Cinque Terre

Vernazza, Cinque Terre

Cinque Terre is a UNESCO World Heritage site on the northwest coast of Italy.   It is named for 5 towns Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore.  Cars are not allowed in the 5 towns, so visitors must arrive by rail, ferry (April to October) or by hiking trail.

We arrived in Cinque Terre from Nice, France.  There was a bit of switching of trains and much travel on the slower regional trains before we got to our destination.  Sometimes the best places are the most difficult to get to.

Along one of the trails

Cinque Terre is also a national park.  When you go there you should purchase a park pass.  Passes are available at different prices depending on how many days you plan to use them.  The pass gives you access to the hiking trails and allows you to travel on the trains between Levanto and La Spezia.  This is great because if you are not a great hiker you can take the train to one village and hike to the next or even take the trains from village to village.  Cornigila is the only village that is not directly accessible by train and you will have to wait for a bus, hike up a hill or walk the steps.  The park pass comes with a map of the park including the hiking trails with the distances and times for walking the trails.


We stayed in Vernazza.  Our reservation at Vernazza Rooms was not honoured and we had to scramble to find other accommodation.   We went to the cafe just down from the train station called The Blue Marlin, where they also serve a great breakfast.  The bartender suggested we check around the waterfront square for someone renting rooms.

The alleys of Vernazza

The father of Martina Callo, who also rents rooms, was sitting on a bench in the square, and although his daughter didn’t have any vacancies, he found us a room right on the square for one night.  We couldn’t believe our luck.  We had a beautiful room overlooking the harbour and square.  The next day he introduced us to a young woman who had a room available for the duration of our stay.  It was a bit more expensive and not on the square, but was a lovely room and we were happy we could stay.  Vernazza has tall buildings built along a narrow piece of land near the water.  The towns narrow alleys are fun to explore and lose yourself in.

The view from our room

It was early October and the water was still warm enough for swimming.  I was quite excited to be able to swim in the Mediterranean in Vernazza’s sheltered harbour.  We did a few of the hikes and took the train as well as the ferry and visited the 5 towns.

The festival in Monterosso

We were fortunate to arrive for a festival in Monterosso.  It is always fun to join in the festivities in a different country, even if you don’t quite know the reason behind them.

The Cinque Terre was an unforgettable place and well worth a visit.  The only problem was that lots of people felt that way.  During the day the towns could be fairly busy, but by evening most people had left for hotel rooms outside the park.  There was always something to do and three days was not enough time to spend here.

In October 2011, Vernazza was hit by a devastating flood.  It was heartbreaking to see the damage that was caused to this beautiful town.  Efforts to help restore Vernazza are being supported by


Getting Lost

Siena, Italy

This started as a post about doing your research before you travel and veered off course in a wonderful way.

I love the research part of travelling.  I suppose years of working as a theatre tour coordinator taught me to be an organized traveller.  Don’t get me wrong.  I leave everything open when I arrive at a place.  I just like make sure I have my accommodation booked and know how to get to the room so I can dump my knapsack and explore.

I think I spent as much time researching places to visit, where to stay and how to get there as we spent on the trip.  It was worth every minute.  My husband was always a little dubious when I would hop off a train in a new city and start looking for the next bus or subway, or even more unnerving for him, start walking to our accommodations.  We usually ended up right where we were supposed to be-or pretty close.

The red carpet was for the New Pop Festival, in Baden Baden, it was a bit helpful for finding your way around.

The times I didn’t have our route figured out so well were also ok, because  we were able to meet the people who lived in a new place.  It always amazed me that no matter where you went, you could always find someone who was willing to help you find your way.

In Siena, Italy we had gotten on the correct bus at the train station to take us into the city, but didn’t know when to get off the bus.  I asked a younger woman, who I figured would speak English, where we should get off the bus to get to Via della Sapienza.  While she was pondering an answer an older woman and man jumped into the conversation.  By the time our stop came, lots of helpful people were telling us to “go, go now”, or something like that in Italian. The man who had made suggestions earlier met us at our stop, we must have looked incredibly confused on the bus, because he had gotten off one stop earlier.  He very kindly walked us part way to where we needed to go.  We were still in trouble.  The old city is full of narrow alleys and streets.  After conversations with shop owners and a police officer we found our accommodation, Albergo Bernini.  It was worth getting lost for.

Civita di Bagnoregio-pretty hard to get lost here

We also ran into a large crowd of very helpful people in Naples who helped us figure out which train to catch to Sorrento.  A wonderful young couple on the express bus from the airport to the port of Athens (Piraeus), used their blackberry to find directions to our hotel and even talked to the bus driver to make sure he was aware of our stop.  These encounters with people are what make travel worth while.  There is natural beauty and wonderful examples of art, architecture and engineering all over the world.  But, when you travel and are blessed by the kindness of strangers it reaffirms your faith in humanity, and the memories of these encounters become more remarkable than the sights you have seen.

Our 6 week Europe travel plan

The following is the itinerary for 6 weeks in Europe.  We travelled in September and October 2010.  I carried a print copy of this and sent a copy to my gmail account.  It covered a lot more ground than most people would like, but we enjoyed the pace.

I tried to balance urban area stays with smaller centre visits and changed the number of days we stayed in different places. The smaller centres were usually serviced by regional trains or buses, and sometimes both trains and buses had to be used.  This made getting there part of the adventure. 

Flight LH 6741 11:45 PM Confirm Hotel t Keizershof 2494.22
Air Canada
Arr:  London, LHR   9:35 am Hotel t`Keizershof      c Cash only, 44 e per night, incl bkft 240
Pancreas Stn Dep 14:34 to St Pancras, underground directly from Heathrow to Kings Cross-St Pancras, follow signs for St Pan international
arr Brussels 5:33 Keizerhof: cross square in front of stn. Diagonal towards traffic lights on left, cross ring road at traffic lights, follow signs, Site Stl Jan or Minnewater.  Hotel on Left # 126 44euro
Arrive Brugges
Brugges Htl t`Keizershof         c 44 euro
Dpt Brugge Moevenpick Amsterdam Confirmation # 15718SY055882 , 250.77 paid in full 250.77 us
City Centre                 c 15 min walk fr station, Take harbourside-north exit from stn, turn right continue about 12 min, will see tram line, pass 2 traffic lights, after 1st light go over bridge, Hotel is between main road and water and is visible shortly after leaving station.
Arr: Amsterdam Piet Heinkade 11 traffic lights, after 1st light go over bridge, Hotel is between main road and water and is visible shortly after leaving station.
Amsterdam Moevenpick
Amsterdam Movenpick
Dpt:   Amsterdam Jugendgastehaus      c Inc Bkft and dinner 24.40 +7.50 + 3.10 hostel stamp
Bacharach turn right from train stn.  1st stairs are on left shortly after leaving stn.  Steep climb, 2nd stairs are further into town next to church.
Arr:  Bacharach Michael Kumpfe
Confirm  32501
Rhine River Cruise Jugendgastehaus     c
Dep:  Bacharach Gaftehaus Raidel       c 59 euro w bath pay  cash 59 euro
Romantic Road Norry Raidel owner
Rothenburg de Taber Wenggasse 3,
tel. 09861/3115
Depart Rothenburg Hotel Merkur             c Package   298 incl breakfast 2 nights plus both spas 298 euro
Merkurstr 8 # 145405
Arrive Baden-Baden take bus line 201 from train stn, get off at Augustaplatz bus runs every 10 min
tel:  07221/30 30
Baden-Baden Hotel Merkur             c
Depart Baden Baden Maison Martin Judd 35.euro+ 2.60er tax +6 er each breakfast 49.60 euro
Centre of town near Cathedral St Martin 12 rue de l’Ange, tel. 03 89 41 58 72  take bus #1,2 or 3 from the stn to the TI, walk from Unterlinden Museum past Monoprix and veer left on rue des Clefs.  Left on rue Etroite and right on rue de l’Ange, this is not a hotel so there is no real reception
Arrive Colmar
Dep Colmar Hotel du Champ de Mars 98 eruo 98 euro
13:06 Colmar Stn 7 rue champ de Mar
tel: +3314515230 No brkfst
Arr Paris  16:37 c
Paris Hotel du Champ de Mars Subway:  Ecole Militaire 98euro
RER:  Invalides—Pont de l’Alma
c Bus: 28, 80, 82, 92
Paris Hotel du Champ de Mars 98 euro
Dep Paris 15:15 Hotel Boquier Avignon 64 euro La Camargue 64 euro
Arr Avignon 17:56 No brkfst
Avingon Hoetl Boquier Avignon 64 euro
Dep Avignon 12:15 Best Western Alba 90 euro 90 euro
Arr Nice 15:34 41 Ave Jean Medecin # 169.870.658
Depart Nice Vernazza Rooms San Franciso rm 5 75 euro
Arrive Cinque Terre Vernazza Rooms did not keep our reservation so we had to find other accommodation in Vernazza.
Cinque Terre 100euro
Cinque Terre 100 euro
Depart Cinque Terre Casalagana B & B 95 euro incl brkf 95 euro
Arrive Venice Calle Ruga Giuffa 4902
Venice Casalagana B & B 95 eruo
Venice Casalagana was awful, we left Venice a day early and spent extra time in Siena 65 euro
Travel to Florence Siena 65 euro share bath 65 euro
Albergo Bernini
Travel to Siena Via della Sapienza 15
Siena 65 euro
Albergo Bernini
We hoped to rent a car, but ended up travelling by train Montepulciano 70eruo spa discount, parking 70 euro
Albergo Duomo
Via San Donata 14 ref: IHR9194058
Piazza Grande
+39 0578 757473
Getting here was a bit of work by train and bus, but well worth it. Bagnoregio                c 80 euro inc bkfst, park 80 euro
Hotel Romantica Pucci
Piazza Cavour 1 0761-792121
01022 Bagnoregio
Sorrento 309 euro for 3 days full use of spa and brkft incl 309 eruo
Train to Sorrento Ulisses Deluxe Vial del Mare 22
Wellness pkg 80067 Sorrento +39 0818774753
Ulisses Deluxe
Ulisses Deluxe
Sorrento to Rome Dreams Pireaus 60 euro (owe 51 euro, as paid deposit on room) 60 euro
Flight to Athens 79-81 Filonos Str and 78-80 Notara Str Ref:  1572971 130.44 euro
18535 Pireaus
Ferry to islands Anemomilos 232.00 euros for 4 days incl bkft & transfers 232 euro
Booking .com / 144.154.194   4767
Arr 3:00 pm
Bus to Oia
Aneomilos Oia
Anemomilos  Oia
Animomilos   Oia
Ferry to Paros 15:30 (3:30) arr:  18:45 (6:45)  Anna Platanou Hotel 32 euro per night nobkft 32 euro
Dimitris will meet at ferry Bath, incl, close to town and beach
Anna Platanou Hotel 32 euro 32 euro
Paros 72 euro
Ferry to Athens Athens 72 euro
Dep 10:45 arr15:00 (3 pm) Attalos Hotel Booking id: 45421
Athens 72 euro 72 euro
Attalos Hotel
Athens Attalos 72 euro 72 euro
Athens Sofitel Airport Hotel 208 euro paid 208 euro
Int# 15351172844 No bkfst
Flight LH 5917  Athens    8:35 am
Aegean Airline SA  Munich   10:14 am
LH 474 Dep Munich 11:50 am
Arr Montreal   2:15 pm
LH 9558 Air Canada Dep Montreal 6:50 pm
Arr Halifax  9:10 pm