Great trip from Aix to Genoa - at this time I was impressed with all trains French and Italien - but it couldn't last could it! After crossing China, Mongolia, Russia, Germany, France and the UK without a single problem or late train, TrenItlaia struck with a vengeance! Coming back from Cinque Terre not only did we hit a 2 hour late train but also the worst and rudest station employee in the history of trains. I had to stop trying to get information out of him as he clearly had a problem with Brits, or so I thought, but then he was a pig to Chrissie! So it was obviously all English speaking people - he was a cheery as b***** with the locals, tosser!
Anyway this was at the end of what had been a pretty cool day in the Cinque Terre. Great walk from Coniglia to Vernazzo with stunning views of the villages and the Med. Top tip: if you're planning a walk here do your research or you're in for a hell of a tough time and consider carefully the time of day you start out! The villages of themselves were too crowded for my liking but still worthwhile the visit.
Genova was OK: saw Chris Columbus house - he was the son of wool merchants without a nautical bone in their bodies so the boy done well! First people I met at the hotel was the U14 Swansea Rangers Football team - good fun and nice people. They were playing against the Academy teams from AC Milan and Fiorentina in a competition - they got stuffed!! Genova ended well though with a free car rental upgrade! Volvo S80 with GPS - very nice to ta very much! Now I can concentrate totally on driving and not map reading! GPS lady has a lovely cultured accent!
Drive to Dozza via Lucca for lunch, very good - have to return to Lucca as it was beautiful. While there though we got to see loads of grown Italiens dressed up as US WWII GI's, complete with Mills jeeps, trucks, the works! They then drove out of town in convey as we were leaving - will try and load the video as it was like being in a scene from 'Kelly's Heroes'! Woof Woof!
Were an hour late picking up Mum and Dad up at Imola station but no dramas, Dad had discovered Birra Moretti! Our apartments at Villa Calanco are excellent, they've spent a lot of $$ renovating this old country house. Just wish the goats would shut up in the morning - what a racket! Great evening meal at one of the local Dozza restaurants and unbelievably cheap! Ate there twice all up - that good! Dozza famous for murals all around the town walls and houses - a biannual festival.
Day trip to Ravenna was well worth it (just to drive the Volvo and listen to the GPS!). City famous for mosaics, adorning several UNESCO heritage listed buildings dating from 4/5 century, which were stunning and mind boggling to think of the effort and time they took to create! Also got to visit Dante's mausoleum - hell of a chap! Apparently Henry VII (he was Welsh you know) offered to take back Florence for him (he'd been banished for life), but Dante could not be part of a campaign that attacked his home town. Top pizza for dinner - a pepperonni with gorgonzola cheee for me - omg!
Last day and a trip into Bologna - had to drop the car there and I beat the GPS! Again centre of Bologna is stunning, medieval architecture with a tower that has to challenge Pisa for its angle of lean! Special catching up with M&D in Italy and it was strange saying goodbye at Bologna station the next day. M&D head for Milan and then UK, we head of for a couple of nights in venice and then the trip into Croatia!
Packed trains from Aix to Genoa. Stayed at Novotel on the harbour - Good room with huge bed overlooking the harbour. What stood out for me about Genoa was the laid back feeling of the city. I liked the contrast of the newer areas with the wider streets, to the old medieval parts of the city where there is plenty of shade due to the closeness and height of the buildings. There were stunningly beautiful medieval narrow streets everywhere and a very old entrance gate. Saw the pirate ship used in a Roman Polanski's film, Christopher Columbus house - tiny, an amazing church with different types of marble in decorative form used throughout the facade, a beautiful villa built in the 1500's by a wealthy merchant now used as a public building and used by art students to draw especially, studying perspective.
Huw took the plunge and was going to have his hair cut by an old Italian barber - I think he was saved ...as the guy shut up for lunch (as they do in Italy! ) when we walked in. He ended up at a trendy hairdresser and got an excellent cut for 30 euros.
Got the train to the last of the 5 towns about 12 noon and when arrived found out that couldn't walk between next 3 towns as closed due to the hot conditions. - probably for the better. Looked around the town Riomaggiore, full of tourists, but views were spectacular of the sea and the colourful houses so well known, climbing up the hill faces. Ate and then on the train to Corniglia and walk to Vernazza. Bought a tourist permission to walk the trail around the coast to the next town. Once we found the trail at the top off a steep climb, we spent a few hours along a spectacular scenic walk - at times a hard slog climbing up in the heat, and then finally the walk down to an amazing town tucked into the cove. Well worth it! Again the town was teeming with tourists and after a good look around, went to catch our train back to Genoa - no! Cancellations, and delay after delay - good old Italy! Couldn't get any help from the ticket man. A Brit gave me a hint to catch a train to Milan as it was stopping at Genoa. 2 hours 20 mins later we were on the train and arrived back at 9pm walking back to the hotel in the dark.
Taxi to Genoa airport to pick up rental car - upgraded to a Volvo with GPS which was excellent considering we would be with Liz and David for 5 days - more room.
On the way called into Lucca - Puccini's birthplace. Stunning little town with a huge wall around it, built extra wide on top so that the wealthy could promenade along it. About to leave when noticed US army cars etc in a holding area with all dressed in appropriate uniforms and then they left in convoy. It was excellent.
Huw had decided to drive around Bologna to get to Imolla, by driving through the mountains on a slower road. It was beautiful scenery and lovely small villages but very windy and took us 1 1/2 hours longer than thought. Finally got to Imola late to pick up Liz and David waiting at the station.
Franco welcomed us to his villa, in Dozza, and we settled into the 2 apartments. They were excellent and a lovely change to be in the country on his huge property. We ate a number of excellent meals in Dozza, Romagna style and drank the well priced wine back in our apartments that Franco grows . Dozza is known for its murals on the buildings and we spent an afternoon wandering around looking at murals painted over the last 10 years, all different styles. The weekend after we left, the artists will be in town again doing the next biannual murals.
A visit to the lovely historic town of Ravenna for the day was a real bonus, where we saw the most amazing mosaics and Dante's musoleum. Huw and parents headed off to Bologna the next day and came back raving about the antiquity and the myriad of arcades. I didn't go as not overly well but a place to put on my list for the future.
Leaving the quiet, tranquil countryside to Venice - a contrast. Train to Bologna, and then we sadly parted - Liz and David going to Milan and we to Venice. Hotel out of Venice, newly refurbished Mecure - previously All Seasons. Good arrival from staff and straight into a room at 1 pm. Room very good. large bed, very comfortable and on a floor for Accor members.Very quiet.
Our wedding anniversary the next day. Buffet breakfast OK, bought train tickets to Trieste for following day and took train into Venice Central. Walked straight out of the station into a new world - canals instead of roads! Spent the day wandering around the old streets and seeing familiar sights. We had both been there before but good to see it all again (with the hoards of tourists!). Had a nice lunch in a beautiful little restaurant on a canal with a view, for our anniversary, and later an evening meal back at the hotel. Going by water back to the train station was excellent and got some great shots.
Next day leaving Venice for Croatia with some interesting travelling that could prove difficult getting from Trieste to Rejika, picking up a rental car and then driving onto Split. Let's hope not!