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2023, Spring Northern Italy part 8


100+ Posts
April 11-25, 2023

Our brief stay in San Vincenzo turned out to be a memorable off the beaten path choice! We would love any excuse to see Populonia again, perhaps lunch after a week on Isla Elba with our daughter some day? ;-)

Our next 2 night stay would be in Rapallo which is only 2 hours away. The night before we discussed several attractive coastal options for pit stops, but once on the road we said "you know....Pisa is a very short detour...we've never been, so why not!!!" It was a beautiful sunny morning and the drive was only one hour, the detour from the highway was a mere 20 minutes. Once in Pisa the stress of city life, including traffic began! We circled a couple blocks looking for free parking, one gentleman stopped us in the middle of the road waving to follow him down a road...my normal instincts took over and I detoured around him, I guess he could tell we were tourists? We found a gated pay parking lot 1 block from the entrance and paid maybe 10 euro? there are times when I'm less trusting than my behavior in previous reports ha! One thing that is ever present in larger cities is the panhandling and people overly eager to assist you! On foot we zigzagged around a few of the nice but overly helpful people. At the entrance we were pleasantly surprised to see relatively few people, I was expecting shoulder to shoulder crowds, it was a fairly relaxing environment to be in!





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We spent maybe 2 hours in Pisa, which included a snack break a block away from the main attraction with fewer people. Back in the car we had 1.45 hours left to drive to Rapallo. I don't know if you like to drive, but 2 hour stretches are good for us, my work commute used to be over an hour each way. It was so tempting to make a couple stops in towns we have only read about, but we chose to make one stop and that was in Portovenere... or is it Porto Venere? see it spelled both ways! Once through La Spezia the driving was nice with views towards the Gulf of Poets. Again we made 2 loops around the one way road looking for easy parking, we ended up in free parking just a 5 minute walk from town. It was a wonderfully warm and sunny walk to the popular port town along the Ligurian coast. As we walked downhill and rounded the corner we could see why the parking was limited, very popular spot indeed! The ferries and cruise ship tenders were also busy dropping folks off and picking them up. We found a nice table at a restaurant in the heart of the activity, perhaps we should have stuck to our usual 1 block off the main drag rule! The food was just ok, but what we loved about it was the view...and the beer was cold! After taking the edge off with a snack we headed up to the famous San Pietro Catholic Church, consecrated 1198. What a beautiful church and it's set in one of the most amazing locations possible! We walked in at the right time because we found the crowds not too large and it was a pleasant visit.






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We stayed in Santa Margherita Ligure on a recent trip (LOVED IT!) and walked to Rapallo from there one afternoon, so we were a little familiar with the waterfront area. We booked our AIRBNB, La Casa Rosa al Mare with very short notice, less than a week before ha! Last minute booking offered a nice discounted price! Choices along the coast were slim, but we had a few options and lucked out with this apartment and its location. The unit offers free garage parking at 800 meters away, we didn't panic park there and took our chances, found a free parking spot one block away!! This was another self check in and took us a few minutes to find the right entrance. Once inside we were impressed, very clean, well equipped, tall ceilings, wonderful balconies with a view etc, perfect!

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We settled in for a little while, then got ready for dinner. The Vittorio Vento Waterfront is what you would expect from a "Riviera" town, it has a nice relaxed somewhat local feel to me. The coastal breeze was lovely and the tall palm trees and colorful plantings made it another perfect spot! The most prominent structure on the waterfront would be the picturesque Castello sul Mare, Castle on the Sea, built in 1551. In September we saw a lot of sunbathers around the castle, in April just a few sun worshipers. One block off the waterfront you'll find classic tighter alleyways with many shops and cafes! We were in search of good food and walked the side streets and the waterfront twice, many places looked great, just took our time deciding. On the waterfront we noticed a couple restaurants with the tables filling up, we chose one with attentive staff standing side by side with 90% of the tables open? Let's give them the business! The host told us his family is originally from Sicily, so we chose to order the Mediterranean whole fish option, it was very very good! The pasta and pesto was incredibly fresh and the desert didn't disappoint. Sorry I can't remember the name of the restaurant? I'll research that, but the food and service was top notch!

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We had a long, amazing day! We slowly walked back to the apartment fairly early because we needed to rest up to hike the Cinque in the morning, would it be as enjoyable as our last visit in 2015? Stay tuned, Cheers!

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@BEERMAN - I have been away from the forums for a while, but am l really enjoying catching up! Thank you so much for the great information and posts, I think an Italian tour is in our future!

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