Tuesday 11th September.
Temperature 30°. Cool and overcast early but sunny by midday and warmer.
Set off for Lucca onlt 25 kms away. Found a park and entered the old Lucca via Porta S. Maria. The streets are very narrow and main mode of transport is on foot but also many cyclists taking up the offer of bike hire for €3 per hour. Graham was tempted but the surfaces were cobble stones and the area like rabbit warrens – a bit hard to read the map and cycle at the same time. The shops were plentiful but more up market than other areas like Siena. The place had a good feel to it and we really enjoyed wandering around. We found a fantastic pastisserie for coffee and cake and were surprised with the number of visitors to the area that the shops were mostly closed between 12.30pm- 3pm.
Even some of the cafes were all closed up for siesta. We had lunch in the ampitheatre area before setting off for Pisa which was only about 26 kms away. Our intention was only to see the tower and take some photos but we were surprised by the volume of tourists there and the souvenir carts one after the other! There were towers of all sizes for sale as well as the leather bags, tea towels and Pinocchios etc.
We arrived home about 5.30pm and rested for a bit before a lovely dinner at the Le Monache restaurant. The Le Monache Inn, that takes its name from a monastery of Carmelite cloistered nuns (1590 -1901) that was located in the adjoining building, is in the heart of Camaiore's historical centre. The accommodation and restaurant have been in the Bertozzi family since it was opened in 1923 and passed down through the four generations. The table toppers and runners have hand painted Carmelite nuns and flowers on hessian and are quite unique. The food is fantastic and great service too.
Wednesday 12th September
Temperature up to 26°. Very cloudy and slight rain
We awoke to a cloud covered day but set off for La Spezia where we planned to get a train to Cinque Terre. We’d done our homework the night before and put an address in to the GPS which we’d hoped would get us close to the train station where we could also park the car.
Road access to Cinque Terre is very limited and we thought train travel that stopped at each of the five little villages along the coast would be the safer option. (Boats also run between the villages). As we neared La Spezia, we encountered our first drops of rain. We found the train station car park with no difficulty and then the information centre to buy the pass to Cinque Terre. €10 each included return train travel and access to the five villages and walking tracks within the National Park. It is an area frequented by keen bush walkers and to walk the distance between the five villages is only 9 kilometres but it takes about 5 hours. There are much longer walks too in the area.
We had not planned on any serious walking and just meandered along the streets taking in the views. We got off the train at Monterosso – the northern most and the largest Village of the five and then again at Riomaggiore on our return trip. Although we avoided rain until we pulled out of the car park around 4.30pm, it was very windy, there were dark threatening skies all day and the sea was very rough. All water sports had been cancelled for the day. I can imagine a boat trip on a lovely sunny day would be very picturesque.