August 22, 2015





Exploring by ship ……


We were up pretty early thanks to not having AC to cool the room down. But today we were actually quite happy we were up early. We had thought about having an early breakfast and then heading out, but then in the morning we just decided to skip breakfast at all, so after having showered and having some Diet Coke out of the fridge, we were on our way to the railway station. We were quite stunned at how many travelers there were and it did not take long until a train arrived.

Seats were found quickly and off we went. The trip to La Spezia only takes about 20 minutes and soon we arrived and everyone got off the train. We had walked to the port with Umberto the year before and knew which direction we would have to go, but it was much easier than we thought, as there were plenty of signs pointing you towards the harbour. It was a nice morning and we walked at a leisurely pace and made good progress. We wanted to pick up some Focaccia on the way to the port, but most of the bakeries in the pedestrian area were still closed. Thankfully we found one close to the port that was already open and we purchased an array of small individual breads with different toppings and some water.

Soon we had made it to the harbour and from quite some way away we saw that a ship was already sitting in the harbour. When we got closer we saw that there was not only the ship, but there were two long lines as well, one for the ship itself and one to buy tickets. We got in the ticket line and bought a day ticket and seeing the long line we decided to walk over to some benches and wait for the next ship and in the meantime we had our breakfast. They were kind of little mini pizzas, two with olives, one with just mozzarella, one with pesto, one with salami and one with prosciutto. They were only three bites each, but the perfect little breakfast snack, washed down with some water.

We had just had the first two when we saw that the first ship was now filled to capacity and they had closed the gates and people were forming a second line for the next ship which was already coming in. So we packed up the rest of our stuff and headed over to get in line. I really wanted to have a seat on the right hand side of the ship on the upper deck to have a decent view so we needed to be at the beginning of the queue. Didn’t take long and another long line had formed and now people were cutting in from the side instead of going to where the line ended. Finally the doors opened and we were swept in with the first 20 or 30 people, showed our ticket and headed upstairs to find seats. Thankfully we really had gotten up there in time as we found seats a few rows back and at the other edge, just as I had planned. Score!

So, now seated we unpacked the rest of our breakfast again and munched away on our little pizza breads. Soon after we had finished them, they closed the gates again and a little time later we started our journey. The ship sails along the shoreline and it takes a bit of time to leave the bay of La Spezia. This time we knew what was ahead of us and really enjoyed the ride. It was beautiful to see the scenery glide by and soon we got a glimpse of our first stop, the seaside town of Porto Venere. It still took some time until the ship arrived in the harbour and we were able to get off. Most of the people on the ship did the same and we all headed towards the town. The year before, Umberto had shown us around and we followed in those footsteps again.

We entered through the city gates and slowly walked up the main road. We took our sweet time and stopped to look at shop windows. There are several bakeries which all sell all kinds of Focaccia and we could not help ourselves and had to pick up two yummy looking slices and some drinks. And after our shopping we proceeded along the main road until we got to the large square that leads up to the church on the rock above the sea. There were several benches, but all were occupied and so we walked over to some steps in the shade, sat down and unpacked our snack. We opened our drinks, a can of beer for Tom and some Diet Coke for myself and shared a Vegetable Focaccia and a Tomato Focaccia.

Both were really nice and hit the spot. And after our short break we discussed where to go next. We had been up by the church and while one was rewarded with an awesome view we had something different in mind this time. There are several viewpoints in the area, so we walked around to check them all out and then we walked up to a church we wanted to check out. The path up there was a bit steep and since the stones are marble it was a bit slippery as well. And soon we had made it up to the church. It was beautiful. They still offered long white candles to light and needless to mention, that is what we did. When we were done we walked up to the castle which is on top of a hill. It was quite a hike up there, very steep and slippery and it had gotten pretty hot as well.

We paid the entrance fee and walked through the gates and further up until we reached a huge courtyard. There are just ruins left of many parts of the castle, but the whole area is still very well kept. We walked around the courtyard and then up to some small towers before moving on to the amphitheatre. It was a beautiful place and we could very well concerts or a play in there. We spent a lot of time exploring and looking around before we slowly went back to the city centre. Before we had started our exploration we had quickly glanced at the boat’s timetable and were now heading towards the harbour.

So, when we arrived there, we were pretty surprised to read that the next boat left in about 90 minutes. We had misread the timetable. Now we had more than an hour to kill. Well, it was quickly decided that we would walk back to the town and find a restaurant along the pier to have dinner. Within minutes we were back and looked at the first restaurant. They had a menu posted, but there was nothing we really liked, especially reading their prices. So we walked on. A few steps further down we found a nice looking restaurant, unfortunately with no menu posted outside. We asked about a table and the server just pointed inside the restaurant. Okay, we’ll find our own table. We did and sat down and were handed a Spanish menu. We needed to flag down the server again and with a sigh he went to get an English menu. By now I was getting pretty annoyed with the server. I was done with it when he threw the menus on the table. We had a look at it and there was nothing on the menu that would have justified the way the server treated us, so we just left. We walked a bit further along the pier and came across a small place with garden furniture, offering pizzas. It didn’t look like much but nearly all the tables were occupied, so we thought we would give it a try.

Asked for a table and were led to one right away. They handed us a menu and asked for drinks. And while we waited for them we looked around and really liked the food we saw on other tables. They had a wide variety of pizza on offer and we both decided to get one that was a bit out of the ordinary. Tom ordered a Pesto Pizza, red pizza with no cheese, but spread with pesto and I had a Margherita that had lettuce and cherry tomatoes on top. And while we waited for our food a wedding party went by to celebrate on one of the ships that were anchored nearby. It was fun to watch until our pizzas arrived. Both had sounded strange, but were very tasty and we liked them a lot. 

And after paying the bill we had a restroom break and then headed up the long steep steps into the town again. We strolled along the main road again and stopped at an ice-cream parlour that offered Porto Venere ice-cream, which was pretty tasty. And then it was already time to head back to the harbour not to miss the next ship that went along the Cinque Terre.

The ship already sat in the harbour and people were starting to line up, so we jumped in line and within minutes we were allowed to get on board. Again we found nice seats on the preferred side and within a few minutes we left the pier. And were surprised when we did not go towards the rock with the little church on top. Had we picked the wrong boat? We soon were to find out that they had closed the passage and all ships were held close to Porto Venere and our boat had to drive back and around the rocks and pass them from the other side. By now it was past 2pm and we knew that it would take quite some time to get to Monterosso, so we decided not to get off in Manarola and just enjoy the ride up to Monterosso.

It was fun and we enjoyed the stops of the ship along the way. And about 75 minutes after we had started our journey we arrived at Monterosso. We walked around a bit, did some window shopping and then agreed on having a little break. We soon found a small bar that offered inside seating and we ordered two glasses of local wine and a large bottle of water. When they served the wine we were also served some snacks, salted peanuts, black olives and caper berries. It was so relaxing and we really enjoyed our little break. They sold a lot of local wines and spirits and there was an orange liqueur Tom wanted to try. We ordered a glass and it was really wonderful and so we bought a bottle to take home.

Once we had had our break we strolled around a little more and then went back to the harbour to take the next ship back to Vernazza. It was the last one that day, so we were hoping to make it on board. There was a HUGE line and a man was calling out where the ships went to. We could not believe it, but most of the people wanted to go on the first ship, which was bound for La Spezia. Our ship did not go all that way, so less people wanted to board. We were so lucky as it was already pretty full and we even got a seat on the outside. It was a nice ride back to Vernazza and we enjoyed our time and the view a lot. About 20 minutes later we arrived in Vernazza where we got off and slowly walked past the harbour.

We picked up a Cinque Terre calendar for 2016 and a few more pieces of Focaccia and some other food items. We took our time and even though about 10 minutes later we sat in our little apartment. We had a little break after taking a shower and sat outside and enjoyed a glass of the Prosecco we had brought with us. It had been such a lovely day and we sat outside enjoying our drinks until it started to get dark. We still had quite a few groceries and so we prepared our dinner ourselves. I made some tomato salad, dressed with seasalt and lemon juice, we had picked up some pieces of Focaccia on the way home, one was like a Focaccia pizza, the other a Vegetable Focaccia. We still had black olives and a chunk of Chili Pecorino, a filled flatbread, two cut pieces of Focaccia and a small individual Focaccia.

There was even some yummy salami.We laid the table and had a nice dinner before we started packing all our stuff as we were to leave again the next day. Packing took a little longer than expected but around 11pm we were ready for our last night in Vernazza.