The Retirees return to Italy – On board the SS Costa Diadema – La Spezia.

After sailing all night passing the lights of the islands of Giannutri and Giglo, we arrive at La Spezia. This huge ship reverses into the berth by the wharf. We can see all the tour buses lined up waiting for us and the town is awaking to another visit by tourists.

After breakfast and before our tour, we stroll the ship and find the basketball court, the adventure castle and Peppa Pig water park.

We have some free time in La Spezia. This is very close to Cinque Terra which is to the north so there are some aspects that seem familiar such as the colours of the buildings along the shore. In the town, there is a strange church on Piazza Europa and the buildings are very grand. An adjoining square has these simple but effective sculptures highlighting the unitary colours of the buildings around. Mandarin trees laden with fruit line the streets. Not a lot to see or do but the stroll through the town and along the waterfront is very enjoyable. It gives us a chance to see our ship at berth and take a portrait.

After we have lunch, I am a little ashamed to say, we went to a shopping village by bus. Even so it allowed us to see some of the rural areas outside of La Spezia and like most of Italy there were always hilltop villages in view. But I have withheld the shopping photos through embarrassment. We visited one of those villages, Sarzana which of course had a Roman heritage and was one of the towns controlled by the Medici family in the middle ages. The bus dropped us off outside of the town walls so that we entered through the Town Gate and then proceeded to the top of the wall for a view down the main street. Crossing to the other side we came across a Medici fortress with its clone on the hilltop behind the town. It was here we lost the rest of the tour and made our own investigations.

Kerry and I followed the streets through typical Italian village squares (Piazzas), past remnant pieces of history such as the village well now water fountain, workshops (this one being the workshop of a motorbike restorer), the memorial to lives lost in conflict beside a children’s merry-go-round, houses built on remnant parts of the old wall, and a building that appeared to be something to do with injured servicemen. The village is very much alive and a place still in use but having its roots in Roman times. Times up and we fight the evening traffic to return to Diadema, dinner and bed.

The Retirees return to Italy – Farewell Cesi hello Civitavecchia

Our day starts, as usual, with a manic trip to Terni by bus this time with suitcases which run a muck in the bus leading to a collision between my head and the overhead luggage racks. Kerry found this most humorous. We board the train remembering to validate our tickets and bid Roberto farewell. The trip to Rome was going smoothly until we reached Orta when there was a delay of some 30 minutes throwing out our timing to catch the train to Civitavecchia and the departure point for our ship.

Of course, we arrive at Platform 1 EST the furthest point from the station. We then walked with suitcases to the station, where we try to purchase tickets but due to a misspelling of the name of the port Kerry is having difficulty when a “helpful” local intervenes then begs for financial assistance for his services. Fair enough I think he helped except that we got tickets for the next train to Civitavecchia from Platform 28 which is the equivalent of Platform 1 EST only on the opposite side of the station. Panic ensues as we charge up the platform. My suitcase has suddenly got very heavy. Finally, I drag it onto the train much relieved that we made it. I then examined my suitcase to find one of the wheels to be frozen. The ride to Civitavecchia went smoothly and we resolved to get a cab to the ship – it proved a great decision with the cab delivering us and luggage to the door for €10.

We were finally able to relax. From our cabin window, we see the other ships at anchor and the land disappearing in our wake. Our room is large and comfortable, the ship luxurious in its fitout and we look forward to our trip to La Spezia through the Tyrrhenian Sea.

The Retirees go Abroad – Cinque Terre

We had heard it reported that Cinque Terre was the place to go in Tuscany. So we did.

It all started with leaving our flat and taking the car to La Spezia where we parked under the train station. We then caught the train to Riomaggiore along with thousands of other tourists. Our arrival at Riomaggiore coincided with at least half of those tourists on the train – the others were going to the beach judging by the towels and sun screen.

The village is sitting on the edge of a rocky outcrop and each house seems to be either clinging on or dug in. Enquiries with the information office gave us two options – take the tunnel to the main square and the harbour or do a tour of the village by walking around the hill and down into the main square. When we stated that the stroll through the village sounded nice the assistant at the information office came to life and produced maps and information about “her village”.

Outside the day was starting to warm up. The sky was clear and there was very little breeze. A very tired mural on the wall outside of the office told the story of the hard work and life endured by the locals and set the scene for the village we were about to explore.

The walk started with a steep climb past some “high rise” and then higher up there were detached houses with gardens growing fruit and vegetables in all possible spots. We were about half way to the top and the sea came into view. The sea was a deep blue and dotted with ferries, and the vision affirmed our decision to travel to the next village by ferry. We could see the ocean path leading to Manarola (the next village) and we could also see the rock slides that had closed the path thank goodness. It meant our decision was between the ferry and the train. It was too hot to walk across the top of the hill.

We climbed further into the village following the stony paths that passed for roads and encountered picturesque views of the village and its houses with “altanas” – (Italian roof top patios) and its community church. After the church the main street ran from the top of the village down to its square. Busy with tourists, we quickly moved through to catch the ferry. From the harbour I was able to photograph some of the more beautiful sights in Riomaggiore. We lined up along with a few others (busloads of them) and caught the ferry for a five minute cruise to Manarola and a meeting with our own Italian Roberto the bus driver from Bribie.

The landing at Manorola was a little more harrowing than Riomaggiore due to the narrowness of the access but the village was just as enchanting as Riomaggiore. Roberto was waiting breathlessly with his travelling companion to greet us and to whisk us away from the tourist highlights of the village to a more traditional (or so he said) part of the village and his chosen restaurant for lunch- Nessun Dorma. I must say we did have what appeared to best the best vantage spot to view the village and the restaurant was quaint with its vegetable gardens growing throughout the restaurant.

After lunch he showed us the toughest way back to the village, but in the course of doing so I met this lovely iron maiden who insisted on wearing her birthday suit to the beach and a quaint place of rest overlooking the sea. In the shade of the umbrellas and with the sea breezes kissing our cheeks we had not realised how hot the day had become until arriving in the village main street. Enclosed by houses and protected against any breeze it was stifling. So we bid our farewells to our Italian Stallion and caught the train to Monterosso al Mare.

The northern most village of the five towns making up the Cinque Terre, Monterosso al Mare has beaches rather than rock walls. But the beaches are all segregated into little kingdoms of umbrellas and deck chairs. For a fee you get your own piece of the beach for the day with access to showers toilets and change rooms. We had a choice – walk to the old city and see the town or get our own piece of beach and go for a swim. The sun made up our minds – swim it is.

For 11€ we got two sun beds and an umbrella. For the four of us that was fine and relatively in expensive. A change into our swimmers and a dash across the sand we were pulled up short when entering the water. The sun decided to hide behind a cloud and the water was bloody freezing. I was delayed about a nano second before diving in “to exercise my injured tendon”. It took Kerry a bit longer but she got in pretty quickly for Kerry standards. So refreshing! There are no waves and no current and the beach drops away fairly quickly so that floating around in the water was the way to go as every time you dropped your legs into the deeper water a cold current “freshened” you up again. We spent the rest of the afternoon refreshing and forgot about the village and the other two villages – next time maybe.

Around 5.00pm we headed for the train and home. The crowds got the same idea. Even so we managed to get to the carpark and home by 7.00pm for dinner and a few hands of cards.