Travel to Italy - Florence, Pisa, Cinque Terre, Genoa

Florence Italy
Italy is one of my favourite countries; good food and warm weather are a combination I crave for my summer holidays. My husband and I have previously visited Rome and Venice and knew that we had to return for our next adventure. This time we look a bit of a road trip using the railway. We flew into Bologna and caught the train to Florence, Pisa, Lucca (day trip), La Speiza (our base for visiting Cinque Terre) and flew home from Genoa (Genova). We used Airbnb for most of our accommodation which was a first for us.

Florence is a beautiful city but it was jam packed with tourists making sightseeing crowded and not much fun. We discovered quickly that visiting the attractions is made easier if you book in advance but our stop was short and didn’t work with availability. Truth be told my husband and I decided a while back that sometimes dragging ourselves around art galleries and museums isn’t much fun for us and often a waste of our money. We chose to wander the city, take in the architecture, eat gelato and enjoy the views from a different prospective. The heat was intense and the mosquitoes were viscous. 
Pisa Italy
After a couple of days we moved on to Pisa. Train travel was easy and inexpensive considering how much we pay to get into London. Most people day trip to Pisa but we stayed 3 nights and it was an absolute delight. By day it was a little crazy with crowds but when the tour buses left we practically had the city to ourselves. Pisa is a student town so we did have revellers outside our window at all hours but our apartment was a five minute walk to the Field of Miracles where the famous Leaning Tower is situated. Staying so close meant when we bought our day ticket for the attractions we could come and go as we pleased across the day. We joked how it was quicker to walk to our accommodation for the toilet than queue for the ones at the attractions. From Pisa we took a day trip to Lucca, a delightful old town with tiny lanes and piazzas. We meandered around grabbing lunch and gelato on our way. I attempted to climb one of the towers (Torre Guinigi) but the open stair case at the top was too much for my vertigo. The Leaning Tower had been easier because of the enclosed stone steps although I did have jelly legs at the top. 
Cinque Terre Italy
Our next stop was La Spezia, a lovely town in its own right but a convenient base for visiting the Cinque Terre a UNESCO World Heritage site made up of five coastal villages (Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso) each with their own unique ambience. It’s easily one of the most beautiful landscapes I have ever visited; it took my breath away on more than one occasion. You can access the area by boat or train so we did a mix of the two (Corniglia is the only town you can’t visit by boat). There are hiking trails between the towns but the easier walks are currently closed because of past landslides. You have to be prepared for the crowds, it can be overwhelming and June isn’t regarded as peak season. You can find moments of solitude in the lanes away from the harbours and we only bumped into a few people on our walk through the vineyards in Manarola. My favourite memory on that walk was hearing the thunder rolling in over the mountains across the distant villages, it was magical.
Genoa Genova Italy
Genoa (Genova is the Italian spelling) was our final destination because it has an airport and made sense in terms of the direction we had travelled. We were unsure what to expect because it turns out despite the history and size of the town it’s relatively quiet with tourism in comparison to other Italian cities. We even noticed our guidebook (Rick Steves Italy 2018) didn’t give coverage. We quickly learnt through error that it is rough around the edges and it was the first time we had felt uncomfortable. Unlike Venice I would not recommend taking yourself off the beaten track and getting lost. We preferred to stick to central areas with tourist attractions and keep away from the old town. Genoa is a vertical city and there are lifts and funiculars to help save your legs from epic uphill climbs. I recommend the Ascensore Castello d'Albertis-Montegalletto as a unique experience. You ride in a compact blue box (sadly not the tardis!) which travels through a tunnel before turning into a lift to take you to street level above. The Funicolare Belvedere Righi was a steeper climb than I recall in comparison to Lisbon. There is a viewing platform at the top, a few trees get in the way but you still get a decent view across Genoa. There isn’t much else to do but the simple pleasure of riding this mode of transport was enough for us. 
Eating Vegan food in Italy, gelato, pasta, pizza
With the exception of Genoa I didn’t have any issues managing my dietary requirements. It was clear that the Vegan movement was making waves through tourist areas with most places boldly mentioning Vegano alongside Gluten Free options. I found vegan gelato with little effort even in the Cinque Terre. There are several Italian dishes which can be Vegan by default as long as you love tomatoes (Pomodoro) you’ll be good with spaghetti with tomato and basil sauce (opt for dried pasta as fresh often contains egg), Marinara pizza (doesn’t have cheese), focaccia (with olives or potato & rosemary are my favourites) and bruschetta. I also discovered Farinata, a flat pancake made from chickpea flour, water and olive oil. If you want to move away from the traditional, it was relatively easy. In Florence I found a Vegan burger and Vegan cafe for Gnocchi, in Pisa we found an adorable tiny counter/shop front where I had a tofu sausage sandwich. Genoa wasn't entirely without Vegan options  as the staples were available but I wasn't stumbling across options in the same way I had other places. When travelling I recommend using Happy Cow it's an excellent resources for Vegetarian and Vegan options. 

Italy steals my heart every time so I’m sure our next adventure will be just around the corner. 

Sarah x

Vegan Gelato
Il Procopio (Florence), Amorino (Florence), Gelateria Artigianale Rufus (Pisa), Il Gelato Di Toto (Pisa), Grelia Cremeria (Lucca), 5Terre Gelateria (Manarola), Il Gelateria Del Prione (La Speiza)

Noteworthy for Vegan food
Vegan Come Koala (Pisa), Universo Vegano (Florence), Il vegetariano e vegano di Marcella Bianchi (Florence, upstairs in the Mercato Centrale), Soup in Town (Lucca), the Vegan platter pictured was possibly from Ristoro Pecorino, I can't remember but it was not far from leaning tower on Via Santa Maria.