Tuesday: Trieste

Today we visited the Castle of San Guisto, a fortress that protected the town in the late 1300s when it was under Austrian rule. Most of the castle is now a museum to display ancient armory, and the range of very old sword types is sort of startling, but impressive. Written explanations in English were throughout the armory collection, which made it more interesting.

I most enjoyed the panoramic views of the harbor from the windows of the castle and then out on the back deck (they probably didn’t call it a deck). Even with the constant rain today, it was still something to be seen. Afterwards, I met Marija, who runs the visitors center there. She wanted to talk about the Chicago Bears, who I know almost nothing about. Her husband runs football camps in Trieste and invites retired American football players to come over and participate so Marije knows many of them. She was fun to chat with.

Last night we tried to get into the Antiquarian Umberto Saba bookstore, a historical landmark I had read about and was anxious to check out. It wasn’t open when we went, so we tried back today but it was still closed. Perhaps the owner is sick, although I did read that he tends to keep his own hours despite what is posted.

On to lunch at the wonderful, charming Tavernetta. This small restaurant was fantastic – what could be better than five enticing choices written on a blackboard and a kind owner who was happy to make us comfortable.

Today we experienced Trieste’s “bora” – the intense winds that are unique to the area. When they are accompanied by rain they are called the “dark bora.” So today was a dark bora day, with winds so strong they pulled you with your umbrella. Or in the case of my traveling companion, wrecked your umbrella altogether.


photos: The castle provided the most beautiful views of Trieste; dessert- fantastic; part of the sword display at the castle museum.

Friday: Viareggio

Today was mainly a relaxing day. I did some reading and some work, and we went to lunch in the city – the same restaurant as Tuesday since we liked it so much. I have been eating squid at every opportunity since it is so fresh and we don’t have it often/ever in the Midwest.

We did some planning for the weeks ahead and walked around the city.

Of course it was raining.


Photos (it was not much of a photo day, especially with no sun) – a typical apartment building in the city; my favorite food around here; our home here.

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

Tuesday: Viareggio

Today we explored the seaport city and found that it is wonderful. It was a nicer day that yesterday, with the sun occasionally peeking through the clouds.

We went to the yacht building area alongside the Tyrrhenian Sea and checked out some of the huge boats in progress, getting as close as we could near the off-limits work area. The nearby marina was chock-full of fantastic-looking boats. I cannot imagine what summer must be like here, since even with few tourists around (well, we saw none aside from ourselves) the city seems bursting at the seams.

We walked along the beach and the sea was sure acting like the ocean today, with waves one right after the other. The temperature seemed to be about 60 degrees F, and it would’ve been fun to take a dip if I had thought to toss my suit in the car.

We had lunch at Trattoria Giorgio, a charming restaurant that was on a side street from the beach. My spaghetti with squid was excellent, as was my traveling partner’s spaghetti with clams. In talking with the owner, we learned that his father started the restaurant fifty years ago. He got sad talking about his dad, who must have worked so hard to get the small restaurant going.

Yesterday, our Airbnb host suggested a patisserie in town, so we stopped there before going back to our rental house. Well, I jumped out of the car since there was nowhere to park and tons of traffic at 5pm.


photos: Viareggio looks a little llike parts of Florida. The bike lane is as busy as the road at some times of day; a part of the marina; a hangar for mbvaking huge yachts. There’s one in progress on the right.

Monday: Viareggio

It was bittersweet to leave Siena late this morning. Our hotel – Hotel Ravizza – was so comfortable and a great place to stay and Siena is a wonderful city. But we will be in Viareggio for the next few days and I’m sure we will live it there too.

We stopped for lunch in Pistoia, an old city about an hour from Viareggio. It is Monday, so many restaurants are closed but we found a good place for lunch and spent some time there since check-in for our Airbnb was at four o’clock.

We drove around Viareggio and checked out the marina. The largest and most expensive yachts in the world are made here by Benzetti boatyard. They are spectacular to see, but since it was pouring rain we couldn’t walk around at all. We will do that tomorrow.

We will also take the train one day to Cinque Terre to hike and see the five seaside villages and beautiful views. We are hoping for some nice days ahead after almost a week of rain but we will make it work regardless. For now we are settling in at Viareggio.

photos: seen along the way as we drove today – a farmer apparently has a sense of humor about hay bales; this evening’s view from our Viareggio home; little round eggplants for sale

Saturday, Alba

Saturdays are the huge market day here, and I walked over early to see what it was all about. I was in search of fruit and vegetables, but there were streets full of everything else: men’s and women’s clothes, shoes, purses, and all sorts of household goods. The tables were chock-full of merchandise. I walked around for about an hour, then went back to where we are staying so the two of us could check things out.

We took a different route and eventually came upon the produce I was looking for.

After coffee, we dropped our bags back at our apartment and headed toward our tour of underground Alba. By now – 10:30- the streets were full of people, children, strollers, and dogs, and it took some time to get around.

We eventually found the meeting place. We knew the tour would be in Italian, but they gave us the script typed in English, which was nice and helpful.

It was interesting to see what archaeologists uncovered under the streets of the city, some under a church, a bank, and the police station.

The tour lasted about two hours and we had lunch at our apartment then walked around some more, this time in a direction we had not checked out before. We eventually headed back to make dinner.


photos: fruits and vegetables at the market today

underground Alba

the busy market

Friday: Alba

We continued to explore Alba on foot today and made plans to take a tour of the old underground city tomorrow. It should be interesting.

We had a lunch in an underground restaurant today, coincidentally. The storefront is on street level but once through the door, there are steps down.

The sand sculpture artist from yesterday was back today making an identical dog. I went for a run and passed his spot at 8am. He wasn’t there yet. An hour later when we walked by, he already had most of the dog sculpted. So it seems to be a sand art scam and he will do great with it this weekend, I’m sure.

photos: early morning in the city

pigeon on the back terrace

pigeon on the lunch menu