Cruise Specialists hosts Steve and Wendy Bodenheimer are continuing to share their journey with us from aboard the 2016 Holland World Cruise. Previously they shared the experience of navigating the Panama Canal, sailing the Pacific in to French Polynesia, the Cook Islands, New Zealand, Australia, Indonesia, Hong Kong,Vietnam,Thailand,Dubai, Jordan, Israel and continue the Mediterranean with Italy.
As we pulled into the port of Civitavecchia, Italy, we were docked right in back of the newest ship in the Holland America fleet, the Konigsdam. She’s also the biggest in the fleet, holding 2,650 passengers and has many new features that HAL is hoping we will get excited about. Arrangements were made for those who wanted to, to visit the new ship in port today. We took a transfer into Rome – that’s a bus ride only rather than a tour. We were left at the Piazza del Populo to visit on our own and we were picked up 6 hours later in the same spot. It’s a convenient and low stress way to make the two-hour trip.
Since we actually haven’t been in the city of Rome for several years, we did some really touristy things: visited the Vatican and St Peter’s Square (we just heard on the news that Bernie Sanders was there today!?!); walked the Spanish Steps; joined hundreds of people at the Trevi Fountain, which is looking much more beautiful than we remembered; briefly visited the huge Borghese Villa Gardens; ate pizza and gelato; managed to get in a 10 mile walk and find 17 geocaches along the way.
CINQUE TERRE, ITALY
Our second and final port in Italy was Livorno, the gateway to Florence and Pisa. We’ve done many of the important tourist sites in both these cities, so we opted for something totally different.
Perched high on the cliffs on the west coast of the Riviera are the five beautiful medieval hamlets known as the Cinque Terre. They are so special and unique that they have been turned into a National Park and recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
They either cling to the face of the cliffs, looking like they will fall into the sea, or are tucked back into perfect little inlets that blend into the unspoiled landscape. Our tour began with a 1 1/2 hour drive that took us up, up, up, through the vineyard covered countryside of Tuscany to arrive at the first village of Manorola. Then it was a steep walk down into the village but worth the effort – gorgeous old buildings and scenic views around every turn.
The hillsides are terraced and full of grape vines that are still worked by hand by the local farmers. Of course, there were the required shops and cafes but they were very tasteful and fun. There are paths heading up in every direction from the village and one in particular connects this village with Riomaggiore.
You can walk the 4,000 steps of the narrow footpath that is cut out of the rock right next to the sea. We saw a large group as they started on that journey! We were supposed to take a ferry boat ride to the next village of Vernazza. But the seas were too rough, so we took the local commuter train. Vernazza was equally beautiful – we had a little more time there so almost everyone stopped for either gelato or pizza.Then it was on to our main stop – Monterosso, the largest of the 5 towns. It has both a medieval section and a more modern part with beaches and upscale shops. We stayed in the older area and enjoyed a great lunch and a bottle of the local wine with two Guests from our group that just happened to be on the same tour.
The local specialty is a thin pasta called trofi covered in pesto sauce. YUM! We also tried the local mussels in wine sauce. YUM! YUM! And finally, shrimp and pasta in a sauce made from black squid ink – surprisingly delicious once you got past the black color. There were lots of charming shops and no high pressure sales pitches.
Of course, there is never enough time in a place like this. It made us want to come back and spend more time in Tuscany.
Have you enjoyed following their journey? Don’t miss out on creating your own magnificent memories!