WE’LL TAKE THE HIGH ROAD

TRAVEL BY STEVE RICKETTS
The main coastal path on the Cinque de Terre is a gem, but an alternate walk through the vineyards, high above the sea, brings a whole new dimension to this much visited, Italian coastal strip.
My wife, Marie and I went there in 2007, when things were busy, but not ridiculously so, like now.
ROME
The holiday began in Rome, after changing planes in Hong Kong, where we saw Olivia Newton John in Qantas club. We stayed, for three nights,  in a self catering apartment, on the banks of the River Tiber, just across from Castel Sant’ Angelo. The owner was Francesco Russo. The apartment, in an old building, had high ceilings, decorated with stucco works.
Marie and I said a prayer in St Giovani Church, where the old priest looked like former Hollywood actor, Spencer Tracey. An electrical storm hit as we were exploring the Borghese Gardens, and, like magic, Pakistani/Indian peddlers appeared, selling umbrellas. They were on every corner.
Perhaps the Rome City Council could have paid them to pick up all the litter in the streets.
On our third day we attended Mass at St Peter’s, and it was quite moving, despite the Japanese and other tourists, who showed no respect for the service taking place.
On Day 4, we had a wonderful cabbie – Emilio – who drove us to the rail station for the trip north to Sienna. We changed trains in a small town, where a funeral was taking place. We had cheap beer and wine at Bar Lunarossa. Two beers, one wine: 3 Euros 80.
SIENA
We had a sensational view from our apartment in Siena. On our walk around the town, there was one surprise after another, and so many young people. Service was very slow at Restaurant Enoteca le Vie des Gusto near the Duomo, but the asparagus was very good.
A bike race finished in Sienna the following day, and we were there to see a Russian cross the line first.
After lunch, while we were enjoying a drink at a bar, I sent my beer flying, and the waitress blew up delux. We got out of there as quickly as possible.
Dinner at Brasserie Tonte Gusto, sitting beside three large American women, who ate like Vikings. I’m not sure how Vikings used to eat, but that was the first thought that came to mind.
On our second day in Sienna, we caught a bus to Monteriggione, and then did a beautiful country walk, with a dog following us for much of the way. We were overtaken, at one stage, by two American power walkers, (not the ladies from last night) who had a local guide.
Back in Sienna we enjoyed drinks at Bar Il Rustichetto, which boasted a poster of Sienna FC.
On day seven of our trip we got the train from Sienna to La Spezia, and then a local train to Maggiore at the southern end of Cinque de Terre, where we booked into our room, high on the hill, above the quayside, next to a church.
We enjoyed drinks at a quayside bar, where our waitress looked like a young Olivia Newton John. In other words, she looked great.
We had sole for dinner at a local restaurant, where the waiter is ‘a hunk’, to quote my wife. An American girl asked to be photographed with him. The restaurant proprietor had a cousin in Melbourne.
CINQUE DE TERRE
On our first full day, we walked the entire Cinque de Terre path (18km), with Vernazza the highlight. We had ice cream at Manarola and lunch (salami and cheese roll) sitting on a bench outside a church in Corniglia. Drinks overlooking Vernazza and more drinks on completion at Monterossa, where our waiter was a real card. We had fresh lemon juice at a stall on the track, with the owner’s wife sunbaking in the vineyards behind him.
The next day we got a train to Levanto, a seaside town we didn’t particularly like.
But on the third day we walked the hills behind Manarola and Corniglia, which was an absolute delight. When we returned to Maggiore, I had a swim at the pebbly beach, my first ocean swim in 13 visits to the northern hemisphere. Dinner at Ripa del Sole, which was recommended by a wine store owner. Good, but the service slow. Kiwis at a table near us. One plays union, the other league. The rugby union world cup was being held at the time in France, Wales and Scotland, and Marie and I had watched a couple of games, both of which we found boring.
The next day we left for Nice in France. That’s a story for another day.
Photo 1: Marie Ricketts outside Castel Sant’ Angelo, Rome in 2007.
Photo 2: Marie and Steve Ricketts at their Siena apartment in 2007
Photo 3: Bike race Sienna, October 2007
Photo 4: Cinque de Terre
Photo 5: Vineyard walk Cinque de Terre.

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