Today is an early start as there is much to see and do, and about 250km of freeway travel to our next 2 day stay at Stresa.
Our direction is east of Florence to the coast where we find a totally different landscape. The Italian Riviera sweeps along the Mediterranean from France to Tuscany. On the southern end of the Riviera, the coast fans out with a dramatic flourish into one of the most astonishing regions in Italy, the almost inaccessible heights of Cinque Terre, which stretches along the western coast from Riomaggiore to Monterosso. You can reach them by sea, or by train on a line that cuts through the mountains, emerging briefly into the open air at the stations. The steep cliffs are draped with vineyards that go right down to the sea. Almost all of the houses and accommodation is ‘hanging’ onto the side of the cliffs. The region has been declared National Heritage under UNESCO.
Arriving at the town of Manarola, we walk down a steep pathway and along the 1km Lover’s Path. It’s interesting that lovers have attached padlocks to the wire protection screens signifying that their love will last forever – the key has been thrown into the ocean. We make our way down to the wharf at Riomaggiore to board a boat that takes us to Monterosso. The view of the villages along the rugged, but spectacular, coastline is awesome. Our lunch is at a little café in Monterosso; I choose a simple meal of fries and grilled vegetables, keeping away from the traditional ‘flour and water’ bake, while others have mussels and other seafood in pasta.
After a short walk, we board a train to Levanto, just the one stop, and a distance of 5 minutes. The train is noticeably quiet and smooth. 36 get on and 36 get off.
Our coach meets us here and we have a long transfer section through the Italian Riviera and on to Stresa. We must have gone through 60 tunnels in 2 hours, anything from 200 meters to 2000 meters.
Arriving at Stresa, there are lots of ‘Ooohhhs, and Aaahhhs’ as Lake Maggiore comes into view. The hotel is just a block from the little quaint village. The meal has been booked for 7:40pm and some of us don’t have our suitcases, so we make our way to this ‘upmarket’ dining room in ‘travel’ clothes, some a little embarrassed as we feel misfits in such a ‘toffee’ hotel.
One of the single has had a few things go wrong for her: she had to find her own way from Rome Airport to the hotel, and her suitcase has been delivered to the wrong room on two different occasions, and she is not one of those sorts of people who ‘just let it flow’ and patiently waits. Oh well, things don’t always go right for some people.
Thank you, to all those who have sent us comments along the way. We are enjoying what you too could have been a part of.