Monday Travel Memory: Cinque Terre

Hey kids. It’s been awhile. A solid three month absence. Sometimes it’s good to take some distance from stuff, even stuff we love, to come back with better focus and energy. Right? It’s been nice to have some space and not spend so much time at the computer. Sounds like a legit excuse. Maybe nobody even noticed. 

And maybe you did. I know I miss writing on here and sharing bits of our sometimes interesting life. So why the long held breath? This had a little something to do with it:

This is Flinck.

This is Flinck.

Yes, we adopted a tiny puppy from the shelter where I volunteer (Oregon Humane Society). His name is Flinck, in honor of the street we lived on in Amsterdam (Govert Flinckstraat). And, not that I’m biased, he’s the best. 

But back to the topic at hand. As August hit, I realized that I have not been swimming or have even donned a swimsuit this summer. That’s just not right. To me, that’s the quintessential summer experience that I have not had this year. Too many house projects and other commitments have consumed our time. Bummer. Summer bummer.

This had led to some serious reminiscing. About this time last year, we took our summer vacation to Italy. Twelve months and some crazy life changes later, I’m still enchanted. And amazed at just how much Italy has to offer. Oh, Italy. What can I possibly say about you that hasn’t been said before? From your bustling streets in Roma, to the rolling hills of Tuscany, to your seaside luxury in Sorrento, to your decayed elegance in Venice, you truly have it all. And you have more. And on top of all that, you have this glorious little region known as the Cinque Terre.

I know I shared this trip with you before, but it’s fun to look at the pictures with fresh eyes and see the beauty anew. Sometimes I sit here and pinch myself because I cannot believe we were there. While far from a luxurious resort getaway (you lay out on rocks to sunbathe after all), it was the perfect break from reality for my husband and me.

When we arrived, I was instantly smitten with the colorful structures nestled into the rocky cliffs rising from the Ligurian Sea. It was magical. As we walked the narrow “streets” (they can hardly be called streets as barely a moped could squeeze through), you could smell the salty sea and catch whiffs of a grandmother’s sauce on the stove.

Each morning, we would wake up in our tiny room, head out for coffee and fresh fruit, then spend the days alternating between sunbathing on rocks and exploring the twisty streets in each of the five towns. Below are some more pictures that I didn’t include in my original write up. Those initial pictures captured little moments that I felt (at the time) best depicted our experience. Looking back, I realize I didn’t share much of the actual towns or the panoramas that created the wonderful backdrop to all those fried fish cones we devoured. Here you go:

Vernazza

Vernazza

Vernazza

Vernazza

The trail that connects the towns

the trail that connects the towns

Montorosso

Montorosso

Montorosso

Montorosso’s beach scene

Riomaggiore

Riomaggiore

Riomaggiore

Riomaggiore

Kiss!

Kiss! along the trail

sunset from Manarola

sunset from Manarola

Manarola at dusk

Manarola at dusk

happy tree in Corniglia

a happy tree in Corniglia

pretty door in Corniglia

a pretty door in Corniglia

Corniglia

Corniglia

Corniglia

Vernazza

a "street" in Vernazza

a “street” in Vernazza

Negroni & Aperol Spritz for happy hour

Negroni & Aperol Spritz for happy hour

5am quiet

5am quiet in Vernazza

Vernazza at night

Vernazza at night

Our trip to the Cinque Terre was one of my favorite vacations. Ever. These pictures make me want to be back there immediately. August, while brimming with tourists, is still a great time to go. Now if only I could find my bathing suit…

xxx

Advertisements

Summer vacation: Italy’s Cinque Terre

I have to admit, I hadn’t heard of this area until we moved to Europe. One has to ask HOW. I mean just look at it:

That’s Vernazza, the little village where we stayed for 5 nights. There are 5 little seaside, somewhat-remote towns (try a Google Maps search – nothing!) along the Ligurian Sea that make up this area of the Italian Riviera: Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso.

We spent our days swimming in the warm sea:

…Hiking between towns on the scenic coastline trail:

Scenery along the trail outside of Vernazza

More bougainvillea in Corniglia

I’m sorry, but doesn’t this next one remind you of the NaPali Coast in Kauai?

Cinque Terre, Italy. Summer 2012.

For comparison (how awesomely similar are these photos?!):

NaPali Coast, Kauai. Spring 2008. (Our first vacation together!)

…Eating fresh seafood and my favorite dish – trofie with pesto (this is the region where pesto originated – heaven!). Our favorite afternoon snack was a tasty indulgence of Italian beers and fried fish cones from the little shops on Vernazza’s main drag:

Can’t even tell you how many of those we had. Filled with calamari, anchovies (local delicacy), shrimp, cod and some veggies, those things were a real delight.

…Laying on rocks and soaking up the sun:

…Enjoying some lovely sunsets:

Sunset & dinner in Manarola

SIGH. I think it’s pretty obvious that we were in love with this place. It was enchanting. Some tips for visiting that we learned:

– Coming from Rome, the food scene here was much different. While not the most beautiful presentation and slightly over-priced, it was some of the best seafood and pasta that I’ve had in a long time. The pasta, especially my trofie mentioned above, was unmistakably homemade with a lumpy, doughy texture. It was the best. And the house wine – don’t scoff, get it! The local vines are great. Here are some of the amazing places we ate at and we recommend all of them:

Ristorante Marina Piccola, Manarola

Belforte, Vernazza

Gambero Rosso, Vernazza

– Logistically, be prepared for how much effort is required to enjoy this wonderland. It’s difficult to get there, takes over 4 hours from Rome, and multiple train connections.  I wouldn’t travel in from there again, I’d fly in closer like to Pisa or Genova. And once you’re there, it’s not quite glamorous or accommodating as you would think…

– There are a ZILLION day trippers. People hop from one town to the next on huge ferries and knock ’em all out in a day. They don’t have time to lay out or swim, but they are packing the streets, creating long lines at the gelato stand. Don’t worry, those ferries stop running around 6 and you get to enjoy less crowds in the evenings.

– For sunbathing, you have to climb out on rocks and throw towels down. Everyone else is doing it, so shut up and figure it out. Unless you stay in Monterosso, where they have a beach (lame:).

– For swimming, it’s either very rocky (cut my feet several times, yuck) or wayyyy over your head. I didn’t mind the latter since the water was some of the clearest I’ve ever seen.

– To stay, I’d recommend Vernazza, Corniglia, or Manarola. Monterosso was very resort-y (not what we were going for) and Riomaggiore was not very vacation-y at all (more locals, not many restaurants, not a great swimming area).

– For being connected to the outside world, forget it. We didn’t bother to hunt down cafes with wi-fi; it was nice to disconnect.

Seriously folks, it was such a relaxing vacation. Words really can’t do it justice. And this was only our first week. More on week two in Sorrento, Capri and the Amalfi Coast coming soon.

xxx