Third Stop – Italy (part 2 – A few more days, more cities, I, myself and me)

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After Catherine returns to Greece, I will remain solo in Italy for a few days. Our ways part in Bologna and my first stop is the small state of San Marino. I admit, it seems a bit like a tourist trap, but I’m curious enough to visit the country and even spend an evening there, when most of the tourists will have left the place for nearby Rimini, which seems to experience very lively nights, as it is situated on the Adriatic shores.  Anyway, the most celebrated attractions of San Marino are its three towers, depicted on the national flag, of which only two are accessible, as Montale is not open to public (De la Fraita and the most famous  Guaita are). Besides that, there’s Palazzo Pubblico (Government seat), the Piazza della Libertà and the Basilica of San Marino as well as the Museo di Stato. There are several museums that seem like tourist traps, but there is also a peculiar site, the San Marino Jinja, far from the main town, but I ‘d like to try and pay a visit if I have the time to do so. It is supposedly built by a controversial Japanese religious group, claiming that the building is the only Shinto temple in Europe, and they built it on the occasion that Japan is the most ancient Empire continuously existing, while San Marino is the most ancient republic.

Be that as it may, next morning I’m off to Florence, where I’m going to spend a couple of days. That is too limited an amount of time to stay there, and I have to plan very carefully, but I mostly have to accept that there are many places I am going to pass. After thinking quite hard about it, I have decided to freely walk the city streets and follow a very loose plan. I can certainly try to visit some very important museums, but the lines that form at their entrances are a deterring factor to visit. There’s a combo ticket for the Uffizi gallery, Pitti palace and Boboli gardens at nearly 40 euro, but you must state the time of your arrival at the Uffizi and that means I have to plan quite accurately and I do not have the time to do so.

Therefore, I’m going to try and spend a very loose weekend at Florence, with the less amount of worries regarding my visit. If I get a chance to visit a place, then it’s ok. If I don’t, it’s still fine. Of course, places featuring in my Florence bucketlist are: Santa Maria del Fiore, Giotto’s Campanile and the baptistery of St. John, all three situated close to each other and can be visited with a combo ticket. On the one side of the river, there are Bargello National Museum(many statues created by famed artists), Piazza della Signoria (copies of famous statues and originals of Donatelo and others) , Palazzo Vecchio and of course Uffizi gallery as well as Santa Croce [burial place of some of the most illustrious Italians, such as Michelangelo, Galileo, Machiaveli, the poet Foscolo (influenced our national poet D. Solomos), Rossini, featuring works of Donatello and Giotto], the Basilica of Santa Maria Novella (an early work of Boticelli), Mercato del Porcellino and Orsanmichele (Donatello, Verocchio, Giambologna), San Lorenzo (burial place of teh Medici), San Marco (a work of Fra Angelico, but also the seat of Savonarola). Crossing  Ponte Vecchio, one can find Boboli gardens, Pitti palace (Should pay a visit solely for Artemisia), Basilica di Santo Spirito (Michelangelo’s crucifix among other minor works), San Miniato al Monte, one of the most scenic churches in Italy. Piazzale Michelangelo (Just the view would suffice),

I’ll probably skip the Galleria dell’ Academia, a very popular and significant place, housing Michelangelo’s David.

The trickiest part of this trip will be the next couple of days, which I intent to spend along Via Francigena, an ancient road, leading pilgrims from England to Rome. I’ll try to walk along that road from Monteriggioni to San Gimignano and Gambassi Terme, for my first day there. While on the second day, I’ll try and walk from Gambassi Terme to San Miniato, where I’ll catch a train to Pisa. Time permitting, in case I skip walking and use buses, I may visit one of the following places, Siena, Certaldo, Vinci or Lucca, with Lucca being the most probable city to pay a visit to, since there will be not enough time to get to Siena and Vinci is way out of my way. Certaldo on the other hand is close to Gambassi Terme and a short visit might be possible, in case I skip walking all the way to San Miniato.

Third Stop – Italy (part 1 – A couple of days, a couple of cities, a couple)

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Well, the neighbors… We’ve met many Italians over the years, yet we never had the chance to visit their country. If Italy is half as good and elegant as the Italians we’ve met (we know it is) we’ll definitely have a great time there. I know I will, since half of our stay I’m going solo, as Catherine must return to Greece, while I will be prolonging my stay for a few days. Therefore, the plan is that we are going to land to Genoa, late at night, so we won’t have a chance to view the city, but next day we might head to nearby Pisa, while we are certainly going to roam the five main villages that form Cinqueterre (Map of the villages here).

It will be quite a demanding day, before taking the last bus from La Spezia to Bologna, where we’ll split. Our first day in Italy will begin with a short visit to Pisa, before visiting nearby La Spezia, where we’ll catch a train to the northern of the five Villages, Monterosso al mare and then we will walk south to Vernazza (3,5 km in total) and possibly catch a train to Corniglia (the route seems closed) and then walk to Manarola before using the train to get to Riomaggiore. There are train tickets that are valid for a day (16 euro) and will allow us to move between the villages, while we are also going to walk along the famous paths for some part of the route (current situation of the paths). As I understand the most popular paths, between the southern villages are closed (some until as late as 2021) therefore the train ticket is a necessity. What can we expect to find in that place though? Honestly, I don’t know, but we imagine that the views of the cliffs falling to the sea and the beautiful villages climbing up the rocks as we walk through the natural landscape will be a great sight. At least that’s what we can make out from the pictures we saw.

In the Evening we must return to La Spezia to catch a late bus to Bologna. We are staying near the center and we’ll have a great deal of time to enjoy some morning coffee and a walk to some of the sights the city offers, like piazza Maggiore, Basilica di San Petronio, Palazzo d’Accursio and the fountain of Neptune. Of course, there are much more to see there, but time is not on our side, as Catherine will return to Greece and I will go solo for a few days visiting San Marino and Tuscany.