First week in Italy..
23.4.16 - 23.4.16
The Cinque Terre
It's a rainy day in La Spezia. Just as well we checked the weather forecast and had a huge day yesterday in the Cinque Terre (Five Lands in English). It has become one of the most visited regions in Italy (after the real BIGGIES), UNESCO has proclaimed it a "heritage of mankind" and the area has been turned into a Marine National Park - very special!
The deal is that in the twelfth century, folks decided it a good idea to begin to create precarious terraces on very unsafe cliff faces so they could grow special vineyards, olive & citrus trees (still there today!) A crazy idea really but it has worked and the 'Cinque Terre' are actually the five little villages hidden in the narrow inlets along this coastline. Most of these villages are not accessible by vehicles but an amazing train line runs precariously along the coast only metres from the sea, a lot of it through tunnels - an engineering feat (not built in the twelfth century!)
We decided to 'do it' by ferry from La Spezia which ended up being a superb idea. We left on the first ferry and arrived back on the last (an 11 hour day). Jen exhausted two batteries and took over 800 photos. The highlight had to be the strenuous trek we did from Vernezza to Montorossa. We had packed our walking sticks (had we added them to our packing list?) They were absolutely necessary. We had to pay €6 (about $9) each for the privilege of walking this track but we could see no evidence of any maintenance being done. I even nearly fell through a fence when Jen was trying to get a shot of me with some gorgeous background. No real complaints though. It was spectacular... Jen will put up a decent show of what we saw!
Milan.. Big buildings, Big Fashion Designers, Big Names, Big Crowds, Big days...
We are about to start on our one & only guided tour of Northern Italy... There are only 4 Aussies in the group plus an Italian Aussie guide.. Should be interesting! However, the last couple of days, we have walked our legs off in this city of Milan with a BIG reputation for it's fashion designer labels, it's ornate buildings, especially the indescribable Duomo which takes up probably a space the size of a football field and rises into the sky with numerous spires, all with with statues on top, and it's vibrant economy. Well, we fitted right in with the designer labels (ha!).. Kathmandu, Macpac and the odd item from Target just didn't cut it. Most of the crowds were just window shopping like us though!!
In our opinion, the most famous notary of this city has to be the brilliant Leonardo da Vinci: a true genius of the Italian Renaissance He lived here for 20 years in & around 1490. We was a painter, inventor, mathematician and general allround clever chap! We happened upon a most outstanding exhibition of his major creative design ideas. They have been able to gather together quite a lot of his books of notes and drawings (he produced over 500 in all!) The painting of 'The Lord's Supper' can be found in a not-so-well-known church here. We missed seeing it as it was a public holiday when we wanted to get to see it! His other most famous painting 'Mona Lisa' is in Le Louvre, Paris.
The noblest pleasure is the joy of understanding.” - Leonardo da Vinci
A few Confessions.. We ARE in Italy!!
Eil has developed head cold. It could be from the constant changes of temperature; warm inside buildings then cool to cold & often windy outside.
We feel we are not travelling 'light enough'!! To our great surprise and consternation, our one bedroom with ensuite (booked through AirBnb) in Milan was neatly 100 steps up at the top of a very old (maybe 1800s) apartment building where we have no idea how many were living. No lift! Time to read the fine points!!
We are missing our pets (who are being very well-cared for by Kirsty & Martin who send us very regular updates with photos to show how contented they are!) We also miss seeing our little adopted grandchildren, Teddy & Isabelle to give them cuddles as they are growing too quickly. Teddy is 3 this week & Isabelle is a cute 16 months. We have very disjointed chats on FaceTime though!! Bear & Bunny are saving up lots of stories to share with them!
No more Confessions but some Comparisons and general Comments
• Rubbish disposal in the areas we have been in is a collective activity. There are big industrial bins in most streets and everyone just dumps into the communal bins.. All very well we say until someone has a lovely prawn lunch and heaves the remains into such a bin.. Very woofy! It seems less of a priority to recycle as well.. Sad for such a massive population on such a small patch of our planet!
• It could be just us but the change of language from the lilting French to the more excitable Italian sound has been a bit alarming.. We'd no sooner got over the border than we witnessed not one, but two rather loud and animated arguments (both involved train guards!)
• Remember that 'Ladies Room' under the Brisbane City Hall where we could all trot in (if we were Ladies, that is) 'spend a Penny', powder our noses, refresh the lippy and be off? (showing our collective age!) Well, it is not 'a Penny' in these parts! How does €1 ($1.50) sound per person! The toilet paper was of no superior standard for the price either!!
- Train Travel is NOT for the delicate! Lugging our bags up & down stairs (even though our bags are 'light' has had it's moments.. There are very few ramps , escalators or lifts it seems in France & Italy!! The level of cigaarette smoke in subways and on platforms would have our fire alarms going off at home. We reckon one in two people smoke here... BUT, in defence of train travel, the Metro system (as practised in Milan so far) has put Brisbane public transport to shame. We bought a 24hr ticket for €4.50 (about $7) and we just jumped on & off the trains, trams & buses whenever we liked and there was no waiting.. Maximum time of wait was 4 minutes.
- We've met some very friendly travellers as we have sauntered around, two of whom we met at the same Cafe they had dropped into in Montorossa after the strenuous hike in the Cinque Terre. They apparently we're watching us and Bill (American) said to his wife (also American), 'By the way those girls slammed those beers down, they must be Aussies!' We were and we did! (It was a big hike!)
Agony Aunt is back
Dear Agony Aunt: We feel confused.. Maybe you could help. Never in our life have we seen so many skinny people in one place as we did in France.. How can this be? Is it genetic, eating their main meal (with wine) at lunchtime, having a daily siesta or maybe it's all the walking they do?
Answer: it's all of the above.. Now, stop complaining about your heritage and have some more pasta.. you're in Italy now, get over it!
Dear Agony Aunt: We are truly in agony over this one: why is it that the French AND the Italian folk are free to have their pets with them wherever they go.. Buses, boats, restaurants, shops, and even the odd toilet, but our pets are restricted to dog parks and footpaths (& Gracie chooses neither!)
Answer: no idea!
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