Category Archives: Blog

Hiking in Cinque Terre: A Complete Guide to Italy’s Coastal Trails

Nestled along the rugged coastline of the Italian Riviera, Cinque Terre is a hiker’s paradise, known for its breathtaking views, vibrant villages, and the azure blue of the Ligurian Sea. This UNESCO World Heritage site comprises five historic villages: Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore.

Hiking in Cinque Terre is not just a physical journey but a cultural and sensory experience. This guide will take you through everything you need to know to make your hiking adventure unforgettable.

Understanding the Trails of Cinque Terre

Cinque Terre boasts a network of trails that connect each of the five villages. The most famous path, Sentiero Azzurro, or the Blue Trail, is a 12-kilometer route that links all five villages and offers stunning coastal views. However, there are numerous other trails, each varying in difficulty and scenery.

Featured Tour – Italian Riviera & Cinque Terre Exploring Tour

The Blue Trail (Sentiero Azzurro)

This trail is divided into four sections, each connecting two villages. The entire path can take about 5 hours to complete, but many choose to hike it in sections. The trail can be steep and narrow in places, but it is well-maintained and the most popular among tourists.

The Red Trails

For those seeking a more challenging hike, the Red Trails ascend into the hills and vineyards above the villages, offering panoramic views and a quieter experience. These trails are less crowded and more rugged, providing a more strenuous workout.

The Green Trails

These paths wander through the olive groves and terraced fields between the villages and are ideal for those looking for a more leisurely hike with plenty of opportunities to taste the local produce.

Preparing for Your Hike in Cinque Terre

Best Time to Visit

The best time for hiking in Cinque Terre is from late spring to early fall, with April, May, and September being the ideal months. The weather is mild, and the summer crowds have yet to arrive or have just left.

What to Bring

Pack light but don’t forget essentials such as water, sunscreen, a hat, and comfortable walking shoes with good grip. The trails can be rocky and uneven, so sturdy footwear is a must. A camera is also essential; you’ll want to capture the stunning views and colorful villages.

Trail Passes

Some sections of the trails require a Cinque Terre Card, which includes access to all the footpaths and trains connecting the villages. These can be purchased at the train stations or tourist offices in any of the five villages.

The Hiking Experience

Monterosso al Mare to Vernazza

This is one of the most challenging sections of the Blue Trail, with a steep ascent and descent. However, the views of the terraced vineyards and the sea are spectacular. Vernazza, with its natural harbor and medieval tower, is a rewarding sight after the hike.

Vernazza to Corniglia

Continuing on the Blue Trail, this section is slightly easier and takes you through olive groves with magnificent views of the coastline. Corniglia, the only village not directly by the sea, sits atop a promontory with panoramic views.

Corniglia to Manarola

This section is currently closed due to landslides, but alternative routes through the vineyards offer a serene detour. Manarola is known for its picturesque harbor and colorful houses that seem to rise from the sea.

Manarola to Riomaggiore

Known as the Via dell’Amore, or Lover’s Lane, this is the easiest and most famous section of the trail. It’s a flat, paved path that offers romantic views of the coastline. Riomaggiore, with its steep streets and high-perched houses, is a vibrant end to the trail.

Want more Italian Hiking Destinations? Check out some of our small group Italy Hiking Tours.

After the Hike

After a day of hiking, indulge in the local cuisine. Cinque Terre is famous for its fresh seafood, pesto, and Sciacchetrà wine. Each village has a variety of restaurants and cafes where you can relax and enjoy the local flavors.

Staying Overnight

If you decide to spread your hike over several days, there are numerous accommodations available, from luxury hotels to cozy guesthouses. Staying overnight in the villages allows you to experience the tranquil beauty of Cinque Terre after the day-trippers have left.

End of the Trail

Hiking in Cinque Terre is an experience that combines natural beauty, exercise, and cultural immersion. The trails offer something for everyone, from casual walkers to serious hikers, and the reward is some of the most spectacular coastal scenery in the world. Prepare well, respect the environment, and immerse yourself in the charm and beauty of Cinque Terre. Buon viaggio!

Should I Buy Travel Insurance? 6 Reasons Why You Should

Traveling is one of life’s most enriching experiences. Exploring new destinations, immersing yourself in different cultures, and creating lasting memories are all part of the adventure. However, amidst the excitement and anticipation of your next trip, it’s easy to overlook an essential aspect of travel planning: purchasing quality travel insurance.

In over 25 years Go Get Lost has been in business, we’ve seen many, many cases where people were either thankful or were kicking themselves because they didn’t.

Two of the most common scenarios we often see that prevent a person from traveling is a death in the family or an injury/medical condition that arises prior to their trip.  For most travelers, they have a significant investment in non-refundable expenses, such as deposits, airline flights, hotels, etc.  Because the expenses are non-refundable, without travel insurance, these expenditures are simply lost.  For a couple, it’s not uncommon for the amount to exceed $10,000 – $15,000. 

Not only have we seen things happen before the tour, but we also have seen them happen while on the tour.  It can be something as simple as a broken ankle, or something more serious such as a brain injury.  This is why travel insurance not only helps before the trip, but helps after the trip has started, providing medical coverage while you’re away.

In this article, we’ll explore why travel insurance is vital and discuss important factors to consider when selecting the right policy for your journey.

Why is Travel Insurance Important?

1. Protection Against Unexpected Events

While no one likes to dwell on the negative aspects of travel, the truth is that unexpected events can and do happen. Travel insurance is your safety net when things go wrong. It can provide coverage for a wide range of unforeseen situations, including trip cancellations, medical emergencies, lost luggage, and even natural disasters. Without insurance, you might find yourself in a difficult and expensive situation that could have been easily avoided.

2. Peace of Mind

Travel can be stressful, and knowing that you have a financial safety net in place can provide peace of mind. With the right insurance policy, you can enjoy your trip without constantly worrying about potential mishaps. Whether it’s a minor illness or a major travel disruption, you’ll have the assurance that you’re financially protected.

3. Medical Coverage Abroad

Your health should be a top priority when traveling. International medical bills can be exorbitant, and in some countries, healthcare may not be readily available. Travel insurance often includes coverage for medical emergencies, ensuring that you receive the necessary treatment without incurring overwhelming expenses. This is especially important if you have pre-existing medical conditions or require specific medications.  One thing Go Get Lost always includes when quoting travel insurance is “Hospital of Choice”.  Essentially this is an inexpensive upgrade that helps you get to your hospital of choice, rather than the “nearest adequate medical facility”.  When traveling internationally, it’s important to consider where a medically necessary procedure might take place.  For us, we want the choice of returning to the United States if any critical medical procedure needs to be done.

4. Trip Cancellation and Interruption

Life is unpredictable, and sometimes you need to cancel or interrupt your trip due to unforeseen circumstances. Travel insurance can help you recover non-refundable expenses, such as plane tickets, hotel reservations, and tour bookings. Whether it’s a family emergency, illness, or a job-related issue, having insurance in place allows you to reschedule or recoup your losses.

5. Coverage for Lost or Stolen Belongings

Losing your luggage or having valuable items stolen can quickly turn a dream vacation into a nightmare. Travel insurance can cover the cost of replacing lost or stolen belongings, including passports, cameras, and electronics. This coverage can be a lifesaver when you’re far from home.

6. Medicare Coverage Outside the United States

In most situations, Medicare won’t pay for health care or supplies you get outside the U.S. The term “outside the U.S.” means anywhere other than the 50 states of the U.S., the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, and the Northern Mariana Islands.  If you are on Medicare and are traveling outside the United States, you essentially have no coverage unless you have additional insurance beyond the base Medicare coverage.

What to Consider When Purchasing Travel Insurance

1. Trip Details

Before you purchase travel insurance, it’s essential to know the specifics of your trip. Consider the destination, duration, and activities you have planned. Some policies are tailored for specific types of travel, such as adventure sports or international cruises. Make sure your policy matches your trip’s characteristics.

2. Coverage Options

There are various types of travel insurance coverage available. Common options include trip cancellation/interruption, medical, baggage loss, and emergency evacuation coverage. Review the inclusions and exclusions of each policy to ensure it meets your needs.

3. Pre-Existing Conditions

If you have pre-existing medical conditions, be sure to disclose them when purchasing travel insurance. Some policies may exclude coverage for these conditions, while others may offer coverage with certain conditions. Be transparent about your health to avoid any issues when making a claim.  Also, it’s not uncommon for travel insurance providers to have timelines on when you purchase your insurance to get Pre-Existing Medical Condition coverage.  For example, some insurance providers require you to purchase your insurance within 15 days of purchasing your trip and any additional add-ons.  Remember, this pre-existing conditions coverage often applies to those around you that could prevent you from traveling, for example, when a family member passes away from a pre-exiting medical condition.

4. Policy Limits and Deductibles

Understand the policy’s limits and deductibles. These are the maximum amounts the insurance company will pay out and the amount you need to cover before the insurance kicks in. Ensure these limits are sufficient to cover your potential expenses.

5. Compare Policies

Don’t settle for the first travel insurance policy you come across. Shop around, compare different policies, and read reviews to find the best coverage for your needs. Consider factors such as the reputation of the insurance company, customer service, and the ease of filing claims.

6. Covered Reasons

Make sure you understand the “covered reasons”.  These reasons guide you on when and when you are not eligible to file a claim.  It’s the “why” when making a claim.  For example, a death of a parent, loss of job, death of a travel companion.  It’s critical to understand the various covered reasons of your plan and whether or not the likely reasons you might cancel are covered.  If a likely reason is not covered, you may consider a “Cancel For Any Reason” policy.  These policies give you the most flexibility when cancelling, but also come with the highest price.  In addition, many “cancel for any reason” policies do NOT cover the full amount of what you have paid, so pay special attention to coverages.

7. Travel Insurance Providers

Choose a reputable and well-established insurance provider. Read customer reviews and check their financial stability to ensure they can fulfill their commitments in case you need to make a claim.

Purchasing travel insurance is an essential aspect of responsible travel planning. It provides peace of mind, protects you from unforeseen events, and ensures that you can enjoy your journey without financial worries. Before embarking on your next adventure, take the time to explore your insurance options, understand the coverage, and choose a policy that suits your needs. Remember, when you’re well-prepared, you can fully savor the joy of travel, knowing that you’re safeguarded against unexpected bumps in the road.

Go Get Lost has been partnered with Travel Guard for over 20 years and we continue to recommend them to our clients.  There are many providers, take your time and find the one you are most comfortable with.

The Palio of Siena

The Most Exciting Horse Race That No One Has Ever Heard Of

Many of those who travel abroad have heard of the charming city of Siena, in central Tuscany. And in fact many who have vacationed in Italy have visited Siena, often as a day stop while on a bus from Rome to Florence. What’s amazing is that while tens of thousands of people visit Siena every year, almost none of them understand what they’re looking at as they wander the city, admiring the colorful flags that line the charming cobblestone streets. A few of them may have heard of the Palio, a horse race held there twice a year, but very few comprehend the significance of that event, and how it has transformed Siena into one of the most fascinating and complex cultures on the planet. Certainly anyone who has wandered the winding cobblestone streets of Siena’s lovely historical center has noticed the many colorful outdoor light fixtures that line the neighborhoods and the huge vibrant banners that hang over the streets.  Hang around until evening and, if you’re lucky, you might even see a small but enthusiastic neighborhood parade, complete with flag-tossing, drum beating, and passionate singing.

All of this pomp and merriment is because of a horse race? Yes…and no. First and foremost, it’s not JUST a horse race, not by a long shot. The palio is a social, political, historical and religious event that permeates life in Siena so completely it’s hard to get your head around the concept. It’s also definitely not an event held for tourists, it’s for the Sienese, who are totally consumed by it. They don’t mind if you watch, but don’t get in their way. When most of us think of the excitement surrounding an event like this, we think of it in sports terms…the passion of team rivalries, the emotion of the Olympic games, the “thrill of victory and the agony of defeat”, and so on. That doesn’t really scratch the surface of the Palio, but it’s a start.

The origins of the Palio go all the way back to the medieval times, 1656 to be exact. About a hundred years earlier Siena was finally defeated by its arch-rival Florence, after nearly 300 years of intermittent warfare. After the war the Sienese were disarmed and their army disbanded. Looking for an outlet for the energy and passion of their neighborhood-based soldiers and citizens, they adopted several ferocious pursuits, such as bull-fighting, buffalo racing, horse racing and lavish pageants. All of these pitted neighborhood (called contrada, or contrade for plural) against neighborhood, much as the different units of the army had been organized.  Eventually this all evolved into a bareback horse race around the central piazza, or square, by ten horses, one from each of ten contrade. (Although there are 17 contrade, only ten race at once.)

You have to understand that the contrade of Siena are far more important to their citizens than we might suspect. Each contrada is a mini-town, completely self-sufficient, with its own church, square, fountain, daycare, senior center, council, and all of the other institutions necessary for a smoothly running community, including taxes. They even have their own colors, mascot, and museum to house important memorabilia, like the Palios they have won.

And just what is a “Palio”?

The race takes its name from the prize, the “Palio”, which is a large silk banner lavishly painted by an Italian artist, depicting the Virgin Mary, the horses, Siena, and the year of the race. Each Palio is a unique piece of art. After the race the Palio is paraded around the town by the ecstatically happy winners, (and when I say ecstatic, that doesn’t quite do it justice…think singing, screaming, crying, and hugging…and that’s just the men), eventually ending up back at the contrada museum, to take its place next to the dozens of previously won Palios, sometimes dating back several centuries. These Palio, needless to say, are the most treasured possessions of the contrada.

The Palio race is a year-long event, not just a race held on July 2nd and August 16th. The planning, plotting, dinners, and strategy meetings last all year, building to a fever pitch and culminating in the spectacle of the race.

There is also a history of friendship and warfare between contrade. Nearly every contrada has an ancient “friend contrada” and likewise an ancient “enemy contrada”. Each contrada spends much time and energy, all year, making plans to aid their friendly contrada and hatching various plots to defeat their enemy contrada. Keep in mind that the best thing in life for a Sienese is for their contrada to win the Palio, and the second best thing is for your enemy contrada NOT to win. For in the Palio there is only one winner, the rest are all losers. In fact, second place is considered the worst type of loser!

To make it even more interesting, the horses are NOT from the contrada, or even from Siena, but are brought in from outside and then awarded by lottery just a few days before the race. The race officials make sure there is a mix of fast, average, and slow horses, so you really don’t know if you’ll have a fast horse or a slow one…It’s all about luck. As you can imagine, immediately after the lottery there begins an even more extreme round of plotting…for you want to try to win, but in case bad luck awards you a slow horse, then your strategy turns to plots and intrigue aimed at making your enemy contrada NOT win…which is nearly as good.

How, you might ask, is it possible to affect a race to make another contestant NOT win? It’s not too difficult in a race where there are virtually no rules. The jockeys, called fantinos, are by tradition hired from outside Siena. They are paid enormous sums, and win large bonuses for winning, rumoured to be sometimes over a million Euro. (The day after the race, the citizens of the winning contrada happily and proudly line up to pay their share of the fantino payment.) They also can be bribed to perform badly, or can be paid to work together to hamper another jockey or horse. They can hit each other with their whips, and can block, hinder, and pretty much do whatever they want to each other. Each of them also has a sizeable “war-chest” of money that they are authorized to use at the last minute, as the horses line up, to make a last-second deal with another fantino.   A plot, within a scheme, all wrapped in a conspiracy, and no one trusts anyone.   Some of the rivalries and vendettas go back many, many generations. Believe me, to the Sienese, all of this is not a game, they take it very seriously. After all, whichever contrada wins the Palio has bragging rights for an entire year….which is a bitter pill indeed for their rival contrade.

How serious are the Sienese about their contrada and the palio? I personally have witnessed my friends, natives of Siena, teach their first-born son to say the contrada name as his first word…not Mama, or Papa, but Chiocciola (snail). They were so proud they could burst!

Another friend of mine from a different contrada once related a story to me of how a young mother was spoon feeding her baby, and naming each spoonful for a different family member…”This one is for mama!”…”This one is for papa!” and so on. Each time the baby would happily open its mouth and mom would shovel it in. Then mom said “This one is for the goose!” (which was the enemy of her contrada), as the smiling baby again opened his mouth for the spoon, mom suddenly dumped the spoon onto the ground and said firmly “NO, NEVER for the goose!” This was repeated until the baby learned just who was the enemy.

It’s not forbidden for young people to marry outside of their contrada, after all, this IS the 21st century. However, it’s also common for a “mixed-marriage” couple to separate during the ten days or so leading up to the race. Tensions are just too high, and neither wants to unwittingly give away any contrada secrets or strategy to their spouse.

So let’s watch a video to get an idea of the excitement and emotion…here is the July 2013 race. Some notable points to watch:

  • The starting procedure is for the horses to line up between two ropes. One horse, chosen by lottery, gets to hang back and start the race by crossing the line of the back rope. They have a lot of power, and can start the race whenever the time is right. In this race, the Nicchio horse in dark blue is the starter. Their enemy is the Montone contrada, in the light pink uniform on the far left. The Nicchio contrada has obviously made a deal with a couple other contrada to block out the Montone horse at the start. The jostling went on for a good ten minutes before they could slyly maneuver the Montone horse behind them, then the Nicchio abruptly started.
  • The fantino for Istrice, in the striped uniform, immediately starts beating the fantino of its enemy contrada, the Lupa, for the first hundred yards.
  • Several jockeys fall off their horses during the race, but the horses can still win, even without the fantino. The riderless horse of the Pantera nearly slips in front near the end of the race, but the fantino for the Oca deftly cuts him off.
  • Lupa nearly passes Oca in the home stretch, but once again the fantino for Oca cuts him off. The Lupa fantino and horse then fall, leaving Oca to win the race.

You can watch the entire hour long video on You Tube…very interesting!

When we take our Go Get Lost groups to Siena we like to stay in the town for several days to give everyone time to wander and try to go native. We’re also the guests of one of the contrada that is running the race, so we’ll get to visit their museum, attend their private pre-race dinner, hang out with them, and cheer “our” horse on in the race!  We start the stay with a presentation about the Palio from some knowledgeable local friend of ours, and then take everyone on a visit to a contrada museum. Once you understand the significance of the contrada and the constant daily influence of the Palio, the spirit of Siena will come alive, and you’ll feel like a part of it all!

We occasionally plan trips for small private groups to experience the Palio. We watch the drawing of the horses, (mega-exciting), take part in the dinner and festivities with the contrada, and of course we’ll be in a private apartment (with food, wine…and a bathroom!) overlooking the square to watch the race, screaming for our contrada! We also manage to get out into the lovely Tuscan countryside to visit some vineyards, taste some wine, learning how to cook Tuscan-style, and have plenty of free time to explore on our own.  We generally only have 12 people on our Palio extravaganza, drop us a line if you’re interested.