Time to change locations again.
The day started with Kas going for another run on the roof of the NH Lingotto. When she came back in we all got dressed and went for breakfast. The breakfast here was pretty good.
We left the hotel mid-morning, as we didn’t think we were in any particular rush, and we programmed Violet to take us out onto the motorway system in the general direction of Genoa. It was really quick to get out of town, which was good, and we quickly found ourselves speeding along the A21 towards Asti. When we got there we took a short diversion away from the motorway to go find a geocache in the Province of Asti. The one I chose was about 5 minutes up the road from the motorway. Easy peasy, or so I thought. It turned into a disaster of biblical proportions. It took me ages to find the cache, and because of it’s being buried in thorny bushes I got scratched to bits on the way in. Five minutes after we’d left I noticed that I didn’t have my sunglasses. Kas politely agreed to go back but when we got there I just couldn’t find them. I must have spent three times as long as it took to find the geocache. I eventually gave up and Kas came out for a quick look. Of course she found them straight away, hanging in a bush. So one geocache found, but rather sadly, we’d spent nearly an hour finding it.
The second geocache was alongside the A21 in a rest area and was in the Province of Alessandria. It wasn’t separated from the carriageway in any way, so the girls stayed in the car while I jumped out and found the cache. Phew ! A quick one.
From here we continued east until we reached the A7 and headed south, despite Violet’s repeated insistence the we use a different road. We swapped drivers somewhere along the way as Kas was finding the drive rather uncomfortable. So I got to drive down what has to be one of Europe’s most scenic motorways (and also one of its slowest and wiggliest). It’s one where an existing wiggly road was doubled up with a second carriageway, but there is so little room in the valley it goes through that essentially they are completely different roads, and at many points the second carriageway is on the wrong side of you. Once we got close to Genoa we made a left turn along the A12. This couldn’t be more different from the A7 if it tried. It’s a newly built road which runs more or less on the flat and simply alternates between bridges and tunnels for the entire course from Genoa down to La Spezia.
La Spezia was to be our home for the evening. We’d booked the Hotel Ghironi for the night as this looked to be one of the few half-decent looking places in town that had rooms that could sleep all four of us. It was a flippin’ nightmare trying to navigate into their car park, and as a result we decided to leave the car there until morning.
Despite being the self-styled Gateway to the Cinque Terre, La Spezia is essentially a port town rather than a tourist town, so it’s not particularly full of decent accommodation.
Anyway, the hotel checked us in but told us they couldn’t run us to the station in their minibus (as we hadn’t booked). They might be able to fetch us back though. So we got them to order us a taxi, and pretty soon we were on our way up to the station and buying tickets for a 4pm (ish) train.
Our destination was the Cinque Terre village of Vernazza. We chose this one above all the others simply because I’d seen a cookery programme on daytime TV with Gino D’Acampo where he’d visited a gelateria in Vernazza and proclaimed it to be the greatest gelateria in the whole of Italy. You can’t sniff at a claim like that, so it seemed a reasonable use of an afternoon to spend ages in the car and on trains just to visit it. We did that first, as it had been a long time since breakfast. The gelato was exceptional.
From here we made our way downhill to the small harbour, took a few photos, and did an earthcache (in the Province of La Spezia – tick) before deciding that the sea looked very appealing. We’d bought our swimming stuff with us, anticipating the possibility of a dip in the sea, and it proved to be very refreshing. The air that day was really muggy and heavy, so it was really pleasant to climb into the relatively cold sea for a swim. We swam inside the harbour and Izzy was going at it like a good ‘un, so we felt fairly comfortable in letting them swim without us. I did go in the water for a while but suffered for the first few minutes as the salty water found its way into all the scratches I’d acquired whilst doing the geocache in Asti earlier in the day. Ouch ! I guess it had the effect of keeping infection out though.
By this time is was most certainly dinner time. We farted about for a while trying to pick a restaurant before plumping for a small one with a secluded terrace at the back which we had to ourselves. It was quite a simple place but the food was good. Because we weren’t driving we were also able to both have a beer.
I think we caught a train back at about 8:20 and arrived back in La Spezia in time to catch the hotel’s minibus back home. Technically, I think they sent it specially to meet us after I’d called them from the station at Vernazza, but hey ho ! It was there waiting for us and we found it quickly.
It had been a long day again, so the girls went straight to bed and I spent an hour in the cubby-hole round the corner swearing at the poor internet signal whilst trying to update the geocaches stored on my GPS. Such is life when caching abroad.