The Italian Job – Day 9

Lucca in the rain

The last day of our hols, and we headed off to Lucca, a very picturesque town about twenty minutes from Pisa. Although the temperature had dropped from the unseasonable highs of earlier in the week, we headed out under blue skies and wandered through its streets, before arriving at, and climbing, Guinigi’s tower. Only 220 steps to the top of this one, and on top, are some trees adding to the splendour of the views.

We both very much liked Lucca, small and pretty, and not crammed with tourists. But as we wandered the streets, we glimpsed the skies out over the distant hills looking very dark and foreboding. Five minutes later, we felt a drop, then another, and, as it was mid-dayish we wisely took shelter in a small restaurant just before the heavens opened.

We’ve been lucky with the weather, and have enjoyed the sunshine we’ve been missing back in the UK, but it is always a shame when it rains on your hols. Anyway, within an hour the showers passed and we headed on to Pietrasantra, a very “arty” town full of sculptures (and once again, blue skies and sunshine.)

We then hopped on another train back to Pisa, and headed for our “last supper”. As we meandered back to our apartment across the bridge, looking one way saw beautiful blue sky and a setting sun, looking the other saw angry dark grey clouds above the mountains.

We got back to our apartment, ready to pack, and heard the rumble of thunder, followed by the thud of heavy rain on the roof. Perhaps it is the gods telling us our time here is done, and we must return from whence we came!

The Italian Job – Day 8

Far from the madding crowd

As I said in an earlier post, the ideal time to see Florence was 30 years ago.

Today, we went back into Florence, beginning our day by climbing Giotto’s tower, the magnificent tower at the side of the cathedral, affording magnificent views across of the duomo itself and the city and its surrounds. We had to ascend 414 steps to reach the top, but it was worth the breathlessness of the climb to have one’s breath taken away by the view.

We had pre-booked the ticket, and only had to queue for 10 minutes to reach the base of the tower, but the rest of the main square, the Pont Vecchio and all the streets in the vicinity were absolutely packed. Florence is lovely, but it is over crowded (and I accept that we, too, are a part of the problem.) So after we descended from the tower, we headed south, across the Arno river to the Rose garden, an oasis of peace and tranquillity. Having bought some filled foccacia sandwiches to take with us, we sat amongst the greenery and beautiful flowers (Italy in April is a couple of months on from England, it feels, looks and smells like early summer) for a couple of hours. Heaven on earth, I rather imagined that I was the gentleman in the statue, head tilted skywards, eyes closed, enjoying the kiss of the Italian sun on my cheek.

In the afternoon we bade “arrivederci” to Florence and took a train back to Pisa, our base for our last two nights. This evening, after a delicious pizza meal, we ambled back to see the leaning tower, where our trip began a week ago. At 8pm, unlike midday when we were here before, the space, whilst not quite deserted, was certainly empty and we got to view the tower, and surrounding buildings, in almost splendid isolation.

It was a very different experience seeing the iconic tower in the fading light; with no crowds it was a far more enjoyable and peaceful experience and I was surprised in the difference a few hours can make. I am loving the “Italian Job” and our journeys across Tuscany, but I have been surprised at how busy some places have been (this is mid-April, not high summer) and the positive difference it can make when you escape the throng, and enjoy the landscape far from the madding crowd.

The old buildings and architecture have been a joy to behold, but I do also have a soft spot for an old car. And not just expensive, flashy sports cars, I like the old workhorses of the day. Two years ago, in a mid-life crisis moment, I bought myself a 30 year old Peugeot 205 (sadly, a diesel, not the hot-hatch GTi) off eBay that I have got back on the road. On this trip, I have enjoyed seeing some boxy old Fiat Pandas from the early ’90s, and then this evening, parked up all on its own, I saw an original Fiat 500:

A wonderfully stylish, tiny little car, with a small air cooled engine that was the height of Italian chic in the sixties. You can see its lineage in the modern Fiat 500 that is so popular on the roads today, but I would trade ten of the modern version for an original like this.

They are tiny, so to give a bit of scale, I had to have my photo taken next to the car:

I’m not sure I would actually fit in it, but as stylish and delightful to my eye as any fresco or facade we have seen on our trip!

The Italian Job – Day 7

Spag Bol and Porticoes

Growing up, in England, in the ’70s and early ’80s the food was bland. boring and beige. Most meals revolved around potatoes in one form or another and any accompanying veg had been boiled for far too long, turning it into a tasteless mush. Although I remember nothing of it (we left when I was about 18 months old) my family had spent several years in Malaysia and so, when we returned to the UK, we did eat quite a bit of rice, but I soon realised we were an outlier, and many people would describe any rice dish that wasn’t Rice Pudding – a creamy, sugar laden, sweet dessert – as “foreign muck.”

Probably because of living overseas, my mum was a bit of an early adopter when it came to new food trends and I reckon in was in the mid-eighties, my early(ish) teenage years, that a new meal came into vogue and made it on to my dinner plate: Spaghetti Bolognese. I loved it. Until I moved to London for university, spaghetti was the only pasta I knew, and bolognese the natural accompaniment for it. Across the country it became affectionately known as Spag Bol. I don’t think the youth of today (and by youth, I probably mean anyone born after 1980!) quite comprehend that pasta was new and novel (and to some, a little bit frightening and threatening) to many of us, and we didn’t encounter it until early adulthood.

So, as soon as we had decided we were going to Bologna, I determined that I must have spaghetti bolognese in its native city. Now, of course, no such dish actually exists outside the UK, but the closet thing on the menu was Tagliatelle Ragu. And with Tiramisu (I was in my twenties when I first encounted this delicious “pudding”) and coffee to finish, it was the perfect meal, in the perfect setting, with the perfect company.

Bologna itself was a beautiful city, I really enjoyed our visit. I was beautiful, but it was a “working” city more than a tourist city, and this gave it a greater sense of authenticity. It has a beautiful square, with beautiful basilica, but it is primarily famous for its porticoes – covered walkways. It has a the largest covered walkway, with 660 porticoes – covered archway, leading to the Santa Maria de san Luca, a church atop a hill just outside the city limits. We didn’t start at the beginning, instead taking the bus to Arc de Meloncello, and began our walk to the top from there, portico number 285. It took about 30-40 minutes to reach the top, but the views along the way, and from atop the hill, were stunning.

The Italian Job – Day 6

When plans go awry …

I could, and I will, tell you about the beauty of Siena (above) and San Gimignano (below) and the stunningly spectacular Tuscan countryside, about how we travelled to Siena, and then to San Gimignano before returning to a Florence bathed in the evening sunshine, but that would be to miss today’s story, and the true essence of travel.

Whilst I may joke that the best time to see Florence (or any major European attraction) was 30 years ago, travelling today is so much easier than years gone by. Last night, we were able to check the train times for today’s trip to Siena from the comfort of our apartment and book and pay for the tickets in a moment using an app on our phones. But perhaps this has led to a little complacency as we arrived at Siena train station without a thought of what to do, or how to get to the historic centre. Our first mistake of the day. Now, Siena is stunningly beautiful, very much a Florence with fewer (but still plenty) of tourists. But the info, and infrastructure connecting train and bus services, was somewhat limited. We struggled to find our way into the centre (we were not the only ones, we ended up teaming with a Spanish couple who spoke no English or Italian – I was pleased to get a chance to practice my Spanish on Italian soil) and then, when we wanted to return by bus to the train station it was again not straight forward. The lesson for the day – do your research, its not hard, but can save a lot of angst (and wasted time.)

But that is not the end of the tale.

We had always planned to then catch the train from Siena to Poggibonsi, before getting the bus to San Gimignano, then getting the bus back to Poggibonsi and the train “home” to Florence. Having (eventually) found our way back to Siena station, the trip to Poggibonsi was quick, cheap and uneventful. We got off the train, and headed to the front of the station to find the bus stop (having learnt from my error in the morning, I took some time on the train to confirm the location of the bus stop). However, finding the bus stop, it became apparent that the next bus to San Gimignano was not for about three hours. At the bus stop, we found two fellow travellers also waiting for a bus, and also arriving at the same conclusion that it would be pointless to wait.

We agreed to share a taxi into San Gimignano, I found some numbers, made some calls, and Stefano, our taxi driver, would be with us in 30 minutes. Whilst we waited, we chatted. One of our fellow travellers was from Amsterdam, the other, Haron, from Kurdistan (although they were friends, and travelling together.) We chatted about ourselves, our travels and our homes. I quizzed Haron a little about Kurdistan, of where he was rightly proud, and then explained that many years ago I had been in the RAF and part of a multi-national force based at Incirlik airbase, Turkey, enforcing a no-fly zone over Northern Iraq to protect the Kurds who were being persecuted by Saddam Hussein and his regime (this would be in the early 1990s). Haron became a little emotional, and told me how his father had been a freedom fighter for the Kurds and had told him off the help that the no-fly zone had provided, and that he (Haron) now lived in an autonomous and safe very region of Kurdistan in nothern Iraq. I was a very small cog in a big machine, and I’m not really sure I did very much, but it is gratifying to know that, over 30 years on, what we did did make a difference, and it was genuinely heart-warming to meet someone who we may have helped.

And that chance encounter would not have happened if our plans hadn’t gone awry. Planning is good, but flexibility – especially when travelling – is better, and travelling so much more enriching when you abandon the script, meet new people, and go with the flow.

We bumped into Haron and his travelling companion on the bus back to Poggibonsi, and again on the train back to Florence. They are both accomplished artists and listening to Haron talk about some of the works he had seen in Florence was inspiring and energising – the other three of us were all “of an age” and from northern Europe – it is very easy to become blase about what we see: “oh, look, another church, another renaissance painting”, but Haron’s enthusiasm re-lit a spark in all of of us.

Yes, Siena, and Gimingano and the Tuscan countryside are all beautiful, but the most beautiful thing for me today was meeting a son of Kurdistan, a far away people I was sent to protect what seems a life time ago.

The Italian Job – Day 5

Scorchio in Florence

Leaving La Spezia at 9.15 this morning, we enjoyed a comfortable train trip (1 change in Pisa) to Florence. Stepping out of the train, I was hit by two sensations – 1, the sheer number of people and two, the heat! One of the reasons for coming to Florence in April was because it is too hot to do southern European cities in July and August, but this was scorchio! Unseasonably so, hitting 29 degrees! Still, better the blue skies and heat, than leaden grey and rain. Florence is beautiful, even more so with the backdrop of an azure blue sky.

After checking in (our apartment is a mere 30 seconds from the Cathedral!) we headed to the Mercato Centrale – a big food hall – to grab some lunch. Here, you had to embrace the chaos, it was busy, busy, busy, but did provide the opportunity to try many different types of food.

For me, the Arranchini balls were my favourite.

Refreshed and refuelled, we headed out into the (sun baked) streets to explore the city, and what a pretty place it is. I grew up in the shadow of Wells Cathedral, which boasts the magnificent west front – one of the finest cathedrals in the world, bedecked with, I believe, more stone statues than any other – so sometimes cathedrals and churches can leave me a little “meh – good, but nothing special.” But Florence Cathedral is beautifully different. I spent much of the day thinking it was painted, it was only this evening that it was pointed out to me (by Becky, must give her credit for educating me!) that it isn’t painted, but its colourful facade is made up from different coloured stones. Magnificent, there is no other word for it.


We ambled on from the cathedral and Duamo, looking for some famous coffee and ice cream in the same cup. We arrived at the shop to be met by a big queue (bad) but things got a whole lot worse, very quickly. As ever, Becky spotted a photo opportunity and whipped out her phone to take a pic, but she couldn’t log on to the phone. Her lock screen would flash up momentarily, before vanishing, leaving the black screen of death. We tried what we could, but couldn’t get it to work. Becky was horrified at the thought of not being able to take any photos (or having to use my steam driven, ancient (4 years old!) mobile with a feeble camera), I was worrying about what apps we couldn’t now access (our train tickets, next accommodation etc.) and the prospect of shelling out for a new phone.

Disconsolate, we abandoned the lengthy queue for the special coffee/ice cream, and wandered on, both deep in our disappointed thoughts. We found another cafe, ordered coffee, and looked again at the phone. Long story short, somehow the brightness had been turned right down, so low you couldn’t even see the brightness slider. After a bit of trial and error, we worked out were the brightness slider was and were able to blindly slide it up. Let there be light! Hallelujah! The phone was working again, crisis averted, our travels could continue …

We saw some magnificent marble statues, like this one of Neptune:

… but round a corner, and down a side street we saw this much more modern (2021) statue that was my favourite:

We crossed the Ponte Vecchio (bridge) and climbed the hill to the Piazza Michelangelo and sat on the steps to enjoy a picnic tea, a stunning vista across Florence, and await the sun to set over the city. Sadly, every other tourist in Florence seems to have had the same idea. We (no surprise!) got there early, found our space on the steps, soaked in the sun and enjoyed the ambience. But as time wore on, more and more people arrived – not a problem – and also sat on the steps. With the steps now pretty full, however, many other people – the late arrivals – didn’t seem to see the bank of people sat on the steps and think: “nah, there’s no way through there.” No, steady stream of people tried to pick their way up and down the stairs, carving a thoroughfare through those of us sat taking in the view. (Just to be clear, there was a path to the side of the stairs that people could use)

This was our view when we first sat down:

… and this was the scene when we finally abandoned our spot some 30 minutes before sunset …

We headed back down the hill, enjoying fantastic views along the river and across the city

… before heading “home” after dark, happy and contented after a blisteringly hot day in the beautiful city of Florence.

The Italian Job – Day 4

To Levanto, and back to my happy place

With no train strikes to worry about, and no schedule to follow, the alarm was set for a little later this morning, and en-route to the train station we breakfasted in a cafe near our apartment – it is in beautiful square, with beautiful buildings, trees and gardens, but I don’t think it is the most “up-market” of neighbourhoods. This is no problem – it meant we had a breakfast of coffee, pastries and focaccia, listening to the lingo of the locals as they chatted, all for only a handful of euros.

We had decided to go beyond the Cinque Terre today to the next town along the coast – Levanto. Travel to this town was included on our Cinque Terre passes, so it made sense to explore what some call the “sixth” village of the Cinque Terre. Arriving under a beautiful “big” blue sky (the weather today has been perfect – wall to wall sunshine, not too hot if you were in the sun, but still pleasantly warm in the shade) we headed out from the train station and ambled through a very pretty town to the sea front.

I liked Levanto – its streets were wide and clean, punctuated with pretty buildings- another stripy church:

…and a quirky castle (although this is in private ownership, and you couldn’t enter it, only admire its strength and stature from outside)

We bought some focaccia sandwiches and a bottle of beer to share, sat on a sunny bench looking out to sea and ate a leisurely lunch before just continuing to sit and chill, enjoying the view, the calm and each other company.

Then we jumped back on the train for a 5 minute hop back to Monterosso were we spent most of the rest of the afternoon, including some more time for me back in the sea.

So far on our trip, we had seen four of the five of the Cinque Terre, so we thought we should complete the set, and took another 5 minute train ride to Corniglia. Here, when you get of the train you need to ascend a fairly hefty hill to the village – some hardy souls set off walking upwards. We, sensibly, waited at the station for ten minutes for the shuttle bus (free – as part of our Cinque Terre ticket) to whisk us up the steep, steep hill, passing all those walkers that had set off long before we had. We disembarked to find another pretty village, often with commanding views over the seascape, but with no access to the sea. It did seem like the sole purpose of the village was to satisfy the tourists (of which we were two of many) and so, whilst pretty and authentic, does begin to feel a little manufactured and contrived. Without the tourists, I don’t think it would survive as a community, but because of the tourists, it is losing some of its authenticity. I am a little conflicted, and I don’t know what the answer is, but I do know that of the five towns, for both of us it was our least favourite. However, I do feel a little churlish writing that when I am reminded that it afforded wonderful views like this:

Then back on the train again (the trains are magnificent – quick, clean, spacious and regular) to Riomaggiore where we bought some fried vegetables to have for tea, along with even more focaccia, eaten on another street bench.

As we waited for our train back to La Spezia, I asked Becky to rank the towns. She placed Cornigia in fifth place and Monterosso first, but could make up her mind on the others. For me, my running order is:

  1. Monterosso – biggest, and able to handle the hordes of visitors
  2. Vernazza – although this may be skewed as we arrived in the calm of (relatively) early morning, before the masses
  3. Riomaggiore – good street food, and pretty buildings
  4. Manarola – I had hoped for better swimming spots from here, plus was getting overcrowded when we arrived mid to late afternoon
  5. Corniglia – great views, but in danger of becoming a bit of a (beautiful) parody

Not part of the five, but Levanto would have been number one or two for me had it been in the list, and had I included all seven towns – the 5 Cinque Terre plus Levanto and Le Spazia, for me La Spazia would have placed third, (after Monterosso and Levanto battling for first and second) but Becky vehemently disagrees with me on this. And that’s fine, we should all have our own opinion and happily agree to disagree. The “Cinque Terre” is a beautiful collection of five towns, I loved visiting them all, hiking between two, and swimming from one, but I do like a bit of space, and some of them are too small to absorb the multitude of daily visitors (and I fully acknowledge that we were part of that problem to.)

Tomorrow we say “Arrivederci” to the Italian Riviera. and head in land to Florence and wider Tuscany.

The Italian Job – Day 3

Cinque Terre

With a train strike to beat, the alarm was set for early o’clock and we were out the door of our apartment and on our way to La Spetzia train station before 8 o’clock. The train strike was scheduled from 9am to 1pm so we figured that we could get a train before then, and be where we wanted to be before the trains ground to a halt. We hoped on a train at 8.12 am from La Spetzia, and twenty minutes later we disembarked in the pretty coastal town of Vernazza.

Lets talk trains for a minute

Now I was expecting a little diesel train that would chug its way noisily, slowly and smellingly along the line, but how wrong was I. The train was a modern, clean, fast inter-city train – a double-decker, no less – that whizzed us comfortably and quickly across the track. The only disappointment was that most of the journey was in a tunnel; this was a train to get you from A to B quickly and effectively, it wasn’t a leisurely clickety-clack journey during which you took in the majestic vista as it unfolded in front of you.

… and we’re back

Vernazza is a charming little seaside town, nestled in the hills and stumbling down to the sea. In the calm of the early morning sun it was beautiful and serene and we started our day with coffee and cakes, and then more coffee, in a traditional Italian bar. We spent a pleasant twenty minutes or so exploring and enjoying the harbour, soaking up the the sun and smelling the fresh sea air before beginning our next step to beat the now striking trains, and headed off on the hiking trail to Monterosso. We had always planned to hike some of the trails between the 5 towns of the Cinque Terre, and we headed uphill in anticipation and excitement.

This trail is 3.6 Km long, estimated to take about an hour and a half and the graded difficulty is average. You need to pay to take this trail, but payment is included in the Cinque Terre pass that we had purchased for the two days, giving us unlimited train use between La Spetzia and Levanto (all the 5 towns are between those two bigger towns) and unlimited access to the hiking trails. We had received a top tip to hike from Vernazza to Monterosso as – whilst the total ascent and descent is the same, as you start and finish at sea level – the initial incline from Vernazza is much less steep than from Monterosso. As we descended a very, very step stone stair pathway at the other end, we were grateful to have received this bit of advice. If you do this hike, and only take one thing away from this blog, make it this tip: walk from Vernazza to Monterosso, not the other way round. You’ll be glad you did.

Although graded “average”, the hike was not simple – it was well marked and on a path all the way, you could not get lost, but it had some tough climbs and knee jarring descents. The path was stoney, and slippery in places (although never dangerous), you definitely need trainers or better walking footwear. It took us about two hours (including plenty of stops for Becky to take photos, and also, more frustratingly, to wait on narrow sections of the pass as walkers – sometimes in their hordes – came past.) The views were magnificent, and the sense of achievement when we arrived in Monterosso tangible.

My Happy Place

A year ago, I went for my old man MOT at the doctors surgery and, as part of the battery of tests, I had my blood pressure taken. Whilst the cuff inflated around my arm, the nurse practitioner told me to relax, to imagine myself in my happy place. For me, that was bobbing in the crystal clear blue sea of Croatia’s coast. I love being in the sea in beautiful places. So, somewhat warm and weary after our hike, I had to take the plunge into the sea once we hit the beach at Monterosso.

The air was warm, the sun beating down, but the sea was a bit chilly ( to be expected, it is only mid April) But I enjoyed a ten minute swim in the clear blue water, I know I would have regretted it had I missed the opportunity.

Like an iguana, I baked on a rock to dry off, before we headed into the old town to grab some lunch (pizza and salad) and amble through the streets. A feature of the region seems to be black and white striped churches and I don’t know why, but I find them very aesthetically appealing.

We spent quite a bit of time exploring Monterosso – its bigger than the other four villages, and has the feel of a holiday resort, and before we had finished with the town, 1pm had been and gone – the train strike was over and we got on a (busy!) train heading back to La Spezia, but jumped off after two stops and ten minutes at Manrola, which we explored, (and sat and chilled in the sun for some time) before getting another train to Riomaggiore, which we wandered around in for an hour or so, before heading back to La Spezia, and home, with slightly aching limbs, only to remember we then had to climb 96 steps to our apartment on the top floor!

The Cinque Terre villages are lovely, and I really enjoyed the day. My only “but” would be that as the day wore on, they did get very busy. For this reason, I think Monterosso was my favourite – it had the size to accommodate all the tourists (us included) who were disgorged into the towns by train, boat and trail. And this was April; I wonder what they would be like in July or August – quite possibly too hot and too crowded? I’m glad the train strike forced us to make an early start: Vernazza in the peace and calm of (relatively) early morning was beautiful, and I’m glad I hiked a trail. The weather was perfect, warm and sunny throughout, we both enjoyed a lovely day.

The Italian Job – Day 1 and 2

Pisa and La Spetzia

At circa 9pm last night, local time, we touched down at Pisa airport after a pleasant enough two hour flight across Europe. Things got a little bumpy as we crossed the alps, but soon afterwards the tyres kissed the tarmac, we taxied in, hopped off the jet, whizzed through passport control (being the 2nd and 3rd brits to Border Control helped – I’m sure those at the back of the queue would have taken significantly longer. Blummin’ brexit) onto the Pisa Mova, a driver-less train that whisked us into the city centre, a quick check of the map, and a five minute walk to our apartment. It was dark, you couldn’t see a lot, but you knew you were in a different country – the warmth, the smell (the delightful perfume of blossoming trees); it felt good to be on our travels again.

We did little that night, but unpack our necessities, and head to bed, dreaming of the adventures to come, although those dreams were interrupted by the sound of torrential rainfall and the high pitched buzz of a couple of mozzies (that took delight in feasting on Becky’s English blood.) The rain stopped, morning came, and we headed out into the Pisa, still some clouds scudding across the blue sky, warm, but not hot (t-shirt & fleece weather) to see what we could see.

We were looking for the mural by Kieth Haring, but before we saw that, we saw this:

Galileo Galilei gazing through the skies, with the leaning tower as his telescope.

It wasn’t long, though, before we found the Haring:

Then it was time for breakfast – the first Italian coffee of the trip, and some delizosio cakes.

Refreshed, and reminded of the wonders of Italian food and drink ( a theme to be repeated throughout the day) we headed off through charming streets, in the vague direction of the famous leaning tower, pausing to admire the architecture, fruit and veg stalls, and men’s tailoring we encountered along the way.

The leaning tower was impressive, and well worth a visit, and the surrounding building equally impressive and the space able to accommodate the multitude of tourists (all trying to get the shot of them holding up the tower), although I do wonder if in height of summer tourist season the hordes might be a little overwhelming.

Then lunch – nothing fancy, simply a salad, a bruschetta and a sandwich, but those few words do not do the deliciousness justice. I love Spain, since learning the language I’ve become increasingly interested in its history and culture, but its food is – dare I say it – nothing special (tapas is really just snacks, after all) . But Italy? Italian food is delicious, a highlight of day two (today) has been the food. All vegetarian, basically bread, tomato, basil, mozzarella and olive oil – it tastes so good. A battle for number one spot is going on in my head (stomach?) – Greek food has long sat at the top of the table for me, but the Italians are making a strong case to be numero uno (although, should they lose their crown, the Greeks will have the opportunity to reclaim it come the summer when we embark on our Greek Odyssey.)

After lunch, we took a train (about 1hr 30 mins) to La Spetzia, our base for the next few days , from which we will explore the Cinque Terre. We journeyed through coastal plain to our left and mountains to our right, and, as we got closer to our destination, the clouds sunk lower across the mountains and we arrived in La Spetzia to rain. Rather than head out into the rain, we popped in to the Cinque Terre information office – a good job we did as they told us that tomorrow there was to be a train strike, and would be no trains between 9am and 1pm. We hatched various different plans, before realising, we could get a train into Cinque Terre before 9am, and our day would not be too disrupted. We’ll see how that plan works out tomorrow …

After dropping our bags in our room, we headed out into late afternoon sunshine to explore the city. I was impressed, not a particularly touristy place, it has a big harbour and is a naval base, again the buildings were stylish, the avenues broad and tree-lined and the water front provided a pretty backdrop as we ambled along the harbourside. The city is fringed by mountains, felt fresh and looked a verdant green. I would happily explore a little more, but the charm of the five villages of Cinque Terre awaits ….