We arrived at one of the many mediocre looking campsites near Viareggio, our destination only because it was convenient to Pisa airport. Anna and Jonson flew in from London for the UK long weekend and were keen to go to the Cinque Terre. All the campsites look much the same here with large numbers of privately owned adapted caravans with ugly shade shelters built over them. At least the facilities were good and the beach was 1 kilometre away through the forest park that runs along the beach for many kilometres here. It means that you can’t get a beach front campground but at least the beach is not developed with the ubiquitous rows of sun loungers and umbrellas in rows that you get everywhere else on the beach here. To our Kiwi eyes the beaches are nothing special but the Europeans love them and spend huge amounts of time soaking up the sun.
The Cinque Terre was, as we expected at this time of year, crowded with tourists but it was a beautiful day and very hot. Too hot to walk very far between villages. The walk that I was keen to do between Riomaggiore and Mandorla was closed for maintenance just like the last time we were here in 2001 so we walked up to the view points overlooking Vernazza instead.
After a delicious spaghetti con frutti del mare at a restaurant in the main square by the harbour we hired a small boat (think large dinghy) to travel back to Riomaggiore as a more pleasant alternative to catching the train. It is definitely the best way to see the villages of the Cinque Terre. Jonson, Anna and I couldn’t resist having a swim at the rocky “beach” at Riomaggiore. Beautifully clear water and just what was needed to beat the heat.
Anna was keen to go inland to see the typical Tuscan countryside of vineyards and olive trees and have a picnic. After a chance stop at the Tourist Office in the lovely village of San Miniato, we found out about a wine and truffle tasting event at a vineyard not far away with live music. What a great experience! We had ravioli and cheese plates with fresh truffle – so delicious. The whole atmosphere was very Italian with 2 musicians playing the piano accordion and singing traditional Italian songs. An American winemaker was working there so we got lots of info from her on the wines we were tasting. Apparently it was one of a number of similar events being held across that part of Tuscany that Sunday.
The last day we visited Lucca which was only 20 minutes drive away. We had visited briefly in 2001 with the girls but I was keen to go back as I remembered it being a really pleasant walled town with several prominent towers.