June 28, 2019: Pisa and Manarola in the Cinque Terre

Friday. GT2 Day Twenty. Tuscany and Liguria, Italy.

We had to really get up and get moving this morning. Our time to be checked out of the apartment was ten in the morning. We had thought about going to tour the duomo today, before leaving town, but once we really thought about the situation of having to have shoulders and knees covered, and having to lug all of our luggage way down to the parking garage to put it in the car, then having to hike all the way back to the duomo, wearing dangerous levels of clothing (we are under Italian red alerts for heat – and the church demands we not stay cool – talk about a lack of priorities) is not just unpleasent, but actually reckless. So we skipped that idea.

It was probably ten when we pulled out of the parking garage. Twenty four Euros for two nights there. It’s easy, at least. And covered. On our way out of Ovierto we swung into a roadside cafeterria to get breakfast for the girls who have to eat before starting the day. Dominica and I are still not very used to this emergency need for food first thing in the morning, at home we both often go until lunch before even thinking about eating and I will often go until dinner before really noticing.

Breakfast was good. I got a tuna sandwich since they had them, figured something healthy with protein was better for me than sugary bread. From breakfast we drove a couple of hours north up to Montecatini Terme, where Dominica, Liesl, Luciana, and I stayed for a few days at the beginning of our time in Italy in 2012. Our current apartment is super close to where we used to be and town looks so familiar. It is neat to be back to not just a region but right to where we stayed so long ago. But I am really missing the kids and being in a place where they were makes it that much harder.

We navigated to our apartment. It is super old fashioned like a 1980s movie in Florida. It’s got a 1980s Italian style, with a big garden (that is too hot to go into) and old fashioned pre-EU Italian power outlets, just like we had to deal with here seven years ago. Our hostess was waiting out front for us to open the gate and let us in. The street approaching the apartment and the parking lot are very tight, very Italian.

The apartment is decently small, just one bedroom, but there is a pull out couch. Luckily there is air conditioning as the Euro-heatwave is hitting Italy today (and France broke their all time heat record today, too!) but it is solely in the living room and there is nothing for the one bedroom or bathroom. So those rooms are extra warm. Likely Dominica and I will end up sleeping in the living room.

As we came into town, Emily saw the sign pointing to Pisa and suddenly realized that we might be really close to it. We figured out that Pisa was only about an hour and a half away, so Emily declared that we were going to jump right back into the car and drive to Pisa, do pictures, then drive on to the Cinque Terre!

Our easy drive day suddenly became quite a long one. We drove to Pisa and surprisingly found it all to be very simple. We parked, walked into the square, did a load of pictures, left, got some gelato at crazy prices, did some souvenir shopping, got back in the car and drove on. And that is all the more than I ever need to see of Pisa, I’ve seen it, it was interesting, I’m over it. The town was disgusting, the crowds a bit heavy (but generally quite polite as everyone was vying for selfie position), and the souvenir sales and local businesses just awful. A terrible place that I never want to see again. Tourist spots are things I generally hate in the first place, this was especially bad. The tower itself is super cool, it’s a gorgeous tower on its own, the grounds are beautiful, but it is just one amazing lawn and three neat buildings and only remarkable beacuse the tower leans so much. So I am glad that we saw it, but that is all that I ever need to see. Ever.

The drive to the Cinque Terre was tough because of construction or an accident and Google Maps directed us into a long, terribly winding and challenging drive through the national park. That was not fun at all and made the drive take far too long.

We drove into the Cinque Terre at Riomaggiore and ended up parking in Manarola, which I’ve heard from a few people is their favourite spot in the five lands, and figured out, after about half an hour of stressful searching and debating about buses, to drive as far down the mountain as we could, park the car, and make the best of the long hike down. It is crazy hot today, but we don’t want to miss this.

Manarola is truly one of the most breathtaking places that I have ever seen. The village spilling down the mountain crevase to the sea is like nothing else anywhere. A little stream runs down the crevase and houses are built around it with little bridges and such. It makes for the most pleasant sound and it makes the whole place so much more magical and seem like something you would expect to be populated with hobbits or elves. It doesn’t seem real at all.

The walk down takes a long time, but is not all that hard, really. We went down through town looking for a place to have dinner. Surprisingly there are not very many places to really eat there. It took us a while to even find a restaurant. We had to go very far down, nearly to the water, before we did. We finally found Da Aristide, which is, it turns out, recommended by the Rick Steves guide books. Dinner was excellent, although I accidentally made the mistake of ordering seafood forgetting that the seafood would just be thrown on top of the dish rather than cooked into it. Something I will never understand about European cuisine. About the only thing that I prefer in the US. So some of it, like the prawns, I could not eat. But other than that, it was really good. Dominica’s meal was something like a pesto pasta with potatoes and beans which doesn’t sound all that special but was super amazing. Emily got lasagna and devoured it, this was her favourite lasagna so far. Madeline got spaghetti pomodoro.

After dinner we were all tired. So it was a quick march back up the long hill. The very, very long hill. The girls all waited at the village gate where cars can not pass while I climbed back up to the traffic circle above town, got the car, and drove down to pick them up. So they got to skip a lot of the last part of the climb.

The drive back home took us through the beautiful port of La Spezia. I wish that we had time to hang out there, it is really cool. Back to Montecatini was only about an hour and a half, not bad at all. We got in and right off to bed.

The girls ended up taking the bedroom while Dominica and I slept in the living room. We tried using the pull out cot but there is no way that Dominica could sleep on it without hurting her back. I tried it and it was ridiculous, so I put the mattress directly onto the floor and tried sleeping there. It is going to be a long four days sleeping like this.