Week 112 May 21, 2016

Loren and I have had challenges in some parts of Italy with the Internet. Usually we have had good enough coverage to post the weekly blog, but that was not true this week.
We had a nice couple of hours hiking in Vaglia, northeast of Florence, despite it being overcast and most of the time having light rain. The hike we took is part of Aiello del Rinascimento – the Renaissance Ring. We did not stop in Florence as we had thought we might. We had had a fabulous visit there 20 or so years ago, so we just looked fondly at Florence in the distance across the foggy hills as we drove.
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We were again lucky with the weather in that on the way to return our rental car in Bologna, we had only a light rain. After we were safe on our bus to the City Centre however, the rain began to come down in torrents. We were fortunate too in that Bologna has an enormous number of porticos, archways and covered walkways throughout the city, initially created to protect the carriage of the Madonna during religious processions. So we kept fairly dry on the walk to our AirBnB. We then met up with our good friends from California in Bologna. We walked around and around the medieval-laced-with-cosmopolitan atmosphere of the citta – city, reveling in the piazzas – plazas, the basilicas and chiesas – churches, the shops, and interesting streets with fascinating architecture.
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We enjoyed two free evening concerts in a small church, offered by local students and their faculty.
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Oh, and of course, this being Italy, we ate, and ate, and ate. One evening we met up with our previous AirBnB hosts, who took us to a unique local establishment where they sell beverages, and the patrons bring their own food to eat. We enjoyed their vino – wine with our store-bought mortadella – Loren’s favorite cold cut meat, e formaggio – and cheese, e pane – and bread, before they took us to see some other local establishments. 

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With our Californian friends, we continued by train to the Liguria province to stay in La Spezia, near the Cinque Terre – Five Fishing Villages, nestled in the cliffs along the Italian Riviera. Over the next two days we took the train north to stop and explore around the Cinque Terre: Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore.
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Loren and I hiked the hills for a couple of hours, going south from Monterosso to Vernazza one day, while our friends explored around the towns more. Several times on our journey we have met interesting people who we have had an opportunity to have long or meaningful conversations with. Sometimes we never even learn their names. On our first hike here, we met a young man, for another of those chance encounters with a wonderful person in the world.

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The next day, while our friends explored some more, we hiked another couple of hours going north from Corniglia to Vernazza. This afforded us an overlook of Vernazza from the south, where the previous day’s hike had brought us in to it from the north. These towns are all so picturesque, reminding us of the Amalfi coast.

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On another afternoon we four took a train to the town of Levanto, but found it too large to enjoy. So we opted to spend our time on a boat ride from Monterosso to Portovenere to view the Cinque Terre coastline from the Mediterranean Sea.

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We will have to come back someday because in addition to missing seeing parts of Levanto, we were unable to walk the Via dell’Amore – Lover’s Lane and see its famous statue, because most of it was closed from a previous landslide. We were able to walk just the beginning of it, which is marked with some of the graffiti we understand we would have had more of further along the way.

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We spent another beautiful day going by train to Sestri Levante. We delighted in seeing the Baia del Silenzio – Bay of Silence after eating lunch. Given the sunny Sunday family atmosphere, the bay was fairly quiet. We then took the train to Camoglia where I had the freshest calamari I have ever tasted for dinner. We are here for another couple of days together before we say farewell to our friends…
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