Manarola, in Italy’s Cinque Terre, is a majestic place. Perched on a rocky cliff like a toddler who couldn’t quite reach the end of the slide, it’s stuck in place, and in some ways, stuck in time. When the railroad first came to town it was the first real chance for many locals to escape the area’s natural isolation. That emigration had a detrimental effect on the local economy which wasn’t reversed until tourism started its siege on Cinque Terre’s villages. Along with being an oasis for tourists the area became a UNESCO World Heritage Site and an Italian National Park. Because of those designations commerce and tourism won’t change the area like so many other places. I loved my week here, even though it rained almost nonstop. It’s high on my list of Places I’d Return To.
Pisa. This single word brings a singular image to most minds – and for good reason. The Tower of Pisa – which is not the only leaning tower I’ve seen in Italy – is amazing. The fact that it still stands 835 years after it began to sink (it started sinking 5 years into construction) is amazing (in 1989 a similar leaning tower in Pavia, Italy collapsed without warning), and with the corrective reconstruction that has happened in the last several decades it should continue to stand – crooked – for generations. Amazing! But the leaning tower won’t be my first memory when I think of Pisa, though it will be a part of that memory. I’ll remember the entire Piazza del Duomo. The tower, the two museums in ancient buildings, the Baptistery (the first I had seen), and the Camposanto. They all surround the Cathedral in the middle. It’s a beautiful area.
Florence is a real ‘Italian’ city. Perhaps the first ‘Italian’ city I’ve visited. Venice is…uniquely Venice, and different then everything. Milan is vast and impressive, I loved Genoa and Bologna, but for me, Florence is different. It’s hard to explain, so I’ll just say this: When I first saw Piazza della Signoria, is the first moment I thought, “I’m in Italy.” (Italy like I’ve had in my imagination since I was a child), and that was the end of my 4th week in country.
Last one, and its more of a statement then an observation. You can’t go wrong with the house red. There, I said it. Trust me, I’ve tested this theory, it doesn’t matter where you are, the house red is perfect. Drink it!