Saturday, October 25, 2014

10/22/14 Day 279 Venice

Visiting Venice absolutely exceeded my expectations, most of what I have heard is that the city is very dirty, and honestly not much else, so I was going into it with low expectations. There was definitely a plethora of rats, and cats, and pigeons, all of which imply a city is filthy, but besides the awful gut wrenching smell of the canals (you would have to visit to understand) the city is quite clean compared to the garbage filled Southern Italy cities. To see how this city was built to survive as a waterworld seems like a dreamscape. It is possible to walk most places amongst the canals but can be very slow and is easy to get lost. If you need to get somewhere, you can take a water taxi or a waterbus (if you are on a budget) if you are intoxicated while driving your gondola you may get pulled over by the police boat, if there is a fire you call the firefighter boat, for a romantic date a gondola ride, and if you need something delivered there are boats for that too! We were lucky enough to stay with Greta, a local student studying costume design. She showed us around to many of the great spots in Venice and showed us where her school is on the island, for some of her classes she even has to take the waterbus, (perhaps inconvenient to a local) so cool! She did warn us that parking was impossible on the island, but Polly will try anything once, so we drove our car right onto the island and parked in a spot that costs 15€ an hour with a 1 hour maximum, with a shrug we scampered off to see the sights. After a full day of meandering the canals, drinking local favorite Aperol Spritz and eating more pizza we returned to our beloved Poly expecting the car to be brimming with tickets, but not even one!

The squero or boatyard where they build approximately 2 new Gondolas a year, which are measured specifically to the gondolier who will be driving

Shipping on down the canal

Ferry to nearby islands, just like a bus stop 

Gondola train, only 80€ per hour for a gondola ride

My first tiramisu in Italy 

Even the firefighters and policemen are boaters

Prosecco by the barrel and for 2€ a liter, how do I get one of those delivered home

10/20/14 Day 277 Cinque Terre

Cinque Terre is the most recommended place of all of the destinations I was advised of before my travels and along the way people continue to praise this destination like no other. We were so lucky to get to stay with Ari, a very creative street artist (in his previous life) in the comfort of his home nestled way up, deep within the mountains in a village comprised of nothing more than a few dozen stone homes and friendly neighbors and just 20 minutes East of our destination. Cinque Terre is a series of 5 adorable villages cut perfectly into the cliffs of Northwest Italy's coast. There is a walking path connecting all five of the villages, but the paths between the first three villages suffered a fatal landslide incident a few years back and the paths have yet to be restored. As for the remaining three paths there is a fee of 7€ to walk the short paths, averaging 1-2 kilometers each. While walking cement enforced "trails" is not really our style, paying for something that should be free is definitely not... so we hopped aboard Polly and down the steep, windy roads we drove. The homes in the villages are brightly painted and the charming restaurants and storefronts sell everything from pizza to sunscreen. Each village offers something a little different than the last but the three furthest South were much more quaint and preserved. We started in the North at Monterosso, which of the five is the largest with easy transportation options and accessibility degrading some of that charm. We quickly cruised through the village before piling in the car and heading to the next village, Vernazza. Down the weather worn streets the hillside crumbling underneath the pavement and detouring around the closed roads to the bottom where we found a place to jump in for a swim in the crystal clear blue waters of the Mediterranean. We also found a cave you can duck under to transport yourself to a more remote beach with no buildings or tourists damaging the view. We drove up into the village of Corniglia, built high up in the rocks and climbed the hundreds of stairs demanding the worthy views. By the time we reached Manorola it was time for food and we treated ourselves to the Cinque Terre specialty; farinata, a pancake resembling bread made from chickpea flour and cooked in a wood fired oven, delicious and cheap at less than 2€ a slice. Riomaggiore is usually considered the first town of the five earths, but since we did them in reverse, we ran out of time and visited the first village on our last day in the La Spezia area. It is the smallest and definitely one of the most beautiful and quaint, especially early in the morning before the buses have arrived! 

The harbor at La Spezia: Gateway to the Cinque Terre 

The foggy village of our hilltop host
Ari (CS host), Kevin, myself, and Kevin

The faltering roadways leading down to Vernazza

Stair building in action
The alternative to paying to walk between villages, paying to take the train

Surprise surprise he found something to jump off 

Corniglia, the middle village high up in the hills

Kevin and Kevin all ready for some beach time