18 July 2016

Pisa & Cinque Terre 2016


Pisa is an ideal gateway for visits to Tuscany and Liguria. Frequent flights from the UK and an airport within walking distance of the city make it a relatively easy and economical destination.
When combined with multiple railway connections, a good value central hotel and two of my favourite beer bars within walking distance, the case for Pisa is hard to beat! That explains why since my first Pisa visit in January 2014, I have returned in July 2015 and in May 2016.
I usually stay at Hotel La Pace, near the station and this time my 6th floor room even had a distant view of the leaning tower, on the other side of the river Arno!
Lungarno Galileo Galilei on south bank of River Arno, Pisa


Pisa - Orzo Bruno

Pub Orzo Bruno opens at 7pm and it is a good idea to arrive there early in the evening to enjoy the complimentary buffet laid out on the bar.
Miki serving at Pub Orzo Bruno - note complimentary buffet on bar
The direct route from the hotel and station is via Corso Italia, the pedestrian street and crossing the river Arno on Ponte di Mezzo to Piazza Garibali.
Two more pedestrian streets, Borgo Stretto and Via Mercanti lead to the pub which is popular with students from the university nearby.
 With six fonts and a handpump supplying beers brewed locally by Birrificio Artigiano di Bientina a good choice of beers of different styles is available.
Livio serving Valdera Rossa
Valdera Rossa served from handpump was the popular choice of the friendly staff at the pub who take meal breaks in turns. All the beers are priced at 3 euro for 0.3 litre and 4 euro for 0.5 litre glasses (May 2015).  Meals and snacks are also reasonably priced and made to order.

Pisa - La Torre del Luppolo

La Torre del Luppolo, a bottle shop and beer bar which opened in May 2014 is only a short walk from here, in Via Renato Fucini.
 La Torre del Luppolo is open every evening from 6pm. 
 The good news was that I turned up on Monday 16th May, the beer shop's second birthday and was offered a free beer. A tray of pastries was also offered to customers to celebrate the birthday 
A screen gives details of the six beers available on draught. Beers are priced at 3 euro for a piccolo (1/2 pint), 4 euro for a media (3/4 pint) or 5 euro for a grande (pint) and plastic glasses are mainly used. (May 2016).
Francesco and Alessandro - La Torre del Luppolo, Pisa
Five of the taps are just behind the front window with the sixth on the narrow bar. I chose Brewfist Burocracy a 6% ABV India Pale Ale from the Lombardy region. I gave Francesco and Alessandro a copy of Ullage, the West Berkshire CAMRA magazine and they kindly posed for a photo.
A large range of Italian and European bottled beers are also available, to drink here or take away, from shelves and fridges.

Liguria & Cinque Terre

Pisa > Deiva Marina train ticket 10.50 euros
Single train fares in Italy on regional trains are inexpensive. The 70 mile trip from Pisa to Deiva Marina, on the Ligurian coast north of La Spezia and Cinque Terre cost 10.50 euros (May 2016). Note that a Cinque Terre tariff supplement may apply to train tickets within the Cinque Terre national park area to support tourism initiatives.
The marble quarries near Carrara are visible from the first train between Pisa and La Spezia.
La Spezia station - Train for Sestri Levante via Deiva Marina
After changing at La Spezia, the second train travelled through tunnels only emerging into daylight as it passed stations of the Cinque Terre including Corniglia and Monterosso al Mare, without stopping and was therefore not crowded with Cinque Terre tourists.
View of the Ligurian Sea from the train at Framura station

Deiva Marina

The railway route hugs the coast and my train stopped at Framura before entering another tunnel and emerging at Deiva Marina station. My Newbury friend, Chris Reynolds, had arrived on an earlier train from the opposite direction after a stay in Genoa.
Balcony view from Albergo La Lampara, Deiva Marina
We walked to Albergo La Lampara on the seafront where my room had a balcony giving an uninterrupted sea view.
The hotel balcony proved to be the perfect place for sampling popular bottled and canned beers like Moretti and Peroni.
Birra Toz Friulana Artiginiale at Raggio di Luna, Deiva Marina
The only bar in Deiva Marina where we could find bottles of 'craft beer' was Raggio di Luna, an ice cream cafe. Three kinds of beer from Birra Toz were displayed inside in a tall fridge.
The same scooter riding character is featured on all the labels but the clothes change to distinguish them.


Chris and I spent the next day in Vernazza (Cinque Terre). In October 2011, Vernazza was drenched in mud after severe storms and flooding. Now it is difficult to spot any signs of the devastation.
Tim with a beer - overlooking Vernazza's main street
Chris had the use of a balcony overlooking the main street with his room. We enjoyed an al fresco lunch here with focaccia and beers from a nearby grocery shop.
We shared a large bottle of Moretti Siciliana from the brewery's Le Regionali range. This was my favourite bottled beer of the trip. The 5.8% ABV beer has floral notes from orange blossom.

We followed a footpath a little way out of the town towards Corniglia. The effort was rewarded with panoramic views from Bar La Torre.
We enjoyed a break here with draught Menabrea beer before the steep descent back to the town.


The weather had turned wet and windy on the next morning when we met up again in Riomaggiore (Cinque Terre).
After a walk to the harbour we found shelter at Bar O'Netto Brasserie on the main street, a little way uphill from Piazza Vignaioli.
We ordered glasses of draught Poretti '7' (unfiltered) and sat inside until a table with a street view was available on the sheltered passage passing the entrance.
Chris with Poretti 7 at Bar O'Netto
A media (0.4 litre) glass of draught beer cost 3.50 euros (May 2016). We looked at the beer menu which listed bottles of 'craft beer' from Birrificio del Golfo based in nearby La Spezia. The 50 cl bottles were priced at 7 euros and the range included a 5.5% ABV India Pale Ale.
Entertainment arrived in the form of an Australian stag party group. Dave, in princess outfit was accompanied by his Gold Coast friends wearing Super Mario costumes. We would return to Bar O'Netto later in the evening and again on Friday, after a hike to Manarola, before my return to Pisa.


The sun shone on Friday as we hiked up and down the Beccara Trail to Manarola (Cinque Terre).
Looking back at Riomaggiore from the Beccara Trail
The level footpath (Via dell'Amore) was still being repaired after the storm damage of 2011 but the alternative difficult hike rewarded us with elevated views from the vineyards.
Forst at Nessun Dorma, Manarola
By the time we had descended to the harbour at Manarola we were in need of a cold refreshing beer and a draught Forst, from the Merano valley, at Nessun Dorma, with a view back to the town was ideal. After our lunch break we returned to Riomaggiore on one of the frequent trains.
Later - a return visit to Orzo Bruno, Pisa
While Chris spent another night in Riomaggiore, I returned to Pisa and enjoyed further visits to La Torre del Luppolo and Orzo Bruno before returning to Newbury the next day.

12 July 2016


Viking Bay, Broadstairs
We caught a train from Margate to Broadstairs on Friday 29 April, 2016. Broadstairs station is about a third of a mile inland from the sandy beach at Viking Bay.
Serene Place, Broadstairs
Approaching the sea and just off the High Street, the brick and flint houses opposite pastel coloured houses in Serene Place make a charming contrast.
We stopped for a look at Viking Bay and Dickens House on Victoria Parade before walking down to the harbour via the Parade.

The Chapel

We returned via the narrow Harbour Street to The Chapel on Albion Street for our first beer in Broadstairs.
Boxed cider, Cask ale and books at The Chapel
The main bar is set back from the street. An upper floor has shelves of books for sale.
Two cask ales were available and we chose Sir Kay a 4% ABV extra pale ale brewed in Worksop by Grafton Brewing at £3 pint.
The front room, visible from the street has further seating and books. A traditional wooden ale cask is displayed in the front window. Some good music by the likes of Sheryl Crow and Dusty Springfield was playing on a decent sound system.

The Thirty-Nine Steps

The Thirty-Nine Steps Alehouse is only 150 yards south from The Chapel and is situated in Charlotte Street, on the other side of the High Street.
With a choice of four cask ales at £3 pint, the Saltaire Long Day IPA (3.8% ABV) from Yorkshire was a new beer for us to try. Bar snacks available included a cheese snack plate (£3), Victory pork pie (£2), Crisps (80p). Ciders were also £3 pint.
At this micropub, casks are racked behind a sliding glass door in a cooled area so there is no need for cooling jackets on the casks.
There are high tables with stools as well as high bench seating with cushions against the walls. Empty casks were positioned underneath the tables and in the window - presumably due to storage space being at a premium. The main sound in the bar was conversation as the pub filled up on a Friday.
Meg with CAMRA branch magazines
Decor includes some classic 39 Steps film posters.
There is also a map with pins against breweries that have supplied the Thirty-Nine Steps Alehouse. The ceiling is lined with brewery pumpclips.
It looks like beers are sourced from all over the UK. A board showed that 'Since 30/11/2012 we have served 1502 different ales from 627 different breweries.'
St Peter's Road, a mainly residential road
To reach the next pub we would retrace our steps along the High Street to the station and beyond turn right onto St Peter's Road until we reached The Four Candles Alehouse.

The Four Candles Alehouse

The Four Candles Aleshouse was quite busy but we managed to find a place to sit at one of the two high tables.
I introduced myself to Mike Beaumont as the editor of Ullage, West Berkshire CAMRA magazine, and he kindly agreed to pose for a photo.
The Four Candles is the smallest brewpub in the UK and four beers brewed on the premises were available at £3 per pint. I ordered a Double Hopburst golden ale brewed with Magnum and Bobek hops.
Mike went to the chiller cabinet containing racked casks in a back area to pour our beers.
The decor includes pumpclips from the days when more guest ales were served, a galvanised bucket lampshade and a pair of fork handles (to tie in with the Ronnie Corbett hardware shop TV sketch). With windows on two sides and pale painted walls, the interior is bright and airy.
On the shelves were some 'Planet Thanet' beer festival glasses and several West Berkshire Brewery pumpclips.
A poster by Royston Robertson explains how the beer is brewed and finally winched into the pub.
The winch was concealed by a housing on the ceiling, just above where we were sitting. Before leaving we bought a couple of bottles of New Zealand Pale, a 4.5% ABV bottle conditioned pale ale made with rare and organic Rakau and Waimea hops, to take home.
Dreamland, Margate - view from train
We caught a train back to Margate and passed Dreamland theme park before arriving at Margate station with its impressive entrance hall.