From Lucca, in the heart of Tuscany we boarded a train for about a 1:50 hour trip to the small city of La Spezia, in the province of Liguiria and the gateway to the Italian Riviera. We were most excited about visiting this area after watching Rick Steve’s videos on the Cinque Terre about a dozen times and it did not disappoint.
We arrived to the most spectacular weather for mid December. It was 15-16 degrees Celsius everyday and sunny without a cloud in the sky. It turned out to be a fantastic time to view this area as we didn’t have the crowds that inundate this area in the summer, it was like our own private viewing. The weather gods were on our side as the locals told us they got hit with quite a bit of snow on Dec.17th four years previous although unusual for the area. The only downfall was it wasn’t quite warm enough to swim although we did see an older couple rocking a speedo and bikini for a swim by Portofino. We were so tempted as the beautiful blue waters were calling us and it seemed warm in comparison to the Rocky Mountain lakes like Windermere that we’ve dipped our toes into in the summer.
Click to read more and open our video below from our visit to the Cinque Terre. Scroll down to continue reading about everything you need to know about visiting the Cinque Terre.
We arrived by train from Florence following a little over an hour journey. Our Airbnb host was gracious enough to pick us up at the train station and in minutes we were at our new temporary residence. The train station is conveniently located near the center of the city and a few minutes’ walk into the old walled center where most of the exploring is to be had.
We had a glorious day in Pisa, the sun was shining and it was plus 15 degrees Celsius without a cloud in the sky. We left in the morning from Lucca and walked to the train station where we boarded for a 30 or so minute ride to Pisa. From the Pisa train station it’s another easy walk of about 25 min. to the Piazza dei Miracoli where the Tower, Cathedral, Baptistery and main tourist sights can be seen. Pisa is easy to get to and well worth a day trip. The nice weather just added to the enjoyment of the day, we wished we had packed a picnic for the park area surrounding the Cathedral but we relished just laying in the campo and taking in our surroundings.
Check it of the list…. Florence is now done and we off to our next stop, Lucca tomorrow afternoon. Florence has been great, we took it all in at a leisurely pace and opted to just wander the streets viewing the sights of the city as a five day resident. Our Airbnb apartment was fabulously situated, we just had to walk out our front door, over one of the bridges and we were in the thick of the historic center.
Five days goes by so fast and suddenly our stay in Siena had come to an end. We throughly enjoyed walking its cobblestoned streets and taking in all the history that is the foundation of this medieval city.
Saturday morning we boarded a bus from Rome to Siena and a few hours later settled into our 3-star hotel for a five day stay. We happened to be perfectly situated steps from the old city center so we dropped our bags and walked out the front door to explore. In minutes we knew we were in the heart of Tuscany, walking the medieval city and it’s labyrinth of narrow, cobblestoned streets.
Click on the pic below for a video of our last days in Rome and explanation below;
After checking off most of the sights on our Rome-to do list we just spent a few days wondering around, getting lost in the side streets and finishing up that list. We spent an afternoon cruising the atmospheric neighborhood of Trastevere, stopped in a few more breathtaking churches and yesterday we dropped by the Vatican. We didn’t bother going in as they had some lineups and we have been before, instead we decided to save it for the spring when we return with some friends and family.
The first time we visited Rome seven years ago, we were gob-smacked to see the Coliseum and the ruins of the Roman Forum in it’s city center, the architecture, history, culture and natural beauty that surrounds it. Over a few days we walked until we couldn’t take another step and were astonished at how much there is to see. This time we have eleven days to explore and have been able to get a better comprehension of the Eternal City. The more we see the more we are astounded by it, if you lived a lifetime here you’d never run out of something new to explore. You can’t describe Rome, you have to experience it. It is sensory overload, compounded by the throngs of people that overtake the city
We’ve been in Rome a few days now. We’ve settled into Italian life and I have to say its ‘molto fantastico’! There’s just something about living ‘La Dolce Vita’ that makes me think I could make this place home, if only family and friends were with us. I have to remind myself thought that this isn’t real life, we don’t have to work or iron out an existence here (that’s waiting for our return home) its just about the fun stuff……………………….
The Irish amazing race continues from our base in Killarney on day 4 as we headed out to conquer the Ring of Kerry, a circular coastal route that starts and ends in Killarney. We headed out on the counter clockwise route starting from the east side in torrential rain and wind that continued all day. Unfortunately, we were socked in with cloud, rain and fog for the whole trip so we couldn’t see much or take any great photos. Had the weather been clear we knew the route would have provided some exceptional scenery as we got the occasional glimpse throughout. The whole loop is a day drive with a few stops but if you wanted to shorten the trip or if the weather was bad, as in our case, I’d start on the west side as that is where the best views are. As we approached our return to Killarney just a half hour out in the national park the views were stunning, I was tempted to redo the last half of the route on our next day when the weather cleared. If you only do part of the route go at least up to Kenmare which is just an hour out of Killarney, it’s a great little tourist town with tons of pubs, restaurants and shops. We had lunch at a restaurant called #35, it was exceptional and one of the few places I’m confident to recommend. Put the Ring of Kerry on your bucket list, you’ll be rewarded with high up, looming coastal sites and then sweeping mountain views. It’s a spectacular road trip even in bad weather.
Day One of our Amazing Race through Ireland’s Southwest Coast has us waking up in Waterford and on the move.
Today was a busy productive day, we managed to hit a bunch of sites on a lovely day for a drive through Ireland. We left our hotel room at about 9am for a quick visit in the town of Waterford, just a few minutes drive from our hotel. First stop was the Waterford Crystal factory where we quickly visited the shop, deciding we didn’t have enough time for the tour we grabbed a coffee, a breakfast bun and headed out onto the highway.
We left Edinburgh on a Friday afternoon, boarded a cheap Ryan Air flight and a little over an hour later we were in Dublin, Ireland. We spent one night DT at a hotel on Parnell street and then moved out to the burbs where we stayed in a beautiful self hosting apartment for three more nights. We had no problem navigating the buses and finding our way around the city, much was within walking distance from our apartment. Our first evening we headed out to Murray’s Pub just around the corner from our hotel for some dinner and a few pints. We found out they had entertainment starting at 9 that evening with a band doing traditional Irish music and traditional Irish dancers, problem was we arrived at 6 and had to drag out dinner until 9. We ate and drank our faces off and managed to stay until 11:00, we totally enjoyed the entertainment which made us feel we had arrived in Ireland.
Well the last stop on our tour of Scotland was Edinburgh and it brought our visit to a climactic ending. Its architecture rivals any European city, an impressive breadth and depth of Georgian and neoclassical buildings which will make you dizzy spinning 360 degrees for the views and your neck permanently kinked from looking up. It’s like getting lost in Diagon Alley from the Harry Potter movies but Scottish Style. Looming over the city impressively is the monolithic Edinburgh Castle which is home to Scotland’s crown Jewels (the real ones) and the Stone of Destiny used for royal coronations. Arthur’s Seat looms above the city center, the remnant of an ancient distinct volcano in Holyrood Park.
The Isle of Skye for me was a highlight of Scotland. It’s rugged land and coastal scenery was so epic and atmospheric, maybe it was the misty weather that added to the ambiance but the island left a distinct impression. The weather changed frequently from windy and misty to sunny and calm so if you didn’t like it as the saying goes ‘wait 5 minutes’ but we never minded the wet weather, it was part of the experience.
We spent three nights in Fort William to experience the beauty of the Highlands and could have easily spent a few more days here. The views change as you drive every few miles through this diverse countryside, a car is a must to really get the most of this area. There is lots to do here especially for the outdoor enthusiast but shopping, dining and lots of other activities are also available.