Sunday, June 26, 2011

Pisa & the Italian Riviera (Nov. 9-10)

Sure, the Leaning Tower of Pisa could be considered a tourist trap, but I'm a tourist, so what the heck. Pisa is on the route from Florence to La Spezia.

I had never heard of the "Cinque Terre" (Five Lands) on the Italian Riviera until I started researching this trip, and everyone who has been there raves about it. So I figured it's worth looking into. They are five fairly isolated seaside cliffside villages just up the coast from La Spezia, great for hiking and sightseeing.

Trains from Florence to Pisa run fairly often, so I'll take the 8:05am train that gets to Pisa at 9:22am. I suspect that I'll be able to see the highlights, including the Leaning Tower and the other buildings in the surrounding "Campo dei Miracoli" complex within a few hours, allowing me to leave after lunch and head from Pisa up to La Spezia.

As I'm not a hiker, I'll choose to skip the 8-mile hike that covers all five villages, a hike of 5 hours not including stops. Not quite my idea of relaxation. Going from north to south: Monterosso is the most resort-like of the five, with the largest beach; Vernazza is best for lingering in a cafe and watching the waves; Corniglia is perched on a 500-ft cliff; Manarole is the most photogenic; and Riomaggiore has more striking cliff-hanging villages.

The local train on the Genoa-La Spezia line makes stops at each of the five villages and runs every half hour or so. Not sure where I'll make my home base, as things slow down (or shut down) in November.

I get in to La Spezia in the afternoon of Nov. 9 from Pisa, and I check out on the 11th on my way to the French Riviera. I would have liked to have scheduled one more day here but I'm not sure what I can cut out. Nice will be my base of operations for the next couple days, so I'll take the 6:40am train from La Spezia to Nice on the 11th, arriving 12:06pm with transfers in Genova and Ventimiglia.

1 comment:

  1. Meant to post on this before. We stayed in Corniglia this time. Not sure I recommend it, because you have to go up and down that 500' to get to the train station which is at sea level, not easy with baggage (we drove in, which was similarly dramatic, but went back and forth to that DARNED trainstation more than once).

    I actually recommend hiking as much of the trail as you can, its a very low key hike and the views are unbelievably good. The hike between Riomaggiore and Manarole, for instance, only takes about an hour. We did the hike over two days with large meals at each village. Book way ahead of time, this place is a tourist mecca, if you don't prebook, you'll find yourself without a room.