21.09.2016 - 23.09.2016 22 °C
Up and away early to pick up the rest of Team Thomson (Sarah and Oli) from Milan Linate airport. Got a good park and into the arrival hall with time to spare for two espressos! As check-in at the hotel was still 6 hours away we decided to head up to Bellagio, on Lake Como for lunch and a wander around. It was a beautiful drive up the side of the peninsular to Bellagio, which is just as lovely as we remembered – except there are a trillion more tourists around. So glad we’re not visiting in the height of the season, it would be unbearable. Had difficulty spotting the apartment we stayed in in 2000, but think we got it in the end. But we definitely had lunch at the same spot we enjoyed for our first lunch with Jon and Sarah 16yrs ago! Lovely to relax and chat with Sarah and Oli while enjoying the food, wine and scenery.
Then back down to Milan to locate our apartment for the next 3 days…………..well, that was the plan and you know what happens to the best laid plans! We finally managed to locate the place – but it definitely wasn’t anything like the photos on Booking.Com and the apartment was appalling and wasn’t anywhere near the rooms we’d sleep in. Soooo disappointing. Had to walk away from that place (and a night’s deposit) after a few choice words………and unfortunately as we’d discovered it was Fashion Week in Milan, we couldn’t get a reasonably priced alternative at short notice.
Change of plan! We decided to spend the night about 50 mins out of Milan in a wee place just out of Pavia. Hotel Ritz – it had lovely big rooms – dated furnishings, but clean, and quiet and a restaurant next door. So who could ask for more? Oh, and it was breakfast included – this has become our favourite option while travelling.
The plan for the next few days was discussed over breakfast and we decided to go down to the coast and the Cinque Terre, via Parma for lunch. That was an amazing spot – very old church being restored, river through the town and friendly people. It was the first time we’d really become aware of the heightened level of security in towns, with both the carabinerei (not the local police but the regional force) and the army patrolling the streets.
Then, off to Lerici for the night. This is a wee spot at the bottom end of the Cinque Terre. It’s just around the coast from La Spezia which is quite a big port and naval base. Caught the train to Vernazza –the middle town of the five that make up the Cinque Terre. We then hiked for 2 hours up to the next town Monterosso Del Mare, around the coast track. Pretty amazing hike – if you weren’t on top of a stone wall you were walking beside one, with olive trees etc. all around. Very steep terrain, and a huge amount of hikers. It was a superb day yet again – not a breath of wind (lots of swimmers at the beach at Monterosso. Blue azure water and clear blue sky – just stunning. To complete the day we had antipasto lunch beside the sea with a very attentive and fun waitress.
Caught the train back to La Spezia, and then drove around the docks to our villa accommodation.