Gelato is the Italian word for ice cream, but it is different than what we know as ice cream here in the U.S.
Dana, a Grand European Travel team member, joined our 14-Day Italy at Leisure tour in October and shares what it was like visiting beautiful Cinque Terre.
My Mom and I took GET’s Italy at Leisure tour this past October and had an amazing time. We chose the tour because we had never been to northern Italy or Tuscany and it had always been a dream of mine to see the Cinque Terre. The tour began in the Italian Lake district, a very scenic and relaxing part of Italy. We stayed on the shores of Lake Como and spent our time on the lake, in the ’real Bellagio’ and just exploring the town of Como. They still have some of the original city walls intact!
From Como we went to Cortina at the base of the Dolomite Mountains. This by far was one of the highlights of the tour. We were so lucky to have sunny blue skies everyday here. From sunrise to sunset we never got tired of the dramatic views of the mountains. Plus every building has window boxes filled with flowers and everything is green and lush. Even the river water was unique with a fascinating color of ice green — Cortina is said to be the Aspen of Italy with many fancy shops and tasty restaurants. It was a great place to go for a stroll and find a yummy bite to eat, then stroll back to our mountain lodge hotel and sit by the fire to warm up.
After two days in the mountains it was time to venture down to sea level and explore the island of Venice. We had both been there before so this time we made an effort to get off the beaten path and wander the side alleys. I enjoyed just sitting over a drink and watching all the local families come out Sunday afternoon to enjoy the piazzas. They don’t have yards or even streets to play in so they just wander in their little niche of the island and play ball in the piazzas surrounded by buildings 1000’s of years old. It was really neat to see.
From here it was on into Tuscany with its rolling hills topped with villas and the famous cypress trees. Even the one morning we didn’t have sun the hills looked magnificent with fog hanging around the trees and buildings making it look like a mystical land. We got a good feel for some of the villages such as San Gimignano and Montepulciano, enough to know we would both love to go back and spend a few weeks exploring that region.
As I had hoped, Cinque Terre was the next highlight of the trip. We spent the day exploring the area with stops in the villages of Vernazza and Monterosso. We arrived by boat which was the perfect way to start because it gives you the best views of the colorful villages, some of them hanging on these sheer cliffs, overlooking the ocean. You would think the houses of pink and yellow and orange and blue would be eye catching enough and then you see a medieval looking fortress rising out of the cliff in one, and then a 1,000 year old church built right out into the sea in the next.
We thoroughly enjoyed our time in Cinque Terre and were thankful we once again got to see an amazing part of the country in full sun and blue skies as we enjoyed the sunset ride on the train back to our awaiting motor coach. The last stop on our adventure was the eternal city of Roma. Every time I have the opportunity to see this gorgeous city I leave wanting to go back. Everywhere you turn there is a historic building or an extraordinary sculpture, even on the most mundane of streets in the city. Besides touring the major sites like St. Peter’s Basilica and the Colosseum we also wandered the streets of Capital Hill to get a hill side view of the ancient Roman Forum, and walked the small streets of the Jewish ghetto getting a feel for what life has been like over the centuries. The last night on our own we ventured to the top of the Spanish Steps to view the city at sunset then made our way down to find a hidden gem of a restaurant for dinner, even getting roasted chestnuts along the way! It was a fantastic way to end our journey.
As we made our way home I reflected back on the great group of people we got to travel with, from all parts of the United States, and the amazing jobs that Margaret, our tour director, and Carmine, our motor coach driver, did. Margaret shared with us the history, art, beauty and soul of her country, all while seamlessly seeing to all the arrangements for us along the way. She gave us an appreciation for Italy that I will always value and that will help me to better understand Italy in what I hope to be many more visits. Thank goodness I threw that one coin into Trevi Fountain so that I may return again someday to Rome and begin another adventure exploring the amazing country of Italy.