the hoofindex - rewind to the previous trip (turkey and anzac day) - fast forward to the following trip (venice)
What an absolutely wicked long weekend! This has been the best trip yet since arriving in the UK! No small statement but this weekend had it all, great iconic monuments, great Italian food, gorgeous little Tuscan villages and hiking along picturesque coastline.
It was a bit of "trains, planes and automobiles" to get to our first destination. We flew from Stansted which requires a fair drive from Harpenden, then flew to Genoa, to get a bus into Genoa central station, to get a train down to Pisa!
No small effort given we arrived in Pisa late afternoon... and after dropping our bags at our cute hotel which was down a narrow Pisa street - we made our way to that building everyone visits Pisa for.
But Pisa was so much more than that - it looks as though the tourist buses arrive during the day, people get out, do that stupid tai-kwan-do move which looks like they're holding up the leaning tower, check out the souvenir shops, and then its back on the bus to Florence or whatever is their next destination. So in the early evening the place empties out to become a really cool town full of locals. Other than the tourism, the primary function of Pisa is as a university town - its Dunedin and the scarfies but with Tuscan buildings and a better climate!
Next morning we did the obligatory poses with the Leaning Tower of Pisa...cheesy I know, but it was kinda expected!
Even Hoofy got into the act!
We struggled not to laugh when we watched all the other muppets do their moves with the tower.
The tower is just one piece of what could be the most impressive squares in Italy, with the church, observatory and the famous tower in the background.
Then up we went - climbing the wonky tower... which was a strange feeling walking up the spiraling stairs which were obviously built when the tower was straight. At some points the stairs didn't take you any higher and then you'd get to the other side and you felt like you were going to fall backwards.
Since Hoofy had four hoofs to get up the tower he was pretty puffed when he got to the top. Sensational view of the town thou.
There is the Hoof, just chilling out on top of the tower (on the high side).
After finishing up in Pisa it was back on the train north, heading for Cinque Terre. A national park with five fishing villages built into the cliffs along the coastline. We got off the train at Riomaggorie, the southern most village... and has the easiest walk between the village to Manarola..
The path from Riomaggorie and Manarola is completely sealed so makes for an easy and flat walk - only 20 minutes.
There's even a very scenic cafe, cantilevered out over the cliffs... the Hoof'ess wasn't completely comfortable sitting here!
First peak of Manarola perched on the rocks above the Med.
The view of Manarola from the other side - this was the second village in the set. The place emptied out in the late afternoon leaving a very peaceful Italian village - not at all touirsty... we found only a few restaurants which were at least half full with locals!
Even found the Hoof'ess a cat to pat... and one of our best meals in Italy. Sensational seafood pasta, local wine... and sensational desserts.
Next morning it was time to head up the mountainside, climbing up the terraces via steps built yonks ago. The flat path closer to the coast was closed for reconstruction so we were forced to go up and up and up and up! It was hard work in the full sun and the heat, but when we got to the top it was so worth it!
Having reached the top we had awesome views over the grape vines and olives towards the beautiful blues of the Med. All of the land between the villages is terraced and farmed...with olives and grapes.
The Hoof'ess with her pack... still smiling after the 60 minute climb practically straight up. Perhaps its because she can see the next village and where lunch is..
More smiles - what can I say? Sun beating down and hiking in an awesome landscape. Definitely recommend getting off the main path lower down and climb up into the mountainside. You'll be handsomely rewarded.
Getting closer to Corniglia, the third village. Almost time for lunch!
Looking back along the coast and the villages. Corniglia in the foreground, and Manarola further along
Village number 4, Vernassa. Probably the most picturesque village thanks to a waterfront with marina, beach and town square, while still hugging the mountainside. Would recommend this village to anyone thinking of heading this way...it would be a great place to stay along with Manarola.
The view of Vernassa from the waterfront, with the town square.
One last look at Vernassa while heading back up the mountain.
One of the many flights of stairs on this walk. This last stretch was probably the second most challenging bit (if you are going to take our advice and head up the hill near Manarola)
The fifth and final village of Monterosso, the largest village by a reasonable margin - and after a full days hiking this was our third stop. Its the flashiest village and most tourist orientated....
A final view of the Cinque Terre coast from the Monterosso beach.
So there you have it, a wicked weekend we'd recommend to anybody - you've got to check this place out! Next up, another trip to Italy - Venice