We did the hike up the mountain – turns out the elevation we hiked to is about 2700 ft above sea level – Gabriele said it is about 3000 steps and some of the steps were quite a reach and some were crumbling and not level. But we made it along with Henry and Gillian from Portland and Joanna from Switzerland and Stefan from Germany – all much younger than us…
The hike was incredible in many ways – incredibly steep, incredibly narrow and also incredibly beautiful. I have only two iPhone pictures on the way up – so the rest will have to wait for us to get back.
We got back about six and headed down into town to find a restaurant for dinner. We chose Trattoria il Porticciolo and ate on the patio.
and this time decided we had to try pesto, besides anchovies one of the things this area is known for. I got special local pasta with pesto – and Bill got seafood ravioli with mussels, clams, and other shellfish with ravioli.
We met another young Austalian couple who were in the last two weeks of 3 months of traveling. They are teachers and took off their summer to travel.
A little later in came Gillian and Henry
Just after dessert
a couple from the UK told us there was a 24 hour train strike so it was unclear if we would get to Florence the next day. Went back to La Toretta but Gabriele had not heard anything on the news but he would check in the morning so we took advantage of the hot tub and then went to bed.
Breakfast at this B&B is brought to your room – beautiful tray of breads, jams, Nutella, fruit, juice, yogurt,
Have to show the bathroom door too
After we ate and I posted an earlier blog using wireless available in the lobby and on the terrace. Then we went for a walk back down “the” road – there is only one and no cars allowed most of the time, I think one day a week for a few hours they are allowed. We walked out on a walk along the sea – many more pictures coming…
There is a river flowing through the town – you can hear it like a noisy waterfall everywhere but you never see it – it flows under the road! Here you can see it leaving the town – evidently still lots if meltoff out to the sea.
Town piazza where we saw a large group of Italian students who were hiking the five towns of the Cinqe Terre park. The boys spent most of their time chanting (sounded like what is done at soccer games) or singing – we took their picture with a couple of their cameras – and ours.
Chanting at people below
Singing to the girls
Ate lunch here
We had pizza – wonderful one called “Andrea Doria” with anchovies, dried tomatoes and maybe onions (not sure as they were so mild) – and everything I’ve read about fresh anchovies being different than the salty oily canned ones is 100% right – they were wonderful. Bill had a sausage pizza which was more like American pizza but very tasty sausage. Dessert was an assortment of small cannolis.
Along one side of the ravine where this town is located is houses, the other side is vineyards – many of them quite small individual gardens. Because it is Easter season there is a display of the passion story on the hill.
We’ll be going hiking up there in a bit. Hopefully the weather will hold out – it was sunny but clouds are returning.
After oohing and ahhing the room we went down for apperitive. We were served a white wine Sangria and assortment of small appetizers in a cute little room. There we met Henry and Gillian from Portland. They look quite young and are just doing a little 2 week trip before their third child is born. I was thinking wow, young and living the good life…They told us that they were in Lucca a couple of days ago and there was a large market going on. They bought an old glass chandelier from a woman for 250 euro and now have figure out how to get it shipped home!
For dinner we had Gabriele make reservations at a nearby restaurant.
We walked up some more steep steps to get to Billy’s Trattoria – a small restaurant named for an old sea captain who still comes in sometimes to tell his fishing stories. It is run by two friends who were very charming.
We decided on pasta with lobster for two and Bill also ordered a small grilled fresh catch of the day.
They started us with more Sangia and bread. The lobster was a whole lobster cooked in some sauce that was also on the homemade pasta that was served on top of the lobster. Probably the best lobster dish I have ever had anywhere! Doesn’t look as good here as it tasted.
The fish was also tasty and Bill could only say good things about this place.
Wine was a local white with Billy’s own label.
Ended with a delicious homemade tiramisu.
And they also brought us some Grappa and another unlabeled drink – I loved the Grappa and Bill liked the other one (that to me tasted like strong cough medicine)
Walked back and put on swimsuits and our spa robes and went to sit in the hot tub, which we had to ourselves. The room is small, lit with candles and the spa water lit with changing colors.
All of these amenities plus the basket of bathroom things (loofa, comb, toothbrush, shower cap, etc) are probably not unheard of in big luxury places and maybe we are revealing that this not the class of service we usually get or expect but somehow it is more unexpected in this tiny hill town built on and into the rocks in very old quirky buildings and certainly not for these prices!
Our train was late out of Varenna but that led to some interesting conversations with other travelers. Especially Alessandro who talked with us a long time – he is from a village near Varenna and now completing his batchelor’s degree at Univ of Milan. When we mentioned we had climbed to the castle at Varenna, he said “Varenna has a castle?” we pointed it out to him on the hill above where we were… Just like all places, the locals don’t go see the sights… Here is Alessandro on the train
Lunch was not so interesting – sandwiches sold on the train.
The trip went well despite having to take a later train out of Milan – on the train from Milan to Monterosso al Mare, we had a compartment of six seats to ourselves which was very nice. Bill did some reading on the train- I warched the scenery and slept some.
At first it looked a lot like the scenery at home and then it became hilly around us and we spent about half the time in long tunnels, the last 40 min or so of the three hour ride were along the Mediteranean punctuated by tunnels. Here is a not so good view out the dirty train window.
At Monterosso we caught a small local train to Manarola. Both towns are part of the Cinque Terre.
The directions to our hotel were “follow the road up to the church, then up the stairs by the tower. Wow, was it ever UP! The hotel La Torretta, is owned by a young man and his mother. It is a beautifully restored and decorated and perfectly executed small Spa/B&B high up above Mediterranean.
So picture you just arrived after 8 hrs of waiting for trains and traveling and climb the steep hill and stairs to check in. We were directed to sit on the terrace, given a glass of prosecco and a tray with strawberries and crackers with caviar while the owner opened the room and carried up our luggage (more steep stairs).
the view from the terrace…
We were told about the free activities – tomorrow is a hike and then free winetasting at a farm where everyone brings their grapes for pressing and processing – although it must not be everyone as we saw small presses at two houses on our walk up here.
Wow, the room kind of defies description and not sure the pictures do it justice either but here they are.
Refrigerator is stocked with free coke, fanta and bottled water. Homemade cookies and a note on the kitchen table, iPod dock, plasma TV (which I could do without but Bill likes it), bathrobes, view out the window of the town and the sea…
Oh, and did I mention the decanter of fine whiskey? Seriously, I am not kidding and all for under $200 a night (low season still) Kevin, you should be here sipping whiskey with us!