Sunday, February 17, 2008

My weekend in Italy


Up at 5:45am and off at 6:05am to catch the train! Still dark and rather cold! Around 8am arrive at Stansted Airport and check in. 10:35 and the RyanAir 737 takes off--destination Parma, Italy. 2 hours later we land in Parma and are rushed through customs which consists of one man glancing at our passports--no machine reading them! Juliette met me with one of her colleagues who had a car so could take me into town. Juliette had to go back to work so I explored Parma! I was amazed at the small cobbled streets with high and very old buildings so close together. And there were so many bicycles--these bicycles were like Mums bicycle when I was 8 years old. No gears and very old school style! Even the new bicycles were still this style. So I figured someone must hire them out so I got a map at the information centre and set off. Walked thru a big green area and found some giant teapots!! I approached to photograph them and had a guy come up and begin to speak a lot of Italian to me. He then found someone else to translate for me and I found out he was asking me if I wanted to buy weed!! The teapots must be the location for that!! A bit further on by the river I managed to find the bicycles and for 70 cents had one for an hour. I biked thru a large park and then negotiated some crazy busy streets to find the football stadium. I had asked the rental lady if there were any rules I should know and she said "No, the bikes can go anywhere!" And yes they did go everywhere--sometimes coming at you on the wrong side of the road but often on the footpaths dodging the pedestrians. After an hours exploring I walked back to Juliette's apartment and fell asleep on the couch. After Juliette came home we went out for some wine-here they bring you many snacks for free to eat with your wine! Then home to make lunch for the next day and get some sleep.


Caught the train at 7:50am for the 2 hour trip to the coast. The trains are big and old--not like the English trains. We went thru farmland and then hills and along a nice river--through a gorge and then I fell asleep. We got off the train in Riomaggiore which is the first of 5 towns in the Cinque Terre. We then walked along the Via dell'Amore which is an amazing path high above the sea on the cliffs. This took us to Manarola which is a very cute little town with a lovely little harbour with lots of small boats. We walked on around the coast for another hour to the 3rd town Corniglia. Here we got on the train to carry on north. The trains run all the way up the coast mostly in tunnels but occasionally pop out right on the edge of the cliff. We took the train to the 5th town Monterosso. This one has a large beach which wasn't that clean but we found some large rocks to sit on and eat lunch right beside the sea. Then we walked back to the 4th town Veranozza. This 1 1/2 hour walk was up a lot of very steep steps and then along the cliff top and then a steep descent down into Veranozza. We walked thru a lot of terraces where grapes, olives, citrus trees and other things are grown. There were water pipes everywhere! Then we stumbled upon 2 fat cats sitting on the side of the track with a lot of cat food and a cat tent! there was a sign saying to please feed these homeless cats with the food provided. They didnt move--just sat there- I guess they were too fat to move. After that we began to notice fat cats in all the towns--lots of them! From Corniglia we took the train back to Manarola where we got Italian icecream and ate it by the harbour. This was probably the cutest of the little towns. It had very steep streets and pathways between teh buildings which we explored. We stayed here a long time taking photos and waiting for sunset. Just before sunset we walked back towards Riomaggiore where on the cliffpath there is a bar/cafe. Here we bought hot chocolates--they were so thick it was like drinking a pudding-sooo good!! watched the sunset and then walked back to Riomaggiore. Explored this town and decided on a restuarant (Pizzeria Da Ciro) for dinner. Juliette had pizza and I had Parma Calzone. Unfortunately it was a little burnt and the restuarant owner tried to tell me that was normal. After dinner we had to wait about 40 minutes for the train and the temp had dropped to 8 deg but it felt like about 2!! It had got up to 16 during the afternoon and in the sun we had got quite hot hiking. We jumped around trying to keep warm and then fell asleep on the 2 hour train journey back to Parma.

Today we slept in and then walked around Parma. Went inside the cathedral which is huge and has very high ceilings with paintings all over them. Very impressive old building. It was very cold and the sun was trying to shine through! Had lunch in a nice cafe--I had crepes with Parma chese and Parma ham! mmmm! Then all too soon had to go to the airport and fly back to London. Was a great weekend, soo nice to breathe the fresh sea air and smell the salt and the sea. Gratia Juliette!!

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