Italian weekend in Milan, Rapallo, Portofino, & Vernazza

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May 26th 2013
Published: May 27th 2013
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As I am teaching in Prague again this summer I get the opportunity for weekend getaways and I try to take advantage of them. Fortunately I was able to secure a cheap ticket to Milan where I spent one night followed by two nights in Rapallo. This actually worked out pretty well for a weekend. From Rapello I was easily able to get to Portofino by bus and to the towns of Cinque Terre by train - and I chose Vernazza. So, it was a weekend filled with great pizza and gelato with picturesque seaside villages.

In Milan I took the Malpansa Shuttle from the airport to the Milano Centrale train station and then walked over to the Eurohotel where I stayed. The Eurohotel was a really good option that put me 20 minutes walking from the Duomo and just a few blocks from the Giardini Pubblici park that was great place to get in a run. Plus, I stumbled upon Pizza OK that was just a couple blocks away that offered a great Tuscan sausage pizza. And the Venezia gelateria was also very close. This was my first trip to Milan and I found the Duomo to be quite impressive even after seeing countless cathedrals in Europe. Both the expanse of the building and the intricacy of the design are overwhelming. When you are there it becomes quite apparent why it took hundreds of years to finish.

I moved on by train to Rapallo where I stayed right next to the Castello on the waterfront at Hotel Italia e Lido. I not to pay the extra for a waterfront room so I only had a city view. It was apparent to me that the rooms were in need of updating but the hotel itself was well situated. Diagonally across the road was a very good gelateria named the Frigidarium where I would recommend the stracciatella and strawberry flavors. I had a not-so-great pizza at Nettuno on the waterfront one night and a better pizza from El Paso Pizzeria another night (great ingredients but a soggy middle). Rapallo is good for a scenic walk along the waterfront and as a possible less-expensive base to see the area. A good afternoon trip was to take the bus over to Portofino. The journey there will take you on narrow cliffside roads and then drop you off in the beautiful little village. A must is to climb the stairs up to the Castello Brown where you get a great view of the town and coastline.

I was limited on time (and the weather was on and off) so I decided to choose only one of the Cinque Terre towns to visit, although I would like to return and do the hike to all five. The receptionist at my hotel told me that at the time only the route between Monterosso and Vernazza was open however I started up on the trek to Corniglia and didn't see any closure signs. In addition, a number of others were headed that way and I didn't see any turning back. It's a good thing that I didn't have any plans to see more villages as our train became "broken" in a tunnel just after Levanto and we then spent 3 hours there - and a decent portion of it with no lights. After this experience it was such a relief to get out at Vernazza. Part of the fun of this village is hiking up to different vantage points for different views. So, I would definitely recommend going up in the castle and also along the cliff on the trail headed fro Corniglia. The middle road of Vernazza was jam-packed with tourists (think Venice) but as you got away from this area and started to climb a bit it was much better. The village itself is striking and I'm very glad I picked this particular one for a visit. Now I just need to return for the hike . . .

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