Sunday: Trieste

We said goodbye to our excellent Viareggio host, Roberto, and left for Trieste at about 9:30. It was a nice, sunny morning – perfect for our five-hour drive.We stopped in Rovigo, a city about three hours outside Viareggio and had lunch at Tavernetta Dante 1936, a small place where we were lucky to get a table. When we walked in and said we hadn’t called first, it looked at first as though we didn’t have a chance. After a moment, we were seated and content. The restaurant’s eight tables filled up quickly.The menu was included mainly fish dishes and we both decided on spaghetti with clams. Whenever I see tiny clams being served, it brings me back to my youth and growing up on the bay. Little clams there were seed clams and illegal to dig. This is certainly a different variety but I still reminisce about clamming in the bay.We continued our drive to Trieste, and it is so close to Slovenia we may check it out while we are here over the next few days. Now it is dark and we are happy to have easily found our lodging.photos: Clams; a crazy 20€ ($25) lollipop at a rest stop; our neighborhood in Trieste at night

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.