Thursday, July 14, 2016

Bucklist Locations - The Cinque Terres

I think we all have our bucklist locations.  The places that we love more than anywhere else.  If someone was to ask me my top three it would be:
1. Sorrento, Italy
2. Havasupai
3. Disneyland (Of course.)
The places that make you so unbelievably happy.  The places that are so beautiful you almost can't stand it.  The places that you feel God created just for you.

Well I just finished a 2 day excursion that made my list from 3 to 4.  

The Cinque Terres

Here is how Rick Steves describes it:
Along a beautifully isolated six-mile stretch of the most seductive corner of the northern Italian coast lies the Cinque Terre  — five (cinque) small towns gently and steadily carving a good life out of difficult terrain. Each village fills a ravine with a lazy hive of human activity — calloused locals and sunburned travelers enjoying the area's unique mix of Italian culture and nature. With a traffic-free charm — a happy result of their natural isolation — these towns are the rugged alternative to the glitzy Riviera resorts nearby. There's not a Fiat or museum in sight — just sun, sea, sand (well, pebbles), wine, and pure, unadulterated Italy.  Enjoy the villages, swimming, hiking, and evening romance of one of God's great gifts to tourism. While the Cinque Terre is now discovered , I've never seen happier, more relaxed tourists.

So when I found out we were coming to Italy this place was my number 1 stop.  I had loved Sorrento, located farther south on the coast, that I knew I needed to see the Cinque Terres.  I convinced Chad and Maddie to come with me on this adventure.  And then last minute my friend Kristen who I went to Hawaii with back in 2012, was in Italy so I convinced her to come as well.

I'm going to put a lot of details in how to do the Cinque Terres for reference for me or anyone else in the future.

We took a train from Florence up to La Spezia that took about 2.5 hours.  That train ticket cost 13.5 euro.  Then we bought a train ticket there up to our little village we were staying in Vernazza for 4 euro.

I chose Vernazza of the 5 towns because Rick Steves likes it best.  Yes, I will be quoting Rick Steves a lot in this post because his advice was really fanastic when it comes to the Cinque Terres.  So we pulled into Vernazza which is located pretty much on top of the train station.  I thought it would convenient to have our Airbnb by the train station.... probably a big mistake.  When I say by the train station I mean our check in was literally at the gift shop at the train station.  Once again I thought that would be super convenient....

After we wondered around the DARLING town of Vernazza... actually lets call it a village.



We found this little cave underneath this building.... talk about a rocky foundation!  
We went through the cave and found this piece of work.  Probably the best picture I took the whole trip. :)

 More than any other place we've been to in Europe this trip, what impressed me the most was the people of these small villages.  I expected them to loath the tourists.  Coming into their cute little quiet villages and turning them into huge commercial tourist destinations.  But what shocked me was how sincerely genuine and nice every single person I interacted with was.  Nicest people hands down.  I loved watching how this tourist spot really was just a home for some people (very lucky people.)  I loved watching this sweet old man that I want to imagine lived in this town his entire life.

 Or this flower market.  Watching this grandma hold her grandson's hand.

 And of course there are highlights like this guy.  I always smile at the things guys wear around in Europe...

 Anyway, after we wondered around, ate some lunch at The Lunch Box.  I had the most delicious thing of my entire trip a caprese sandwich on faccacia bread with the most delicious mild pesto sauce (pesto and faccacia bread originated in the Cinque Terres)

So one thing that makes the Cinque Terres so much fun is there is actually something to "do".  I think what gets wearing and boring about a trip to Europe is if you just spend your whole time look at museums and shopping and eating.  Every once and a while it's nice to actually do something.  Between the Cinque Terres there is a National Park trail that leads between all the villages.  So the activity of visiting the Cinque Terres besides eating, shopping, and swimming of course is to hike between the villages.

After we checked into our Airbnb and got geared up to do the hike.  We decided to hike north to Monterosso al Mare.  Although it was noon, super sunny, and decently hot and the hardest hike of all the hikes between the villages, (and of course Rick Steves said don't hike in the middle of the day because it is hot and crowded) so although I knew all this, this part of the hike had the best views of the Vernazza and the village, Monterosso al Mare, had the best beaches so swim.  So we took off.

I'm trying to think of a hike to compare it to, difficulty wise.  It was a pretty narrow trail with lots of steps and most steps were made out of uneven rocks.  The hike we think was 4k so like 2ish miles?  But with all the elevation chance it seemed a bit farther.  But the hike was glorious.  Beautiful views of Vernazza, the sea, and Monterosso al Mare.

 Views of Vernazza on the way out of town...

The postcard picture view...

 The start of many stairs...
 Oh the flowers...........

 The water color was so beautiful.
 More trail and of course some lizard catching.

 Monterosso al Mare in the distance with vineyards next to the trail.

 More stairs...

 Finally to Monterosso al Mare

Monterosso al Mare had a much more beachy, resorty feel to it than Vernazza.  The beach was super fun.  Although it was little rocks rather than sand I acutally liked it better.  We were all pretty darn excited to jump in that water after the hot hike.  We swam around.... until Chad got stung by a jelly fish.  Then we layed on the shore looking for sea glass and little pieces of ceramic that was washing up on the shore.  Who knew how old the ceramic was.  Maybe a couple of year or maybe 2,000 years...  But it was really fun to relaxing in the refreshing water.  The temperature of the water was perfect.  Not too cold but still refreshing to jump into.

After swimming/basking we looked through the streets....


And then we found some lunch...

After lunch we took a boat for 5 euro back to Vernazza.


We spent the rest of the evening relaxing, eating more gelato, and just hanging out in Vernazza.  My second gelato of the day.... Chad's 3rd or 4th...

The night.  Oh the night.  So like I said before our apartment was on the train.  Literally on the the train.  OH and our apartment didn't have air conditioning... so long story short we had to leave the windows open.  (Although I honestly think it would have made very little difference with the noise if we had shut them.  Because each and every train every 20-30 minutes.... it felt like it was going right through our bedroom.  Like wind gusts and all.  Moral of the story is... none of us slept very much.

The next morning I was pretty excited to run from Vernazza to Corniglia the village south of Vernazza.  This part was probably the highlight of the trip for me.  It was still very cool out, the trail was empty, so it was just me, my music, and the most amazing beautiful views and vegetation a girl could ask for.  It was amazing.

Lots and lots of stairs.


And just in the nick of time when I realized I really needed a drink, I stumbled upon this gem.

You know you had a good run when after looks like this:

After I cleaned up Kristen and I  first went to get breakfast.... the pastries in Europe will never cease to amaze me.
Then we took the train to Corniglia.  It is the only town that is high up on a hill and not directly on the water.  It had the most beautiful flowers everywhere.  Rick Steves recommneded the best gelato I've had to date.  It was AMAZING.  I got peach and rosemary.  So so good!

 But my favorite part of this town was all the flowers!

 I love that they just mixed basil in with other flowers!


And then we went to the last town of our stop, Manarola.  This might have been my favorite city except there is no swimming.  It is a bit of a walk from the train so you don't have that noise.  It is beautiful and my favorite part of this town (since we didn't walk to it) was this cute little walk around the village through vineyards and other gardens.

And we'll end with the delicious grapes a vineyard.

Bottom line if you actually made it to the end of all of this....... Cinque Terre is absolute paradise. I could not have created a more perfect spot.

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