Last I left off on my recap Tom and I were in Venice. If you missed my first European recap check it out here.
After Venice, we headed off on a train to Florence.
We checked into our hostel and then sat down and planned out what we wanted to do while in Florence. The top of my list was get into the countryside to a vineyard to try some wine.
We found there was a tour going out that day at 5 p.m. so we booked it right away. At the same time we booked our tickets for the next day to go to the Accademia Museum so we could see the statue of David. After a quick lunch we were on a bus and headed into the countryside. Tuscany is absolutely breathtaking. I definitely wish we had time on this trip to spend in the countryside and I think it would be top on my list if I ever get back to Italy. Many of the vineyards have accomodation right at them.
We got to the first vineyard, Casanova. It was a small organic vineyard where they also made olive oil, balsamic vinegar, truffle oil, honey, lotions and grew a variety of herbs. The owner used to be a veterinarian but gave up his practice to live his farming dream. He and everyone who worked there were so incredibly nice and welcoming. They brought us into a tented area that they had all set up for our tasting of wine and food.
I could go on and on about this tasting that they set up. The snacks were amazing, I have never tasted olive oil that was that flavourful. And of course the wine was fantastic. After the tasting we got a chance to wander around the vineyard which had just breathtaking views of the rolling hills of the Chianti region.
We headed to a second vineyard, Panzanello. We got a chance to tour the cellars and learn about some of the processing of the wines.
The wines at both of the vineyards were Chianti Classico’s. We learnt that Chianti classico have very strict regulations. Wines that meet the criteria are labelled with a black rooster. These labels are sent out to the vineyards in limited quantities in order to promote quality wine over quantity. We were really hoping to take some wine home from these vineyards but we didn’t want to carry it around with us for the whole trip in our backpack. Unfortunately Canada’s laws made the cost of shipping home wine astronomical. So we just enjoyed it while we were there.
The next day was sightseeing in Florence. Our first stop was to the Accademia Museum. We arrived there with our email of our confirmation that we had booked online. However, when we got to the desk the guy informed us that we had bought tickets for the Accademia museum in Venice. Two museums with the same name, talk about a tourist trap! Of course they were non-refundable tickets. Luckily the guy took pity on us and let us in to see the statue of David right away without waiting for a different reservation time to the proper museum. I don’t have any pictures of the statue because you weren’t allowed. But wow, just wow. Seeing that statue was just truly phenomenal.
After the museum we headed out to see the Duomo, where we decided to climb the 463 steep and narrow steps to the top of the dome. It was worth it though, you got to see the frescoes of the dome which you can only really appreciate if you do the steps up and then got to see panoramic views of beautiful Florence.
Aftewards we climbed the 414 steps up the bell tower where you get the best view of the Duomo.
Right beside the Duomo I found what I like to call a little slice of heaven….a Lindt chocolate store!
Next up we checked out the San Lorenzo market which is essentially an Italian farmers market. I loved looking around the shops and seeing what types of things locals buy.
That night Tom and I decided to go out for a drink. We found the coolest little cocktail bar. It was so eclectic with the most random stuff on the wall and old school cartoons playing on a projector. The owner was amazing and knew his stuff about alcohol. He made me this incredible spicy peach cocktail. I never knew that combination would be so delicious.
The next day we were off on a train again heading toward the Cinque Terre. But first, we needed to take a stop in Pisa to take some infamous touristy pictures.
I think my favourite picture was this one….an epic fail.
Cinque Terre, Italy
The Cinque Terre is absolutely beautiful. If you ever get to Italy going here is a MUST.
We stayed in the southern most town, Riomaggiore.
All 5 of the towns are easily accessible by a couple minute train ride. There are also multiple hiking trails between cities. You used to be able to walk all 5 towns on a hiking trail along the coast but now only one section of the trail is open. On our first day we checked out the middle town, Corniglia. We started with 382 steps to get into the town (there is also a shuttle bus you can take, but we figured that was for sissies). Of course the town was just beautiful. I loved just wandering around these streets, though I was cursing the hills and steps a lot!
We went in search of a beach that we heard about in the town of Corniglia. There were some signs spray painted on rocks leading the way. We followed the signs and seemed to come to a dead end in residential area so we gave up. When we were leaving Corniglia, the train was going to be another 1.5 hours, so we decided to give this beach a second try. We tried a different direction but ended up in the exact same dead end spot. A local speaking Italian starting saying stuff to us we couldn’t understand. Tom said beach and he said “yes beach” and pointed us the way. He even offered us an umbrella. Turns out you had to walk through this residential looking area to get there. But soon we came across this tunnel. It was a big dark tunnel where you couldn’t see the end of it. There were signs in Italian but basically looked like do not enter signs. Tom and I figured this was a bad sign and were too scared to go through the tunnel so we turned and went back to the train. Later we googled it and this was the entrance to the beach, through an old abandoned railway tunnel. So if you ever make it to Corniglia, that is the way to the beach – my suggestion is to bring a flashlight!
Our second day in Cinque Terre we decided to head out hiking. We did our first hike from Riomaggiore to Manarola. It was so beautiful. While we were first bummed that the coastal trails weren’t all open I think it actually worked out great because otherwise we wouldn’t have tried the mountain trails which were equally beautiful and way less busy. In fact in our 2.5 hour hike, we didn’t come across a single other person. The hiking in the Cinque Terre was tough! For the first 40 minutes of our hike we were climbing straight uphill, but the scenery was worth every painful moment.
After our mountain hike we took a train to Vernazza so we could do the coastal hike to Monterosso.
The coastal hike was a lot busier with tons of people on the trail but it was still very enjoyable nonetheless. Once we hit Monterosso it was time to relax on the beach! This beach was easy to find. When we got back to our town for the night we decided to sit out on some rocks with some takeout pizza and wine while we watched the sunset. It was the absolute perfect end to our time in the Cinque Terre.
Next up we head to Rome….stay tuned!