Cinque Terre, A Little Slice Of Heaven

Travel days can really be the worst. They are invariably long and tiring. Though I’m usually thrilled to have arrived at my next destination, I really wish someone would jump on this whole teleportation thing. We were up so crazy early to leave Morocco and to make matters worse, I was feeling under the weather.  From about the time we arrived at the airport, I spent the majority of the day wishing I could curl up and die.  My stomach was a mess, twisting and gurgling . But of course, David with the stomach of a goat, was perfectly fine.

But really when you think about it, a travel day is probably one of the better times to fall ill.  Sure, turbulence and food poisoning don’t really mix, but at least I didn’t have to stay in bed all day or power through an excursion. And fortunately enough, by the time we arrived to Cinque Terre, everything was better.  David and I were sipping red wine and looking out at the sunset over the Italian riviera.

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Riomaggiore Sunset Witnessed Moments After Arriving

 

Having experienced it, I completely understand why millions of tourists flock to these five fishing villages each year. It’s Italy at it’s best, with the crystal clear aqua water, the brightly colored buildings nestled into the sides of lush terraced hills, gorgeous hiking trails and of course the deliciously fresh food. Cinque Terrre is a dream. A place where babies are conceived because of the wine and gorgeous views.

As I peered out of our window on our first morning in Riomaggiore (the furthest south of the five villages), all I saw in the marina were day hikers outfitted with all of their hiking gear.  Hiking is definitely a must while here. It’s a great way to visit all five of the villages, get some incredible photos and to counteract all of the food you will be consuming. Lorraine, the apartment manager at Allo Scalo dei Mille, had suggested we take the ferry from our village to the farthest north village of Monterosso and hike the trail from Monterosso to Vernazza. So, we set off for the ferry. By sea, you truly get to a unique view of all five towns.

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A Sea View of Riomaggiore

The beautiful views from the trails were endless on the hike from Monterosso to Vernazza, but it was hard work. We climbed steep step after steep step, looking back to catch a glimpse of the town that we were leaving or getting peeks at the village we were approaching. It was all so magical really. Water shouldn’t be that blue and the sun shouldn’t make it sparkle so much. And as expected, when Vernazza, the darling of Cinque Terre, came well into view, I couldn’t help but fall in love with it.

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Looking Back At Monterosso

Most of these towns have the spot that everyone has a picture from. The one from Vernazza was just off the trail and everyone wanted that famous photo. But then there was Heather from Canada, a woman, who had plopped her butt right in the prime position with a bottle of champagne and had no intentions of moving.  All I could do was shake my head.

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There’s Heather From Canada

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An Alternate View of Vernazza

Although Vernazza is the darling, and really all of the towns are adorable, my favorite of the five was Manarola. I loved how the candy colored towns were positioned  in the hill and the way the marina hugs it. It just photographed so well. We hiked down from the neighboring town of Volustra (not a part of the five villages) on our second day to Manarola and spent time exploring.  We had lunch perched up at Nessun Dorma, a restaurant that serves yummy bruschetta and has the best views.

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Just Imagine My Perfect B&B Somewhere In View

And what’s a trip to Cinque Terre without heading to the beach? Monterosso is by far the biggest and has the most resort town feel. Besides the shopping and oodles of restaurants, it’s blessed to have a pebble beach that we laid out on like lizards under an orange and green stripped umbrella.

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The Beach of Monterosso

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A View From My Beach Chair

If it wasn’t for all of the annoying tourists, like myself, eagerly hiking the trails, snapping pictures, eating all of the gelato (the best place by far is Alberto’s Gelateria in Corniglia) and stealing all of the dinner reservations, I would sell all of my possessions, learn Italian and open a B&B in Manorola.  Cinque Terre is a slice of heaven that everyone should have a taste of. It’s odd. Normally when it’s time for me to say goodbye to a place, there’s this sadness that comes over me that makes tearing myself away that much harder.  But this experience was different, there was no sadness, no concerns of never witnessing again. I just have this feeling that I’ll be back sometime soon.

 

Venice | My Other Love

Every time I go to Italy, it’s like I fall in love with the country over again. For me, Italy has everything I could ever want; food, wine, history, culture, fashion and most importantly, gelato.  Since being in Croatia, I have been strongly encouraging, or as some may call it, harassing, my husband to take me to Italy. With its proximity to our home away from home and David’s understanding of my deep passion for gelato, there should be no reason for us not to go. Thankfully, the encouraging helped and as a way to celebrate our recent third wedding anniversary, David booked a trip to Venice. Well played, sir.

We arrived in Venice in the afternoon and boldly jumped on the public transport boats with our suitcase to get to the hotel. The sea air filled my nose and I got tingles of excitement as the boat took off towards the main islands. As we hooked to the left around the gigantic ocean liners, I got my first real glimpses of the city; everything was so colorful and wonderfully old. I was falling in love.

View of Venice from the water bus.

View of Venice from the water bus.

After quickly checking in and admiring the beauty of the hotel, we headed straight to Piazza San Marco. The sun was just starting to turn that fierce shade of orange that makes everyone’s skin glow. It was all so stunning. The two of us maneuvered through the crowds of people and were met by even more people in the Piazza. Tourists were snapping photos of the Campanile, the Doges Palace and Basilica, as little ones chased pigeons and lovers enjoyed glasses of wine.

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In an attempt to escape the masses and those pesky vendors selling selfie sticks and fake Prada bags, we slipped into a narrow alley and got a little lost. We wandered the streets, walked over bridges and watched couples floating down the canals by gondola.

Eventually, we crossed over the Rialto Bridge and found the Cantina Do Spade booming with locals and a handful of tourists. We ordered Spritz (an Italian cocktail of Prosecco, Aperol or Campari with mineral water) and a plateful of cicchetti (think Italian styled tapas of fish, meats, deep fried balls of cheese and ham, stuffed squash blossoms…the list goes on) and found a seat on the bench outside to take it all in. This place was awesome from the atmosphere to the food and drinks. After another round, we were able to make our way inside, where we were invited to join a table with another couple. As the evening progressed, the four of us enjoyed more cicchetti and switched from Spritz to Cabernet to Prosecco as we discussed everything from American football to German healthcare. We got pulled deep into our conversations and cocktails and without realizing it, we ended up shutting down the place. Which sadly was considerably early compared to other major cities; in Venice, most establishments close by 10pm due to noise control. After parting ways, David and I stumbled through the quiet streets and found our way back to our hotel for the evening.

One of my favorite photos from our trip...a night view of the Grand Canal from the Rialto Bridge.

One of my favorite photos from our trip…a night view of the Grand Canal from the Rialto Bridge.

The next morning, we woke early, ready to explore more of the city. As soon as we hit Piazza San Marco, we got in line to tour St. Mark’s Basilica. Upon reaching the top of the stairs to enter the museum, the church bells began to ring and we heard the voices of angels singing. We stood there in awe of the golden mosaic ceilings while listening to the church choir. I like to pretend that this moment was just for me to enjoy. It was the perfect way to experience the basilica.

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From there, we pushed into the alleys to take a gelato break and find a gondola. For thirty minutes we glided down the canals as the water soothingly lapped around us and I enjoyed my cappuccino flavored treat.   We saw Marco Polo’s house and the Rialto Bridge on the Grand Canal and learned some history from our gondolier. Even in the late morning, this experience was surprisingly romantic and relaxing.

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In search of lunch, we wandered around until we reached the quiet neighborhood of Cannaregio. The couple from the night before recommended that we visit here to find peace. This area was practically tourist free and a great place to share a meal on such a beautiful afternoon. Along the canal, we sat outside and enjoyed fantastic plates of fresh pastas and salads and generous glasses of wine at a place called Ostaria da Rioba. At this point, I had completely fallen for this town.

Our final destination was the Galleria dell’Accademia so we could get a little artsy. We toured the large gallery and took in the beautiful art from the Early and High Renaissance. The size of the collection was quite impressive and as an added bonus, the crowds were small. After exploring, it was time for us to start making our way back to collect our things.

We had reached the moment that I had been dreading since I first laid eyes on this city, the time to say goodbye. I felt exactly as the young couple we saw waiting for the boat to come and carry one them away. They were savoring their final moments and held on for as long as they could, despite the inevitable. If only I had a few more hours here, maybe a day or hell, just one more gelato. As the sun set in front of us, I held on to David as the boat took us back to where we started twenty-four hours ago. I waved goodbye to the city and said a little prayer that one day I would return.

Sunset we saw as we were waiting for the boat to take us back to our car

Sunset we saw as we were waiting for the boat to take us back to our car