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Cinque Terre, Pisa

Home -> Europe -> Italy -> Travelogue Italy -> 24 May 2004

Monday 24 May, Cinque Terre, Pisa

It takes a while before we have finally leave Florence behind us: traffic jams, caused by a bus that passed us by a few minutes earlier and other accidents. We drive towards Pisa, but because of the bad signposting (something they are very good at, in this country) we miss the right turn and decide to first drive to the north and have a look at the villages of the Cingue Terre; these 'five countries' are very small villages, fishing ports, beautifully situated at the coast of the Ligurian coast.
MediterraneanAs soon as we leave the highway, we enter a mountainous area and suddenly we see the Mediterranean sparkling before us. Steep rocks ascend from the see and it is easy to see why these villages were a long time only accessible by sea.
View at Monterosso View at CornigliaNow it is possible to visit all 5 villages by car, but the 15 kilometers between the two farthest villages takes more than 50 kilometers by road! But it is a great itinerary and one can also do it by train (which goes much quicker).
Manarola ManarolaIn contrast to the crowds in Venice, Verona and Florence, it is quite here. At least, that is the impression we get driving on the road, but when we come near the villages we see long lines of cars parked along the way, since motor traffic is forbidden in the villages themselves.
In Manarola we park our car on a pay car park and walk down into the village, which takes us at least 20 minutes. According to our travel guide Manarola is the pearl of the Cingue Terre, so we want to take a closer look at it.
Sea at ManarolaAnd indeed, it is very picturesque and scenic and a pleasure to walk around. Despite the firm wind and the cold, there are some people who can't resist going into the sea in just a bathing suit. We sit outside but sheltered under a large parasol to have a coffee. With a better temperature it must be really nice, here.
La SpeziaWalking and driving through this area takes more time than we have expected, but it is worthwhile. On the way back, towards Pisa, we come along La Spezia, clearly a harbour, which lies in the shade of the mountains.
On the way back we finally find the right turn to Pisa and despite the bad signposting and thanks to a helpful waiter we easily find the famous leaning tower. From one site it looks even slanter than we had ever seen on pictures!
Tower of PisaNext to the tower is a cathedral but the position of the sun is wrong to make any good pictures. Probably the best pictures of the tower can also be made in the morning. But we are very satisfied that we have taken time for this visit: to know that the tower is leaning and to see it on tv is quite different than standing before it. It is a miracle that it still stands. We are too late to climb the tower, but they probably wouldn't have allowed us with our weight, anyway...
After this visit we search our way towards Siena, south of Florence. We have made a long detour, but we enjoyed it very much. It is just a pity that Italians don't seem to have an idea about navigation, in Roman times that must have been much better. There are often too many roadsigns along the way and often not all unambiguousm, so we have to try to read all signs in a language which we don't understand too well, so sometimes we miss a turn. Or they give wrong information: go right at the second turn and then it turns out to be the first turn! But we are not in a hurry, so we don't bother too much; we drive through a very scenic Toscan hilly area, although we don't stop for taking pictures, since we don't want to arrive too late at Siena. From the road we see several castles, towers and abbeys, often build on the tops of high hills. We could stay here for weeks to see it all, but we are determined to see a little of the whole of Italy.
The villages in this region are also nicer than the ones we have passed through the last days. Modern times and industry, next to tourism, have permeated the old specific Italian atmosphere, but today we see that here the villages seem to have kept some of their authentic and typical Italian sphere, at least, as we expect it to be. But who are we to judge?


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