Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Vernazza - Village Scenes

With our memories full of the beauty of Florence and our suitcases slightly heavier with our food purchases, we said goodbye to our cute little apartment and headed to the train station.  We got acclimated to the train ticketing system and bought ourselves tickets to our next destination.

We behaved properly on the train, keeping our heads inside of the windows.  A few hours and a few train changes later, we arrived in Vernazza. Vernazza is part of the Cinque Terre and was our home base for two nights. The Cinque Terre are 5 villages on the coast, nestled between the ocean and the terraced cliffs and mountains. The villages are connected via hiking paths and have become popular tourist destinations.  Rightfully so, because the views are stunning!

The picture above is the train station in town. See the sliver of an orange building on the right side?  That was where our apartment was located!  The photo below is the street scene our of our apartment window.  Our location meant we had a constant soundtrack of crowd murmuring sounds punctuated by trains whooshing by.  Some trains "whooshed" louder than others as is demonstrated by this video I took from the platform.


The village is very small and the main street you see in the picture above is THE street. It connects the water to the train station and has little foot paths coming off of it leading up to restaurants, hotels, residences and a few shops. 

The grand plan was to spend our full day in Vernazza hiking to the next village over. Fortunately and unfortunately, the one and only stormy day of our entire trip was on the very same day we had planned to hike. The trails are along cliffsides and are unsafe to hike when the weather is stormy.  I say this was both fortunate and unfortunate as we missed out on the experience of the full hike. Yet, we were in need of some downtime and the weather forced us into relaxing more than we would have otherwise.  We did take a few small hikes up to explore the edges of town and spent some time on the rocky beach.  Photos of that to come in the next 2 posts!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Chianti Bike Tour

Rolling Tuscan hills, freshly pressed olive oil, castles, wine cellars, towers, vineyards, panna cotta and we fit it all into one magnificent, day-long bike excursion. Few words and many images for this one...

We were driven to Castello di Poppiano to begin the day. If you click through to their site, there is a wonderful video of the castle and surrounding area.

Old and new tools for cold pressing olive oil:

Drying mats and room for grapes to be made into Vin Santo, an Italian dessert wine:

Vin Santo is aged in a tower in really old barrels.  The fluctuation in the environmental temperature is necessary for the wine's aging process.

Atop the tower where the Vin Santo is aging:

From there, we learned the rules of the road and were assigned bikes for the 13 mile ride through the Tuscan countryside.

We stopped at a vineyard while the harvest was happening.

Lunch included a feast of 3 kinds of pasta, salad, bread, wine, coffee and panna cotta.  And then we had to get back on our bikes for more riding!

Our experience with Tuscany Bike Tours was really enjoyable.  The guides were professional and entertaining and the scenery along the ride were the sort featured in Tuscany calendars.  Our fellow bikers were also fun to spend a day with even if those Australians were pushing the unlimited wine refills on us and the mother from Uruguay was a bit mischievous during the bathroom breaks! Our day in Chianti was a great way to spend our last day in Tuscany, giving us a taste of the more rural parts of the country that we were about to explore more.
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