My first stop in Italy was to be Pisa and Cinque Terre, which was added to the itinerary rather late so we were very time constrained. Setting off from Florence, we took the train first to Pisa, and a bus to the actual Leaning Tower of Pisa.
I really like trains. Possibly because they always suggested something very foreign and romantic, like "Murder on the Orient Express". I read copious amounts of Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot, where they started many adventures on the first train to some countryside destination. The local trains in Italy function more like long distance buses. You buy a ticket that's valid through a certain time period and you validate the ticket before you get on the train.
We had a bit of an adventure getting to the tower. Italian transportation websites aren't very user friendly, so we ended up taking the almost-but-not-exactly-right bus, getting off within sight of the tower and wandering through a residential area to get to Piazza del Duomo.
The tower was a lot more slanted than I thought. Apparently it leans only 4 degrees but it looked in real danger of toppling over at a gentle shake. What I found interesting was the slight curving you can see from about half-way up the tower, as the later architect tried to correct for the tilt which was already present when they first started construction.
The cathedral was quite wonderful. Lots of mosaics and some Byzantine influences. Marble, paintings, sculptures and glittering gold everywhere. Some of the highlights are the lunette of the Virgin Mary over the main entrance, the ornate pulpit, the beautiful coffer ceiling and dome, and the remains of a saint (although the verity of relics are always suspicious in my mind.)
Cinque Terre is a collection of five villages designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site: Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore. We headed off to Cinque Terre by train through La Speiza. I found out later the trains were running two behind, so we accidentally boarded the wrong train which went directly to Monterosso. Our original plan was for just Manarola and Riomaggiore. The unfortunate mistake with the train schedule and the closure of the paths connecting the villages resulted in the rather better plan of taking the boat, which allowed us brilliant views of the villages from the water.
There are no food pictures in this post because I forgot about taking photos until after I ate everything.
I had delicious fresh seafood fried up and served in paper cones, fresh local fruits and baked bread at Cinque Terre. So delicious that I ate fritto misto two times at different shops and forgot to take pictures until after I ate most of it, both times!
The first thing I have to say about Cinque Terre is "the pictures are a lie". It doesn't look nearly as colorful as some of the photographers have managed to make it look. I did find a way to cheat my way to nicer photos using an in-built camera filter or by ridiculous adjustments to exposure and white balance.
I'm not saying the villages are boring, they most emphatically are very quaint and lovely. It just didn't look as strikingly beautiful as the pictures that turn up when you google for Cinque Terre.
Via dell'Amore was closed but we did find plenty of locks at various places.
Next post will be on Florence. It will have plenty of food pictures, I promise.