Thursday, February 27, 2014

Italy PDA - Part 2

PDA stands for President's Day Adventures, in this case. ;)

Click here to read Part 1!

Welcome back! If you're just joining us, please use the link above to read part one.

First thing Saturday morning (this was Saturday, February 16, 2013), we got up and struck out to find the perfect Italian breakfast: cappuccino and brioche! We found a cute little coffee shop a few steps from our hotel, ordered our coffee (that seems too crass and simple a description for the amazingness that is Italian cappuccino) and pastries and found a little table in the back of the narrow shop to do some people watching.

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The "around the corner" view from our hallway.

The great thing about Chiavari is that it's not touristy! Which is super-rare in these great little Italian towns on the coast. Very few people spoke English, so we had to get by in our very rough Italian, but everything was perfectly authentic - from the food, to the cute old men who came into the cafe for their morning paper and to shoot the breeze with the owner.

(Quick travel tip: in Italy, a good place to get a great cappuccino in the morning will often be called a "bar" on their sign, don't let this throw you off - they're not serving shots for breakfast, just really, really good coffee and pastries!)

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The daily market in the piazza in front of the Palazzo di Giustizia.

After breakfast, we explored Chiavari in the daylight, and were delighted with its Medieval cuteness (yes, that's a real thing)!

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Albergo Monte Rosa and Via Monsignor Luigi Marinetti.

When we had worked off our breakfast calories, we stopped at another little coffee shop for cappuccino number two (when in Italy . . . seriously). The second cafe, Bar San Marco was a bit bigger, and it was the kind that converts to outdoor seating in the summer, but since it was still pretty cold, they had the plastic walls zipped down; however, the view of the downtown was still pretty good.

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Piazza Nostra Signora dell'Orto e il monumento a Vittorio Emanuele II.

Thoroughly caffeinated, we decided to start our touring in earnest. We got the Prius out of the garage and made our way to Cinque Terre.

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Cinque Terre is actually the romantic name that refers to five little towns (from North to South: Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore) nestled into the cliffs on the western side of Italy. They used to be fairly unknown, but thanks to Rick Steves and other travel writers they have become thoroughly touristy. This doesn't detract from their charm too much; however, and they are always a worthwhile stop! Cinque Terre is one of our favorite little places to visit, and we've been blessed to visit there several times.

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The first glimpse of Vernazza.

We parked just outside of Vernazza and walked into town.

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Vernazza's water front.

We had intended to buy passes and hike portions of the Sentiero Azzurro (a great hiking trail that links the five cities and provides some incredible views of the Mediterranean), but the portion that linked Vernazza and Corniglia was closed for the season, so we had to take the train instead. Either way is pretty cost effective (I think the last time we were there, the trail pass was 5€ for adults, and each train ticket from town to town is a little more than 1€)

Cinque Terre is the birthplace of pesto, and one of the best ways to enjoy pesto is on top of pizza or focaccia from hole-in-the-wall joints like this.

(Quick travel tip: no matter where in the world you are, the best places to eat -- and the most cost effective -- are the ones where the guys in painted up cover-alls and work boots are grabbing their lunch!)

Our day's sightseeing ended with a quick stop in Pisa at sunset to get the obligatory Leaning Tower pictures.

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The crazy thing about Pisa is the most beautiful buildings are the ones you never see pictures of!

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Everyone who has been there has a picture of them "holding up the tower" (or "kicking over the tower" in this instance) . . .

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. . . but if you turn around 90 degrees, there is this huge, gorgeous Cathedral and Baptistry that you rarely ever see or hear about.

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When we got back to Chiavari, we borrowed the bicycles that the hotel keeps for their guests and pedaled our way down to the waterfront. We had dinner at Zia Piera - pizzas and dessert pizza (it's Italy!). Zia Piera is a swanky little place with a great vibe, and it's apparently very popular with the locals as well! A huge family birthday party was going on while we were there, and that made the whole atmosphere very festive.

I love personalized sugar packets!

Pedaling around the waterfront, picking up rocks on the beach, and taking funny "hashtag" pictures brought us to the end of another great day!

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We have another full day of sightseeing ahead of us ;), so come back tomorrow for the next installment!


Click here to read part 3!

To see a list of ALL of our travel stories, in chronological order, click here!

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