21 December 2014

Car Rental Company Reviews for Italy.

Independent Reviews of Car Hire Companies in Italy 
Your Fellow Travelers Help You Choose the Best Italian Car Rental 

Driving in Italy is not difficult nor dangerous for an experienced driver, but renting a car sure is! You can end up with a wreck of a car and bogus credit card charges because some major travel websites

Car Rental in Italy - Pick It Up Right

Five Smart Tips to Avoid Car Hire Problems

You are going to have a great trip to Italy. To make sure, here's our advice on how to avoid some of the most frequent traveler complaints about renting cars in Italy. Even though hundreds of thousands of Italian car rentals happen smoothly, there are thousands which incur expensive, unexpected, and often unfair credit card charges. Many difficulties can be avoided by the savvy renter when the car is picked-up.

06 November 2014

The Perfect Italian Saturday - A Castle and Lunch

Visiting the Parma Countryside in Fall 

You’ve been traveling all week admiring the spectacular attractions of Northern Italy. Visiting Verona, Ferrara, Bologna and Parma was fabulous - but wouldn't it be nice to take a break from the cities? Yet it would be a shame to loaf around when there are so many treasures to discover. Here’s a way to enhance your Italy itinerary and see some of Italy's charming small towns and landscapes: castle hopping.

Torrechiara Castle near Parma
Torrechiara Castle and grape vnes near Parma on a sunny day in November.
The provinces of Parma and Piacenza have many castles, and they are well presented at this link: Castles of the Duchy of Parma & Piacenza.  We chose the castle of Torrechiara in Langhirano, about 10 miles south of Parma, as an interesting Saturday junket. Parma is on the plain of the Po bordered by beautiful rolling hills. Not far from the city, the countryside becomes very rural – after all they don’t get that fabulous Prosciutto di Parma and Parmigiano Reggiano from urban areas!

The plains and low hills in the middle of Italy are often foggy –

02 October 2014

Lunigiana Cheese Aged for Two Thousand Years

The Local Food of An Ancient Roman City
The Plains of Luni Still Offer Cheese & 
Milk to the World 

The cities  of Luni, Lucca and Pisa on the Tabula Peutingeriana - 1265 A.D. 
Between the Ligurian city of Sarzana and the Tuscan border at Carrara, there is a wide grassy plain separating the Apuan Alps from the sea. Here you can choose what you see. Will you see fields of bright green grass stretching into the distance, with a sprinkling of exercising Ligurians? Or perhaps you will see a kilometer of stone houses, two gleaming marble temples, a Roman forum, a huge amphitheater, and tens of thousands of Romans going about their famously chaotic business. This plain was the city of Luni for over a thousand years, and renowned in the Roman empire for its timber, marble, wine, and cheese. Luckily, today you can sample the local cheese as well as visit the ruins of Luni (especially the amphitheater at 10:30 & 17:30) - Archeological Park & Museum Link.

Luni Moon, San Pietro Church Avenza (Carrara) 1187 AD
Luni Moon, San Pietro Church
Avenza (Carrara) 1187 AD
Ancient Cheese  The cheese of Luni was made in wheels that weighed 1,000 Roman pounds (that's 650 modern pounds) and shipped to other parts of the empire bearing the crescent moon symbol of Luni. For comparison, those big uncut rounds of Parmigiano* you covet in the gastronomia weigh a mere 85 pounds. There are few historical facts available about Luni's cheese, but the size of the wheels leads to the conclusion that it was made with cow's milk. The grazing area needed suggests that more of the Magra Valley than just Luni was involved, and given the long established connections between Lunigiana and Emilia, cheesy archaeologists have written that Luni's cheese was a forerunner of today's Grana and Parmigiano style cheeses.** Since there's evidence that the Ligurian tribes knew how to make cheese, the Romans may have capitalized on local skills when they conquered Luni in 177 B.C. They apparently knew a good thing, for in the first

10 September 2014

Current Cinque Terre Ferry Boat Schedules

The Most Popular Cinque Terre Boat Timetables
For Reference, Smartphones, I-Pads, and Mobile Devices

Today's Boat Times for La Spezia, Lerici, Portovenere, Riomaggiore, Manarola, Vernazza, Monterosso, & Levanto 

Ferry boat  service for the Cinque Terre and the Gulf of La Spezia ended November 2, 2014. 
We guess it will begin again Saturday, March 28, 2015.

08 September 2014

Complete Boat Ferry Schedules Cinque Terre, La Spezia, Portovenere for Fall

Levanto, Lerici, & Island Tour Boat / Ferry Timetables
Includes Monterosso, Vernazza, Manarola, Riomaggiore Times

Tour Schedules for Autumn / Fall 2014 for the Gulf of La Spezia / Cinque Terre Boats.
Cinque Terre Battelli / Traghetti Orari Autunno 2014 // Fähre Zeitplan Herbst 2014

The best way to see the unique and beautiful coast of Liguria Levante is a boat excursion around the Cinque Terre, Levanto, Portovenere, Lerici, and La Spezia area. For schedules, first, choose the suitable time period:

Below are the latest complete Schedules for Fall . They cover the period September 8 to November 2, 2014, when the boats stopped for the season. These PDF links have both times and prices for the Gulf of La Spezia / Cinque Terre Boat Ferries. On the timetables, Cinque Terre is written '5 Terre'.

---For planning a Spring 2015 trip, use this link: Latest Spring Boat Ferry Schedules.

---For planning a Summer 2015 trip, use this link: Latest Summer Boat Ferry Schedules

Why Old Schedules?  The schedules for the boats based around the Gulf of La Spezia are only available when the boats are running. So we've created archives of the recent schedules including the price (in pdf format). These timetables are for planning, and may vary from the official information available only during the season and found here: Gulf of the Poets Maritime Consortium.

The schedules are similar from year to year, so you can use them to figure out your next vacation, but be sure to verify before you travel if your schedule is time sensitive. The boat service is cash only and subject to cancellation due to weather and wave conditions, which is uncommon in summer, infrequent in spring, but a distinct possibility in autumn.

Ginestra flowers above Punta Corvo beach, Gulf of La Spezia
Ginestra (broom) flowers above Punta Corvo beach on the Gulf of the Poets.
Is There Service to Portofino?
There is No Fall or Spring Service to Portofino from the Gulf of La Spezia and Cinque Terre ports. In the summer there is service three days per week from early July to early September.

There is excellent Portofino service in the fall from ports further north in the Gulf of Tigullio, such as Rapallo. Look at this article: Portofino Ferry Boat Schedules from Rapallo & SML.

Are the Cinque Terre hiking trails open?  Unequivocally yes. While a few trails might be closed at any given point, there are always plenty of very scenic trails open.  Use this link Cinque Terre National Park Trail Status to check. Famous trails will often be crowded - for hikers with a car, consider this wonderful hike in the foothills of the Apuan Alps a few miles away: Hiking the Ortonovo Fontia Ring.  For hikers using public transport, consider a neat hike on the other side of the Gulf near Lerici:  The Forgotten Villages of the Gulf of the Poets.

The Cinque Terre Boat / Ferry Schedules