03 Feb New Year’s in Italy
First stop, Bologna, diverse city, with it’s history kept within city walls and modernity brought in with students and their art.. Sadly we only had several hours to spend here, but with a short plan and a bit of wandering, we felt this city’s soul. We didn’t go to Pisa and its Leaning Tower, but we did see one (or two) towers in Bologna. But here, you can find one other city, you just have to look through small window, and you will find Venice channel.
We stayed in a small, family run hotel in Montecatini Terme. Idyllic Italian town that invested a lot in Christmas decorations. First thing we did that evening is the ride in Panoramic wheel, which was actually a good way to get to know the city. Christmas lights, narrow street and medieval burg looking over the city.
We left winter and snow behind us, to welcome new year in renaissance capital of the world, Florence. Cheapest way to be in the Florence is to not be there, get accommodation on the outskirts or neighboring towns, and use the train to go to Florence. We did that and it was a good choice. That day was a day of New Year’s Eve and the only day we could spend here. We know, 15 hours is not even close enough for this art and science capital of Medieval Europe. But we did our best to see and visit as much as possible.
Florence is one of those places that is always crowded with tourists, waiting lines to enter the Gallery Uffizi, Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore or Palazzo Pitti are for hundred meters long and entry fees are more than 20 euros, so we didn’t visit any of those places. But next time our only goal in Florence will be visiting museums and galleries.
For the first timers in Florence we were fascinated with every building, statue, street and story. We walked around like crazy, trying to see as many things as possible. Of course we took photos with Michelangelo’s David (replica), of golden doors of Duomo. What fascinated us the most are the stories of the Medici and Albizzi, the rise and fall of their power. Did you know that stones that pop out of the towers are made with purpose, to run away from one tower to another, by putting the wooden beams. Also, Florence could be viewed as the New York of medieval world, because of the high buildings and eclectic art scene.
One of the most famous monuments in Florence is the Ponte Vecchio. This stone bridge doesn’t feel like one, only on the middle of the bridge, you can see the river, but other than that it feels like the street with a lot of jewelry shops. Across the bridge is Pitti Palace former chief residence of Medici; now a gallery and museum.
The night came and the light show on Ponte Vecchio enchanted us. We enjoyed the music and pictures representing different artists and their artwork. After the show we had around 5 free public events to choose from: Classical music, Gospel, Opera, Jazz or Alternative rock, we choose the last one, because the concert was at Piazza Michelangelo. Piazza is located at the hill across the river Arno and overlooks the city’s biggest sites. Even if it was windy and cold, nothing could surpass the fireworks that marked the 00:00 o’clock. This city welcomed 2017 in style.
We didn’t party hard that night so that we could take an early train to Viareggio where we had to catch the train to La Spezia. From here the train tour of National park Cinque Terre starts. We bought our ticket that cost 14,50 EURO and took a walk around La Spezia.
Cinque Terre is located on the west coast of Italy and it is characterized by tall cliffs and colorful fishing villages. This nature, lovingly shaped by humans has been the place of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites since 1997. All the villages, five of them, are connected with the train, that goes every hour.
Riomaggiore, first in the row. Colorful village with steep streets, maybe the most”touristy” village of them all. From here we planned to hike to the next village using trail Via dell’ Amore. Unfortunately this trail is closed due to soil erosion, and we found that out when we were stopt by steel gate blocking the entrance.
Short train ride and we arrived in Manarola, second village in the row. This village we liked the most, maybe because it wasn’t filled with souvenirs shop, we sow local kids playing football and we saw clear division between houses and gardens. To get a best views of Manarola go to the top of the gardens, sit on a bench and enjoy the colors.
Corniglia, not so dramatic and grandiose like the two before, but sure is worth paying the visit. Unlike the two before, Corniglia is not close to the train station. To get to the village you have a small bus that drives passengers from the train, and takes you back, the busses are coordinated with the train sto you won’t be waiting for it or be late for a train.
It was getting darker, we arrived to the third village around 7pm. Vernazza was filled with people sitting in the bars. We come down to the marina and took a walk around. Here in marina, we played table football (for free).
Monterosso, final village, we were one of the few tourist. It was after 8pm, and it was getting colder. This village has the biggest beach of them all and it is not located in the steep hill sides. On the riviera there are several very beautiful villas, and at the end of the road you can see Church of San Giovanni. Unfortunately, because of the dark and rain we didn’t made any photos. We came back to the Manarola to have dinner before catching the last train back to the Montecatini Terme.
Our last day in Italy was spent exploring Montecatini. We wanted to visit Terme but the tickets were too expensive, we figure it was not worth paying around 20 euros just to enter the terme and garden. But there are affordable and free thing you can always do, hiking.
The rain didn’t stop us from hiking to the Castello Di Montecatini, the trail started at the Via Amore. After the few kilometers the road ended and we took the improvised trail to the top of the hill. Rain started pouring but fortunately we found shelter under the cable car bridge. Because it was Sunday the cable car wasn’t working, but any other day of the week you can get to the Burg with it.
Here at the Burg we were one of the few tourist and we felt like we owned it, wandering the streets. We had luck that in one moment clouds disappeared and we saw the castle in all its glory. There you can freely visit the Chiesa dei Santi Jacopo e Filippo, this church, known as the Carmel church, has a beautiful museum worth visiting. We had wine and coffee in one of the restaurants at the Piazza Giuseppe Giusti. From there we returned to the Montecatini and left back home.