Individual Days - Italy

Leaving the Big Cities

September 23, 2023

The last few days have been filled with site seeing and walking. Before leaving Rome, we enjoyed one last breakfast on the rooftop overlooking the Vatican.

We boarded our bus for a six-hour ride to Italy’s West Coast. It is time for a well-deserved break from the hustle and bustle of the big cities.

Arezzo

Our journey took us through the medieval city of Arezzo.

Cathedral of Saint Donatus

Medici Fortress Park

This peaceful Arezzo park has a beautiful hilltop view of the Tuscan countryside.

Passeggio del Prato
Monumento a Francesco Petrarca

Lunch

We ate at La Torre di Gnicche. We found this quaint restaurant through Google. It was located off the main piazza. We were excited because we got to try something different – an olive oil-tasting appetizer. We were surprised at the variation of flavors just from different regions of olives. So good.

Piazza Grande

We talked to some locals who encouraged us to return to Arezzo during the Christmas season. The Piazza Grande is transformed into one of the largest Christmas markets. Something to add to our wish list.

Carrara Marble

After lunch, we continued on the bus to our final destination. Along the way, we passed what appeared to be snow-covered mountains, but actually, the white is Carrara marble. These mountains are outside the city of Carrara on the northern edge of Tuscany.

Cinque Terre

Finally, we arrived at our destination. Cinque Terre is made up of five villages (Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore) on Italy’s Ligurian coast. The entire region is a national park and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Buses and large cruise ships cannot access these cities directly, so we arrived at Levanto and took a quick train to Monterosso al Mare (“Red Mountain by the Sea”). We checked into Hotel Punta Mesco. It was just a short walk from the beach. Our room (#11) had a fun feature – we could crawl through the window to our own private balcony. We didn’t realize it until after dinner, but the panels in the floor were see through to the restaurant kitchen below.

We dropped off laundry, did some quick shopping, and got ready to start our “vacation from the vacation”.

Dinner

Lisa planned a group dinner at Ristorante Belvedere. Our appetizer was cantaloupe wrapped in prosciutto followed by pasta with pesto. Anfora Belvedere was the seafood house specialty – a fish soup made with lobsters, mussels, clams, octopus, and swordfish in a terracotta pot and served family-style. For the few of us who did not select seafood, we received cheese-stuffed meatballs. Dessert for everyone was Cantucci (biscotti) and Sciacchetrà. Sciacchetrà is a dessert wine from Cinque Terre. You dip the Cantucci into the wine to soften it. Super sweet and delicious.

After dinner, we walked around Monterosso. We entered a small church, Oratorio Mortis et Orationis – Confraternita dei Neri. Over the door, there was a skull and crossbones with the inscription “Mortis-et-Orationis Confraternitas” which translates to “Brotherhood of Death and Prayer”. Inside, there were more skulls, skeletons, and a cloaked statue. The church was dark, empty, and eerie. The mission of the Brotherhood since the 16th century has been to look after the souls of the dead. They assumed responsibility for burying the dead (especially the poor who could not afford a Christian burial) and pray for the souls to help them move beyond Purgatory.

As we strolled back to our hotel, we enjoyed the beautiful ocean and the warmer weather. Once we got back to the hotel, we sat out on our balcony and watched the active kitchen below.

Today, we walked 6.3 miles.

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