We left Monaco, entered France again for a short period, and made it to Italy, our country number six for this road trip. There was a perceptible difference between all three countries, even though they are so close. The landscape remained just as beautiful, but the shops, and the people, looked/dressed different.
On a solid recommendation from a friend, we made a short journey inland to Dolceacqua. We were expecting a much longer drive, but after what felt like thirty-minutes from crossing the border, we’d arrived.
We’d also immediately understood the charm of this town, with the ruins of a castle perched high above an old city, with a delicate old stone bridge crossing a wide, but empty, river.
We thought we understood the charm, but once we actually parked (in an amazing spot by the river), we walked through the alleys inside the old town, and then we truly understood the charm. We’ve been to a few old towns so far on this trip, but none have been as labyrinthine as here. The alleys were, for lack of a better measurement, wide enough for two fat ladies. There was almost darkness inside, but for a narrow slither of light from the sky far above. This was certainly a tourist town, but it wasn’t too much in your face. It set a new benchmark of what a tiny old town looks like.
And then there is Apricale – also a recommendation from our friend, and also an amazing old town. This time things got turned up to 11.
It looked like a small clump of sandstone buildings, huddled on top of a hill, inside a forest. It was impossible to see where one building ended, and another began – they were as one.
We got lucky with a park, again, and made our way up into town, following even narrower, and tighter staircases and cobbled paths. Now, we’re down to one fat, and one regular lady, if we’re using that standard.
There was certainly a tourist industry here, however, it was incredibly discrete, with only occasional signs. The town was also deserted, not seeing a single person until we reached the main plaza, where the one bar open had people spilling out into the plaza. There was something infectious about this atmosphere, it felt so genuine, beautiful, and just plain happy. It almost made me want to get drunk with them. Almost.
We walked a little further, past the plaza, and reached the edge of town. I took a small gamble, hoping to find views of the town below, and got lucky. We caught the last rays of light illuminating the village before it disappeared behind the mountains for the night.
We returned to Dolceacqua, back into the same park we had by the river. We were hungry and tired, and the thought of Italian pizza was too much. I’d been waiting for this meal our entire journey – it was a lot of pressure, but it didn’t disappoint.
We woke to rain and grey skies, which wasn’t unexpected. It made for a slow start to the morning, but it did give us a chance to do some household chores that we’d been putting off for sometime. The skies cleared, and we left Dolceacqua some time after noon.
We planned a stop to see the Russian Orthodox Church, which was built for the Russian Tsars that were living here when Russian Tsars were still a thing. It was said to resemble St. Basils in Moscow, however, it appeared to be under some pretty significant renovations. And was closed until 3PM. In the tiny glances that were possible through the scaffolding, it did look impressive, but much, much smaller and simpler than St. Basils.
The town is also famous for the casino, which we happened to have parked in front of. I put on my Sunday best, but this time I was turned away for having a backpack. The foyer lacked the grandeur that we saw in Monte Carlo.
We’re now officially snobs, unimpressed by lesser sights. I’m wondering how much more this will happen the further we travel, becoming desensitised from having already experienced the ultimate.
We gave Genova a miss, partly due to the time it was taking us to get there, partly due to the effort required to park, but mostly due to lack of interest, as most of the attractions were closed on a Monday anyway.
I didn’t know much about Camogli, other than it was said to be beautiful – though, all cities are described this way, making it rather hard to filter. We found a park in a supermarket (where we bought our groceries for the coming meals), and walked the short walk to the harbour, finding colourful multi-story buildings, surrounding a pretty little harbour.
It wasn’t until we’d walked to the other side of the harbour that we actually realised just how large, and beautiful, this town was.
And then we crossed through a tunnel, approaching the small beach and were blown away again. It would have been incredible to sit here on the concrete barriers protecting the harbour and watch the sun go down, however, we had to go move our van as the supermarket was closing – and we’d not be able to find a more suitable park on the streets.
Just after we left town, crossing over the pass, we stumbled on a free car park for motorhomes – it might not have had any views, nor any facilities (other than a trash can), but it was flat and quiet, and we managed to catch the fading hues of the sunset.
The free car park was only free between 8PM to 8AM – during the day it cost money – so we had to pack up early and leave. We passed through several pretty towns that clung to the coastline. Curiously, there was a giant red carpet on the footpaths that linked several of the towns.
Heading south, we decided to avoid the tolls, and were back on the SS1 road south. It snaked its way into the mountains behind Cinque Terre. Fortunately, there was very little other traffic, so we could slowly make our way without being stressed about letting people pass.
Not so much of a destination, as a place for us to park our car for a few days while we go explore the Cinque Terre. There is a cheap motorhome park on the outskirts of town, allowing us to take our time, picking the best weather to visit – which is convenient, as it’s quite stormy today, with a forecast for sunny weather tomorrow.
After lunch, and an uncharacteristic period of relaxation, the skies cleared, so we thought we might as well go check out Cinque Terre. It’s an epic location, so I’ll keep that in it’s own blog post here – Euro Road Trip – Cinque Terre.
We realised the inconvenience of our campsite, and the lack of public transport the hard way after we stayed to watch the sunset in Manarola. We arrived back in La Spezia station at around 21:50, however, the next bus wasn’t going to be until 23:40. It was 5km back to the campsite, so we thought we’d walk towards the centre of town and grab a taxi. It started well, walking through a large pedestrian mall, with small bars and restaurants, but after making it to the main street near the harbour, we didn’t see any taxis. We waited a few minutes, then tried asking a hotel to order one for us. They tried calling, but the sole company didn’t answer after nearly 30-minutes of them calling. We realised we were going to have to walk home. We kept an eye out for a taxi, but in the 5km walk, we saw three – and they were all unavailable. The temperatures were cool, and the footpath was well illuminated from all the lights in the port, so it was an easy walk – though, we’d have preferred to have saved energy for something more exciting.