So much happened in the last year. I barely remembered to write in this blog period, let alone remember to write about all the places we had seen and explored. Now that I have more time (thanks unemployment), I can catch up.
Cinque Terre and Lerici, Italy
Cinque Terre, Italian for “Five Lands,” is absolutely beautiful. It is hard to find another way to describe it. This area is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is found in the Liguria region. It is a string of five different towns along the western Italian coast. When I say along the coast, I literally mean that. The towns are built into the rocky landscape, just north of La Spezia. There are trails built into the rock along the coastline that connect the towns, so you can hike the entire way through this area. We stayed in an apartment in Lerici, then drove to the train station in La Spezia to get a ride into the area.
This place oozes old Italian charm. There are no restaurant chains or large stores. This area is accessed by trains and boats, with only limited car traffic. In fact, tourists cannot reach Cinque Terre by car! The citizens here have built their homes and businesses into the coastline, with terraces, platforms, farms, and vineyards overlooking steep drop-offs into the Ligurian sea. Cinque Terre is known for it’s pesto, limoncello, and the delicious wines made locally there. The seafood was amazing as well; Andy ordered a stuffed calamari that was like nothing we had ever tasted. Unfortunately, rains and mudslides have forced closures on some of the paths along the coast, so we could not walk the entire route (and to be honest, the girls would not have made it the entire way anyways). But we were able to use the train to go from town to town and to walk a little ways along the coastline. The weather was a little colder for our trip, but the beauty of Cinque Terre was still appreciated by our family!
We opted to stay in Lerici instead of trying to find lodging to accommodate us in Cinque Terre. Lerici was beautiful. It is a smaller town along the coast with plenty of beauty itself. We stayed at Baia Blu apartments, which are situated on a small hill up from a private beach. Again, it was too chilly for us to swim, but we still enjoyed the beach. I highly recommend this place because it was affordable, close to everything we needed and to the town center, and the reception was extremely accommodating.
In true form, we randomly decided to drive to Pisa on our way home from Cinque Terre. I had not wanted to see Pisa because I felt like seeing the Leaning Tower is a cliche tourist site. However, the girls really wanted to see it. I still feel it is a little too touristy for my taste, but it was amazing too. That tower leans so far! It is hard to look at it and not wonder how it does not tip right over. It was a beautiful day, with plenty of sunshine. There are also artists and food vendors on the streets there, which we always enjoy.
Parco Natura Viva, Verona, Italy
Verona was only about two hours from our house. We had wanted to visit Parco Natura Viva for awhile, so we figured we had better go before we moved. This is a safari and traditional style zoo. The first part of the zoo is viewed from your car, as you drive through the exhibits. Most of the animals roam freely. It was awesome to see the animals casually walking around. We even had to swerve off the road to bypass a giraffe that refused to move out of the road! The second part of the zoo is traditional, in which the animals are in cages. The zoo is huge. Unfortunately, we picked one of the hotter days of the summer to visit, and the zoo has many uphill exhibits. We managed to make it through the zoo without dehydrating! The zoo also has a dinosaur area, which boasts dinosaur models that are relatively close to scale. All in all, it was an awesome experience! My favorite part of going to zoo is watching Andy’s face. Yes, I know he is an adult. However, he loves animals. He feels so much joy around animals that it is hard not to be equally excited while watching him tease a giraffe from the car window or taunt the fat turtle as he slowly crawls towards his food. I love my big man child.
I hope not to miss out on our future travels so I can share our experiences. With at least two more years here in Europe, I know I will have much more to write about. Enjoy!