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Last week was the first summer holiday week.
After trains from Lausanne to Milan and Milan to La Spezia on the Ligurian coast we spent a first evening eating real pizze and a nice night in an « affita camere » (room for rent) right on the central market place. The first morning we woke up with the noise of the market and cheap fruits and cheese for the day. After a breakfast in a café a short boat ride made us leave the city to reach the start point of our walk.
The start point the small village of Portovenere, at the entrance of the Gulf of Poets. The gulf is named after Lord Byron. I know his name but not what he has written. He used to swim across the gulf between Lerici and Portovenere. The village appears after a small cape without warning and it’s breathtaking.
The village is really small under a huge fortress. It’s houses are narrow and colourful. And in the morning it’s still almost tourists-free.
We walked along the harbour to reach the little church at the end of the cape. It gave us a first sight on the day walk to come to reach the Cinque Terre.
And that’s the church.
We went back to the village and explored the few streets in the center. The streets are really narrow, it’s a car-free village and I like that.
After a light blond refreshing beer (the only kind of beer we will find here) we started to hike straight up-hill. The weather was already really warm. 5 min later no piece of clothe remained dry. Soon we had very nice views on the cape, the bay, the village and it’s fortress. Behind the cape are protected islands but we didn’t put a foot on them.
A bit further the view could have been even better. But as for the rest of the trip, the very hot weather put a light fog on everything. So panoramas are very average.
La Spezia too was really blurry. We already walked the same distance we sailed in the morning when we arrived at Campiglia »s mill, about the half of the day’s walk distance.
The rest of the day was in the forest. At least we were a bit protected from the heat of the sun. Then we picnicked at the point of view of the Madonna di Montenero. The first outlook on the Cinque Terre, just over the village of Riomaggiore. Actually the view on the Cinque Terre park is supposed to be breathtaking. It is but the fog ruined every attempt to take a global picture.
On the way down to the village we could appreciate the characteristic landscape of the park : « restanque » walls everywhere to sustain the fields of Olives or vineyards. On ly around the five village of the national park are more than 7000km of these walls.
In the village it was quiet easy to find an incredibly cheap room for rent with view on the sea ! It let us plenty of time to enjoy the village, located in a very narrow valley and with almost every streets consisting in narrow and steep stairs. No beaches, just a small harbor but it didn’t prevent anyone form bathing.
The day after we woke up earlier to try to take advantage of the fresh morning. Anyway, mornings weren’t fresh at all.
20 minutes of walk later on the « Via dell’Amore » we were already in the second village : Manarola. We had breakfast there.
That’s maybe the most famous view on a Cinque Terre’s village.
The path along the coast is not free, you have to pay 5€/day to walk on it. But it’s really worth it.
Just before the next village, Corniglia, the only village without access to the sea, 380 steps lead us further from water and the path became much steeper.
The path kept going up and down for one hour when we finally reached Vernazza, maybe my favourite village. A small natural harbor in a narrow valley (looks like « déjà vu ») with a small castle on top of it.
Even if all the places looked really wild and like the far end of the World they all have a train station on one of the main lines in Italy ! (between Genoa and Pisa). But the railroad consists mostly in tunnels.
The last village is more like a seaside resort and I didn’t like it. I don’t sea why he is part of the national park like the others.
We ended our day in Levanto, a small town outside of the national park. Only 2 days walking were enough to cross it all. It was much harder to find something cheap to sleep there. So we had our better room of the trip, and also our better meal with anchovies with lemon.
Early in the morning a bath in the sea was really cool before taking our boat. This 3rd day was a restfull day, no walk (almost) and a nice boat journey to reach Portofino. One of the most beautiful and upperclass village on the Ligurian coast.
Before letting us go to the village, the boat showed us (without stopping) the San Fruttuoso abbey, which can be accessed only by walk or sailing. There is supposed to be a huge Christ’s statue 17m deep underwater but the water wasn’t clear enough to see it.
The village of Portofino is truly beautiful but a bit too crowded compared to the Cinque Terre. What’s impressive is how they kept the small bay free from any new construction since the 60s. Such a place doesn’t exist on the French Riviera.
A short boat trip led us back to Santa-Margherita-Ligure where the closest train station is, allowing us to reach Milan in the evening. The city center had very nice painted walls.
The second part of the trip is really different. After enjoying the coast we spent 2 days in the most industrious and busy Italian city : Milan.
We found a very nice family hostel close from the central train station and it allowed us to visit the city by foot only. The first evening took place a kind of « shopping party » on the Corso Buenos Aires with shops closing late in the night. Yes it was the sales too. But we remained strong, we bought nothing !
The Corso Buenos Aires seems to be the longest perspective of the city. It took like one hour to reach the very center. The entrance is shown by gates like the Porta Venezia.
At first the city looks gray of pollution but a lot of buildings are quiet interesting. You just have to pay attention. It’s not a very touristy or a museum city like Roma, that’s something I appreciated a lot.
Actually there is one huge reason to come here in Milan (beside fashion) : the Duomo. Even if you don’t like Gothic architecture you may like it. It’s very unusual. Surprisingly white in a so gray city and full of details. And it’s huge, supposedly the fourth largest cathedral in the world (oh by the way I’ve been in those 4 now). Of course we went to the roof, to cross the forest of pinnacles (there are supposed to be more than a hundred of them).
It gave us a vast panorama over the city. To the Velasca tower, an old slyscraper also one symbol of Milan.
Over the Galleria Vitorio Emanuele II and to the Sforza castle.
Then we went inside the galleria which is a very upperclass mall with café and expensive clothing shops on a nice mosaic floor.
And we walked in the streets, feeling the atmosphere of the town. It’s old trams.
It’s courtyards. In the Brera Pinacotheca courtyard is a statue of Napoleon in unusual clothes.
It’s small pedestrian streets.
Then we headed to the Parco Sempione, the biggest garden downtown. It’s behind the Sforza castle and facing it we found the Arch of Peace, build by Napoleon and finished by the Habsbourg family (The history of the city is quiet complicated).
We visited the castle. That’s a huge museum with various things inside from religious paintings to egyptology, armory, furnitures … But I think the best is the outside.
Back to the center through via Dante, we reached the Duomo again. Via Dante is the main axis downtown.
Here is the main facade of the Duomo. And you can see Milan has a bike sharing system too. There were lots of bikes everywhere although nothing is made for them : no bike lanes or tracks, a few parkings only …
We continued our exploration of the coty, finding very old churches dating back to the 4th century such as San Ambrogio.
And then back again to the Duomo. It’s like a magnet ! And the evening lights were amazing.
The last day we let our bags at the train station for the day. The district around is more modern than the rest of the city and another emblematic skyscraper of the city is in front of the station. the Torre Pirelli.
Like the previous day we ended up walking a lot between nice buildings and ancient churches.
We entered the strangest church of Milan : San Bernardino dei Morti. One of it’s chapel has it’s wall made of bones and skulls. It reminded me the catacombs in Paris.
Ca’ Granda, a university had a very nice renaissance courtyard.
In the evening, waiting for my night train back to Paris I went to the Villaggio dei Giornalisti, a place further from the center with nice painted houses.
And then I saw the Porta Garibaldi neighborhood, preparing the city for the universal exposition in 2015.
I realise it was only 5 days. But we saw so many things it was like a month.