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:
I’m sorry, but doesn’t this next one remind you of the NaPali Coast in Kauai?
For comparison (how awesomely similar are these photos?!):
…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:
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
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.