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8 wonderful days in Tuscany - Part 1

As I sit at my desk planning this years trip I thought a good start would be to recount last years very successful 10 day sojourn in Tuscany.
We travel in May as it is the best time for us to take holidays from work and it usually coincides with good weather and just getting ahead of the summer's tourist crush. My wife and I flew in to Milan (Malpensa) at 16:00. We immediately collected our pre booked rental car and set off for the coast. The roads were open and in good condition. We used Google maps as our guide and except for the thick American accent we never encountered any problems in getting to our destination. We checked into the Hotel Nella just outside of La Spezia. Comfortable room and friendly staff. We set off early in the morning after getting an important parking tip from the owner. We parked in a free car park 5 minutes walk from the train station, purchased an all day pass for Cinque Terre and started our adventure. Not all the walking paths were open. We disembarked at Monterosso and spent some time walking around the town. It was beautiful and we immediately understood the attraction of so many tourists. We did the coastal walk to Vernazza. I found the walk both arduous and breathtaking. My wife found it just breathtaking. Guess that means I am pretty unfit. We did both enjoy an ice cold beer when we finished. After a quick light lunch we explored the town and then train hopped between the other three towns Manarola, Corniglia and Riomaggiore. We enjoyed sunset and a cappuccino overlooking the sea at Riomaggiore before returning to our hotel for a good nights sleep. The next day we set off Florence. We drove along the coast with the occasional stop (Carrara and Viareggio) for a drink and short walk along the sands. Following the instructions in Rick's travel guide we parked outside Pisa, caught the bus in and spent 2 hours walking around the tower site. The market type stalls and vendors were annoying but the site itself, the tower; grassy surrounds and church were worth seeing. We had debated a while whether it would be worth the stop and we are glad we did. Of course we also have the obligatory photos of each of us "holding" up the leaning tower. We continued our leisurely drive into Florence. We had received instructions how to find our parking garage and made it safely, just in time to meet our host Angela at the apartment we had rented. The apartment was perfect. (Holiday Apartment Borghese via Ghibellina) Placed right in the heart of Florence with all attractions just minutes walk away. It was both spacious and comfortable and built in a typical old Florence style. We still had time to catch our first sight the Bargello museum. It was spectacular and was the perfect entrée for the next three days feast. Rick's guide to Florence was our bible and we followed it strictly in choosing sites to see, and just as importantly what not to see, purchasing tickets (Florence Pass) and planning our daily schedule in order to best utilize our time. We spent a whole morning at the Accademia one day and the whole next morning at the Uffizi Gallery. In between we thoroughly enjoyed the Galileo Science Museum, Duomo, Florence Synagogue, Palazzio Vecchio, Pitti Palace (inside and out), Baptistery (also a special exhibition nearby about the bronze doors "Gates of Paradise"). Plenty of coffee and gelato between sites kept us going all day until we were exhausted come the evening. Part of our homework had been to read Inferno by Dan Brown. This added some spice to some of our visits as we tried to locate places mentioned in the book. We found no shortage of web sites to assist us in this little game. We even managed some time to check out the local stores (in particular leather goods) and make a few purchases including gifts for all our kids.

Posted by
724 posts

I'm enjoying your trip report!

How long did it take you to hike from Monterossa to Verazza? We want to try this next month but neither of us are "hikers" per se......but we are in decent enough shape.

Posted by
4 posts

Hi Kathy.
We spent an hour walking around Monterosso. The beach and up the road to see some of the houses.
The walk to Vernazza took 3 hours. I had to stop a few times (lots of uphill / stairs) as I am quite out of shape.
The views along the way are lovely. Take some water to drink along the way.
Diane (my wife) is pretty fit and didn't have any problems. It is well worth it and the cold beer at the end was pure heaven.