Well, I am back in Colorado, and have been too wiped out to complete the details about the rest of our trip until now. However, my entries will be easier to read now, because my daughter fixed my paragraph formatting problem in the last couple of days. She called and said, “Mom, I hacked into your blog, and now your paragraphs actually show up as paragraphs!” Ah, the wisdom (and technical skill) of youth . . .
So I think I had completed most of our villa day trip details, having finished the San Gimignano and vineyard tour. And the last day of our villa week was spent lounging, re-packing, and preparing to leave Ambra for points north. The older couple who cooks for us sometimes when we’re at the villa, Anna and Pasquale, returned Friday evening with their son Patrizio, and presented us with a sumptuous meal. Any of you who are reading this could have joined us and we still would have had more food than we needed.
And at the end of the evening, Debra, Adell and I went into Ambra to find that internet point in the bar, about which I wrote on May 19, I believe. That was one of the highlights of my trip, and it made me realize that being in a little town with NO tourists, just soaking up the local color, is exactly where I want to be.
So . . . Saturday morning, we packed up all three cars and headed back to Florence to the car rental return. We piled all our luggage in one corner of the car return garage so our mini-bus driver, Marco, could load it up in the little bus, which we had hired to take us up to Cinque Terre. Marco’s eyes got bigger and bigger as he watched the continuous parade of bags from the ten of us, after ten days of shopping through Tuscany. We assured him that we didn’t mind some of the bags riding in the seats with us. Fully loaded, we made our way to our first stop of the day, Pisa, to see the Leaning Tower, Cathedral, Baptistry, and the junk-market circus that surrounds these beautiful treasures. We were scheduled to stay in Pisa for two hours, and that’s about how long it takes to visit the buildings, and make the decision NOT to climb hundreds of steps to the top of the tower, which leans more precariously with every second one considers how it would feel to hang out of the top of it.
Back in the van again, we continued our journey to Cinque Terre, the five villages on the Italian Riviera which are built on very steep hillsides above the sea. Typically one can drive to the edge of the village, unload one’s bags, and drive back up to the pay-parking lot half way up the mountain, but I hadn’t considered that these mini-buses are not allowed to do that, and they must stop quite a way up the mountain, much farther than we typically park. Marco parked the bus and turned off the motor. I tried in my minimal Italian to tell him I thought he could drive down so we could unload the bags. He folded his arms, glared at me, and said, “Non posso.” I certainly understood those two words. I cannot. He got out of the van and began to unload the bags onto the pavement. I gave him an early tip, 50 Euro, and he mellowed a bit. After a few phone calls to Andrea, our host at our B & B in Manarola, the National Park shuttle showed up to take nine of us down to the town, while Debra stayed back with all the bags. Soon a little 2-person truck with a large flat bed (picture a wide pick-up truck . . . now reduce the size by half . . . and try not to imagine that the vehicle needs winding before it will go anywhere . . . ) arrived to get the bags and Debra. Once the arrangements had been made, it was an easy entry, but at first, all I could think if was ten of us dragging perhaps 30 bags of all sizes (and WEIGHTS) down the mountain road toward the sea. Perhaps once we began, we would just roll down into the waves and float back to Boston!
Settled into our rooms in Manarola we set out to explore the village, walk down to the bottom of the town to the Marina Piccolo bar for cappucino all around. Over the next three days we scattered here and there among the five villages, hiking, shopping, eating, tasting wine, and enjoying the spectacular, take-your-breath-away views from anywhere, always out to the Italian Mediterranean where the water was blue and looked much friendlier than it probably was.