Travels in Italy: Pisa and Rapallo

My Mom joined Jesse and I in Rome for a spring 2022 tour of Italy, France, and Switzerland. After a stay in the region of Abruzzo and then Florence, we rented a car and finished our Italian tour with a stop in Pisa and ending in Rapallo, a city on the Italian Rivera.

Arriving in Rapallo

We had originally thought to travel to Lake Como, as Jesse and I had taken a day trip to Bellagio on our trip to Italy back in 2019 and really enjoyed it. I was never 100% sure about returning though, and did not book a hotel or plan on how to arrive, as I wanted to leave a part of the trip up in the air (some unknown is good when traveling). We knew we wanted to relax a bit after the hectic nature and mass amount of tourists in Florence so I kept looking for a good place to stay on the Lake, but could not find one for a reasonable price.

We knew we wanted to be on the water, and showing Mom both the Adriatic and Mediterranean Sea was something we wanted to do. Jesse and I had visited La Spezia and Cinque Terre this past September (2021), so we did not want to go back there. Mom said pick somewhere we had not been, so we searched and searched while we were in Florence. Finally we found a nice hotel in Rapallo where we could relax and be by the sea, and to get there, we rented a car and drove to Rapallo. On the way was the city of Pisa, and we surprised Mom by making a stop to see the leaning tower (of which there is a replica in the city of Niles in Chicagoland, my Mom informed us).

We parked a few blocks away, and took a ten minute walk to the old city walls; we saw the tower above the wall and became excited. We walked around the wall, and saw the tower, and although it is world famous and we have seen many pictures of it, it is still impressive to see in real life.

As we got closer, we took note of the Cathedral and the Baptistry behind it, which we were not aware existed as all we knew (and many people do) was the tower. We took pictures and went looking for a restroom so we stopped in the Pisa Panoramic Cafe, which is highly recommended. We had our first iced coffee in the past year and ate some excellent lunch with the leaning Tower of Pisa in the background! It was unbelievable to be there. Check out the view below!

so Jesse and I took lots of pictures while Mom went souvenir shopping. The day was extremely warm for late May and after we walked around all the structures, we headed back to the car and onto Rapallo.

The two hour drive to Rapallo went by quick as we arrived in the early evening; we upgraded our rooms and had balconies overlooking the sea.

It was nice to relax and sleep in a comfy bed with the windows open. We ate some local fish the first night and had a night cap at the rooftop bar on top of our hotel. It was magical.

There was an open air market in the morning the next day right across the street along the beachfront. Mom did some shopping while Jesse and I slept in, then we walked along the boardwalk and past the small beach castle (which unfortunately was closed).

We then walked on to the Villa Tigullio Park, which provides great views of the water and city, and also has benches to sit on to relax and take in the calm day. The next day we took Mom there after lunch.

We realized, after our trip to Pescara and this trip, that the “summer season” does not open until June first. So in May, they are preparing the beaches and getting the city ready for the big summer months; the beaches in Rapallo were inaccessible and there were many cranes moving sand, rocks, and streets being torn up. It was somewhat annoying, but there were also less people and room rates were cheaper, so there are pluses and minuses. Jesse and I eyed the beach outside our window and saw there were a few people on there, so we ran down to put our feet in, and so I could skip stones.

Admittedly, we did not have enough time to research Rapallo to the fullest, but we were mostly visiting to relax. However, Mom purchased some postcards, and I saw a cable car on one; when looking at the map app, I saw a marker for the Rapallo Cable Car, and we planned to go. We arrived a little after noon; the young man running the Cable car was named Matteo, and the three of us, along with a German tourist, all took the cable up…and up…and up. It was so high high up our ears popped and after passing over many fine looking homes with impressive pools (“where the poor people lived,” Matteo joked) we passed over the forest. Finally we arrived at the top of the mountain, where there was a small cafe. We passed the cafe, and walked up the path on our way to the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Montallegro.

The origin of the church dated back to the 16th century, when, supposedly, the Virgin Mary appeared to a man named Giovanni Chighizola on July 2, 1557 (very exact). It was finished in the year 1699. In 1896 the facade was built, and after bombing in World War II, the church was restored in 1947. It was even more impressive that we were so far away from everything.

The inside was also just as stunning, and they had a painting of the Annunciation!

It was a spectacular church and highly advisable to take the cable car up to visit it. Also, from way up here, the views of the green mountains on this clear and sunny day were spectacular. We could also see Rapallo below; it seemed so tiny.

Afterward we relaxed in the courtyard outside the church; talking with a couple from Ireland about their travels. We then ordered Aperol Spritzes (as one must do as a tourist in Italy) at the hotel restaurant that is on the way to the cathedral, while sitting at a table overlooking the tree-covered mountains, city and ocean below. We were enjoying our time and just missed the second-to-last cable car ride down from the mountain. So we waited for the last one, a half-an-hour later, took the car down. We basked in the view as we made our way back to sea level.

Cable Car View on the way back down

We returned to the hotel, freshened up for dinner, and went to eat some pizza at a local place that we had been to the night before as their pizza was so, so good. Just look at the pictures (and Jesse’s excited face).

We walked around town after our pizza dinner, past the Monumento a Cristoforo Colombo, stared out into the sea, and enjoyed the sky turning from dusk to night and our last night in Rapallo.

The next morning we woke up early, ate a hearty breakfast at the hotel (which was the best breakfast buffet we had eaten), packed up the car, and drove to the Milan train station, in time to board our train, destined for Geneva. Arrivederci Italia!

Published by Phil Barrington

Currently living in Spain, Accountant by Day, Writer by Night. Lover of baseball, travel ,and spreadsheets. Check out my blog:

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