great report! Looking forward to more. And... Can I request a couple of your photos for my daughter? I could print and frame them for her to add to her home decor. She would love it!
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Old 06-12-2014   #19 (permalink)
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We went to Italy last May and loved it! But we decided to skip Cinque Terre(this time)...so beautiful to see......but I think that would also be bad for my bad knees....thanks for posting this, we are really enjoying it.
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Old 06-12-2014   #20 (permalink)
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All caught up now. Some beautiful shots! My daughter and mother in law did an Italy trip for her high school grad trip. I recognize many of your pics from hers! She loved Italy and her home decor is decorated with pics and paintings from the trip. Great report! Looking forward to more. And... Can I request a couple of your photos for my daughter? I could print and frame them for her to add to her home decor. She would love it!
Sure!! Just let me know and I will send however you want..... or can you just take them from Photobucket? I don't know how that works....
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Old 06-12-2014   #21 (permalink)
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We went to Italy last May and loved it! But we decided to skip Cinque Terre(this time)...so beautiful to see......but I think that would also be bad for my bad knees....thanks for posting this, we are really enjoying it.
I'm so glad you like it!! It takes a lot of time, so I'm hoping more people are reading it, since not too many are commenting...
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Old 06-12-2014   #22 (permalink)
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Sure!! Just let me know and I will send however you want..... or can you just take them from Photobucket? I don't know how that works....

Yes- he can right click them, copy the address, open it and save that to his computer.

I have to say that the town of Sestri Levante reminded me a LOT Of Zihuatanejo. Love everything built on the hillsides. Although it is not very good for walking compared to flat, it sure it scenic.

Keep em coming, I am waiting for the Florence pics and stories con molto anticipo!
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Old 06-12-2014   #23 (permalink)
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as of right now, you have had 487 views! So don't worry, lots are looking, they are just shy.
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Old 06-17-2014   #24 (permalink)
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I'm so glad you like it!! It takes a lot of time, so I'm hoping more people are reading it, since not too many are commenting...
I think Riss is right. Lots of peeps are checking out your incredible pics and reading about your adventures. All the trails look like a great way to work off the pasta and sauces which I'm sure you are devouring with great gusto!
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Old 06-17-2014   #25 (permalink)
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Incredible!
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Old 06-17-2014   #26 (permalink)
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Please keep going.. I really am a stalker (mostly) and I know there are others like me out there... thoroughly enjoying your report!!!
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Old 06-17-2014   #27 (permalink)
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Off to Florence from Cinqueterre - a pretty uneventful drive, actually. Most drives took between 2.5-3.5 hours, this was another typical one, mostly on the Autostrada.

But THEN - we arrived at our hotel. Holy. Moly.

I had booked a hotel in downtown Florence at the recommendation of some canadian friends, and then one of my husband's partners told him that his brother was part owner in a hotel right outside of Florence, and that we should consider staying there because we'd get the "royal treatment". So - I emailed the hotel (months ago) and they said they'd be delighted to have us, and they would reserve us a nice room at the special rate of 400 euros a night. Now, mind you, 400 euros is around $550, so this would be one of the more expensive places we stayed, but my husband really wanted to do it.

We pulled up the hotel (after MISSING THE TURN, AGAIN) - and pulled up to this:


The hotel is called Il Salviatino, and it's a restored 15th century villa on the hill overlooking Florence, in Fiesole. I'm not sure how many rooms it has...but there is a pool, a spa, all the trimmings imaginable. But it's really the location and the grounds that make in spectacular.

We sat outside on the terrace and had lunch while they prepared our room. Looking down on the gardens - you can see downtown Florence and the Duomo between the trees....











I KNOW....lots of pictures of a hotel, but this place was fabulous..
they gave us the "Melodia Suite", named after our friend's sister-in-law, Melody.



Looking into the bathroom (all the shutters closed, if you wanted) - from the bed area


Bathroom sink was INSANE


TV - embedded in the full length mirror...and some champagne as a greeting gift...


The hotel offered a shuttle into the city, dropped us off right at the Duomo, and pickup there on the hour. Couldn't have been easier.
The first afternoon, we took the shuttle in and walked around just a little...went back to the hotel and had dinner at a great little place in Fiesole called La Cave. In the summer, you could eat outside and see Florence in the distance. No pictures that night...I think I was tiring of taking pics at this point!!

Sunday, we took the shuttle back to Florence, with the intention of doing some leather shopping. Yes, I know, Florence is the art capital of Italy, but we only had one day, and museums take so much time....I just wanted to have a day to shop, so we saw what art we could while walking around, which was a LOT, and we shopped til we dropped. Leather jackets, gloves for the girls, shoes, jewelry for Glenn's mom, you name it.



Couldn't get into the Duomo early because of mass, and later the line was too long



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Old 06-17-2014   #28 (permalink)
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I don't have as many pictures of Florence as I'd like...I think some of the ones of statues (like the statue of David, for instance) my husband has on his phone. I discovered in Italy that at my ripe old age, I'm getting a little crowd-shy. Tons of people walking the streets, mobs of people taking photos, having to fight through crowds....gets me anxious. Go figure.

First destination for shopping was the Scuola di Cuoio (School of Leather) in the monastery of the Church of Santa Croce, on the Piazza of the same name. The church is very pretty.





The leather school had beautiful leather goods, but the prices..... OH MY!!! We decided to check out some of the other stores and areas people had recommended to us. But first, we crossed the Ponte Vecchio to the Pitti Palace and the Boboli Gardens. My husband is SO LUCKY I am not really into jewelry, at least real expensive stuff.... because the jewelry stores on this bridge are unbelievable. He got off easy, really.

Down a few windy streets


The Arno from the Ponte Vecchio


The Pitti Palace and Boboli Gardens




Check out the heron on this statue!!


Chapel in the Boboli Gardens


Greyhound rescue on the street...cute pups!!


Gelato, anyone?? Don't mind if I do!! Gelato EVERYWHERE!!


I've always loved linguini with white clam sauce, but in Italy I fell in LOVE with these little italian clams...so sweet and tender...this was one of many lunches I had of this dish!!


We went to the market at San Lorenzo (too crowded for pics, we were on a mission) - we got some belts and a wallet there...then we went to the recommended stores and got leather jackets and gloves.

Gloves for my three daughters, and a messenger bag for the youngest, who is going to grad school in September, she wanted a good laptop bag:




I swear, the whole city smells like leather.

Back to the hotel, and dinner there, which was superb. Oh, and the breakfasts!!! Instead of the usual buffet, they brought trays to each table with every kind of breakfast food you could think of. It was exquisite. I was embarrassed to take pictures, though, because the place was so hoity toity.

When we checked out, we saw that the NORMAL RATE for our room was 1600 EUROS!!! THAT'S TWENTY ONE HUNDRED DOLLARS A NIGHT!! No wonder the parking area was filled with Ferraris, Maseratis, and our little Fiat..

Tomorrow we tackle the LONG ride to Positano!!

Last edited by Debbiec; 06-17-2014 at 06:36 PM..
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Old 06-17-2014   #29 (permalink)
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Wonderful! Love the pics. Now craving linguini and clam sauce.
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Old 06-23-2014   #30 (permalink)
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WOW...that hotel was utterly amazing! Seems like you really did get it for a steal of a deal.

Florence looks just wonderful.

More, please!!!
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