Thursday: Manarola

We visited Manarola in the Cinque Terre region today. The five old towns are all linked along the Italian Riviera coastline. In good weather it is possible – and fun – to hike from town to town. This takes about six hours with few stops, but to enjoy the towns and their breathtaking scenery, at least a couple days’ trip is a better idea.

Another option to visit the towns is to take the train from La Spezia, which stops in each town. The stops are about five – eight minutes apart, so getting off the train and getting back on later is easy.

We did none of those, but still enjoyed a very nice day. Since two of the hiking trails were closed today and the others were full of mud because of all the rain the area has had in the past few weeks, hiking was off the list. Instead, we took the train to the second stop: the town of Manarola. It has arguably the most beautiful views in the region.

We arrived there at about 11a.m.(the La Spezia train station is about 45 minutes from where we are staying). We were immediately amazed at the colorful buildings of the city seemingly built into a mountain.

We walked past some fishing boats that were covered up, and I imagined they had been used that morning to catch fish for the community and the restaurants. There were about a dozen boats near the launch area.

We hiked up on the narrow trail above the sea and the view got more and more fantastic. The only people around were a large group of Korean tourists and their guides. A tour guide didn’t seem necessary though – all we did for a long time was just walk and look and take photos.

Most of the restaurants have closed for the season but we found one that looked good and we shared delicious spaghetti with seafood. Soon the large group of tourists found their way to the restaurant too, and the atmosphere became lively and fun.

I asked our waiter about the fishing boats – what time did they go out in the morning and what did they catch. He laughed and said the last fisherman died two years ago and the boats are used as pleasure boats by their owners, who don’t typically take them out this time of year.

Fantasy squelched.

We walked around a bit more, got some gelato (the owner said he is closing tomorrow for the season), met two American couples and chatted with them for a while, then took the train back to La Spezia.

photos: the fishing boats that apparently just sit there must of the time, to my disappointment; two beautiful views of the city

Wednesday: Alba

Despite falling in love with Lyon, we left the city this morning. We would love to come back. For now, we are enjoying Alba, Italy.

Alba is about a four-and-a-half hour drive from Lyon and we stopped a few times along the way. We arrived in the city close to 4pm and initially had some trouble figuring our where our Airbnb actually was. The google directions put us in a busy piazza area. We finally figured it out and were delighted to check in to our Alba apartment.

Our host was kind and spent some time getting us situated. He told us that the white truffle festival is going on this weekend, so we are looking forward to crowds of people and some delicious food. He also let us know about the farmers markets going on three times a week and other cities in the area we may want to visit.

We walked around this evening to check out what’s around and bought some local salami from a butcher nearby, who also got us to try some hot peppers in olive oil. We ended the evening with some gelato, which cannot become a habit despite the shop being next door to where we are staying.

photos: the Italian Alps looking beautiful on a fall day

below: trying some hot red peppers

Alba this evening, the banner is for the Truffle Festival on Sunday