It was finally time to say farewell to our first Italian home in Camogli - thanks again to the generous Molly and Massimo for the keys to their lovely place. On November 20 we set off with Patrick for Monterosso al Mare, the northernmost of the "Cinque Terre". After washing down our Italian-style egg salad on fresh focaccia from Camogli's Pasticceria / Focacceria Revello with strong cappuccino and English Breakfast tea, we headed off to Sentiero Azzurro - the "Blue Path Trail". Our trek took us high above the vineyards and olive groves on a rocky and hilly trail along the sea, headed for Vernazza.
Our nephew Patrick is a veteran hiker with both the Appalachian and Pacific Crest Trails checked off. When he realized that we were staying next to an Italian National Park with mountainous sea-side trails he was up before dawn for a 6-hour / 7-mile hike from Camogli to Portofino. The first 40 minutes alone was a continuous flight of stairs to the Church of San Rocco - just a warm-up for what turned out to be a pretty strenuous up-and-down hike.
After meeting our nephew Patrick at the Milan airport and giving him a quick tour of the Milan Piazza del Duomo, we headed back to Genoa by train to spend the night at Hotel Ricci in Piazza Colombo. We were a short walk from the Genoa train station and to the center of a bustling shopping district including the huge and very cool Mercato Orientale Genova (MOG). Pasta, fish, candy, vegetables...if it's edible, it's here. At the heart of the market is a food court - think Eataly - 11 "Food corners" each with its own local specialty surrounding a central bar and seating area.
From Pescara to Milan we took a Frecciarossa - Italy’s high-speed train. [Word of advice - book these early online to save a considerable amount. We did not and learned this lesson.] The 4.5 hour ride was comfortable and scenic. We were glad we brought snacks. Our stay in Milan would be just one night so we could meet up with our nephew, Patrick, who was coming to Italy for the first time. We chose our accommodations for their proximity to the train station and price, but our stay at Guest House Brianza Rooms was better than expected - small and modest, but clean and comfortable.
En route to the Duomo - a 40-minute walk - we stumbled upon beautiful courtyard gardens, architecture with a twist, and Christmas Italian style.
The best way to find a great hairstylist? Ask someone with a great cut! Our new friend in Pescara, Elga, had a slamming one. She recommended her sister Iron-Man athlete, Monia Coletti who is a true master.
Not to be out-done, Richard popped into Barbiereitalia Piero Rinaldi for a fresh new look of his own.
Pescara is the perfect combination of a thriving city and a sea-side town on the Adriatic coast. Richard's family lives there so we scheduled a full week to catch up.
Our AirBnB overlooks "Il Fiume" - a canal filled with fishing boats that runs through the city to the sea. Each morning outside our bedroom window a brilliant sunrise over the Adriatic was accompanied by the shouts of the fishermen loading their boats.
Another bus ride - this time 4 1/2 hours - took us northward up the Dalmatian Coast - through a small strip of Bosnia & Herzegovina that cuts Croatia into two coastal sections (yes - two separate passport control stations to go from one part of Croatia to another). We arrived in Split, Croatia, just before 5:00 pm and had a short walk to our AirBnB apartment. The host wasn't exaggerating when she titled her listing "Amazing Location" - we were directly across from what we thought were buildings in need of repair but that turned out to be the walls of Diocletian's Palace - the #1 tourist attraction in the city, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and a another filming location for Game of Thrones.
Somehow, Nancy and I have managed to not get hooked on Game of Thrones - we've not seen a single episode - we know how easily we could get hooked if we were to start - so many episodes, so little time. For those of you who have already taken that bait, you should know that "Kings Landing" is really Dubrovnic, Croatia. Consequently there are multiple shops and walking tours throughout the Old Town devoted to fans of this popular series. Here are some photos we took of places where filming was done [see Greta's Travels for more info on the filming sites].
It pays to listen to the friends you make on an airplane - especially when they share a passion for their heritage and provide all the good reasons why you have to visit a place. Our seat-mate on the flight from Zagreb to Dubrovnik - a college student, who had studied in America, returning home for the All Saints Day Holiday - encouraged us to take a day trip to the Bay of Kotor, yet another UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Undaunted by yet another gray and rainy day, we started at our favorite 24-hour bakery to pack a breakfast of some "Burek" - a classic Croatian spiral-shaped delight made with phyllo pastry and filled with cheese or ground meat. Then we set off on a 30-minute walk to the port of Dubrovnik to catch a bus to Kotor, Montenegro.
It was a quiet Friday morning - November 1, All Saints Day, a Croatian National Holiday. A short walk to the bus terminal and a 20-minute bus ride brought us to Zagreb's flashy modern airport for our Air Croatia flight to the southern-most tip of the Dalmatian Coast - Dubrovnik: another UNESCO World Heritage Site. We crossed our fingers hoping the weather forecasts were wrong and we might enjoy a little sunshine at this popular beach resort city.
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Nancy McCabe &