Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Italia: Day 2 - Cinque Terre

Wow! Thank you all so much for your comments on the Travel Dramz post... I feel super thankful that so many lovely internet peeps are glad that I am not circulating European butcher counters as Mystery Italian Mincemeat!  {<--I do not believe I've ever composed a stranger sentence, but it happens to be an utterly sincere one as well.  Grazie Mille!  For reals.} 

If our second day in Italy {and, really, each day after that} was a reward for powering through the supremely ghastly first one, I'll take it.  The weather was gorgeous - breezy, but warm with pristinely blue, cloudless skies; our hotel and its staff couldn't have been more welcoming; and each village in Cinque Terre was more picturesque than the last.  

We chose Manarola {the second most Southern of the five tiny fishing villages that comprise Cinque Terre} as our "homebase" purely because of the reviews I read of La Torretta... which is just about as charming a B&B as you'll find anywhere.  Perched atop the main "center" of the town, the views are stunning and the rooms are a delight.  Think: frescoed ceilings; comfy, wrought iron beds; trillion dollar views of sea beyond.  And I've never had a nicer bathroom in Europe... rainforest showers are a true rarity in the "decently priced" range, my friends! 

Morning greeted us with a breakfast tray bursting with pastries, breads, yogurt, tea, and cappuccino.  And sunset brought wine and delectable bites on the patio.  And did I mention the complimentary bottle of bubbly welcoming us {well, um, Evs} and wishing us a happy anniversary?!  Deeeee-light!  I cannot say enough good things about La Torretta... We're already plotting our return!  

breakfast bounty
frescoes on the ceiling
view out our window
from the lobby patio, pre-hike
more lobby
Passion of the Christ on the hill across from La Torretta
walking from La Torretta into Manarola

After a little {lotta} carb-loading, we laced up our hiking shoes and hoofed it down into the Center of Manarola to catch the first leg of the 11 kilometer Blue Trail {the popular cliffside trail linking the five villages}{technically the first leg is a flat, easy, and short "lovers' stroll" between Riomaggiore and Manarola, but we didn't want to backtrack at the beginning... we figured we'd take little jaunt before dinner, but we ended up having too much fun with our happy hour companions!}.

Looking back at Manarola, it's easy to see why it's often described as the most beautiful of the cinque terres {see what happened there?}. 

village center
looking back at Manarola from the trail to Corniglia

Unfortunately, we only hiked a hundred meters or so {the metric system! I'm so Euro!} before we discovered that the trail from Manarola to Corniglia was closed due to landslides.  Big-Time-Bummer.  

But!  There's always that good ol' reliable rail system!  

train to Corniglia

A quick 5 minute ride and we were in Corniglia... 


Well.  Almost in Corniglia.  Only a hop-skip-and-a-few-steps away...

382 steps...
...check! {and, fanny pack... CHECK!}

We took a little time in each town to poke around and wander the cool, skinny streets.  We were often rewarded with a breath-taking vista waiting for us just around a corner.  {And, on occasion, Stalin wine and Hitler beer.}{???}

Corniglia Center
Looking towards Vernazza
Not a clue.

As we set off from Corniglia towards Vernazza, we came upon some likely looking suspects from the University of Iowa.  Stumbling from their hostel onto the trail, wearing frat shirts and topsiders, they carried lager for hydration and shouted loudly about one fellow's 4 AM vomiting spell.  Ahhhhhh.  Youth.  We passed them as they paused to consider a downward pointing sign for a nude beach and saw neither head nor madras shorts of them for the rest of the day.  Devastated at the loss of such fine hiking companions, we nevertheless pressed onward. 

We also happened upon a lovely Italian man who recognized the horns on Evs' hat and exclaimed "Texas! Oh! I want to visit America so badly! I will first see the New York City, then the Minnesota, and then, the Texas!"  I wanted to ask him about that Minnesota part, but we had gnomes to meet and a delicious lunch to eat...

Vernazza in the distance
Saints & Gnomes... The Perfect Combination

We just so happened to be visiting Italy during the celebration of 150 years of Unification... green, white, and red flags were fluttering everywhere we went... quite festive! 

Vernazza Center, all decked out

Here it comes folks... our first Great Meal.  8 days, 16 meals {not counting breakfasts, although we did stay at all B&Bs with scrumptious morning offerings}... and our lunch in Vernazza definitely secures a spot in my Top 8.  It might even ring in at #5.  I can still taste the salt clinging to the shells of the clams caught mere hours before they were devoured.  This was also one of the few meals where Evs did not order meat ragu.  This made me proud. 

Gambero Rosso
Insalata Caprese 
Evs: Handmade Pasta w/ Fish and Tomato Sauce
Kate: Spaghetti al Frutti di Mare

After enjoying a few glasses of house white, we were back on the trail to work off lunch.  The Vernazza-Monterosso leg of the Blue Trail is by far the most challenging - up and down and up and down and steep, steep, steep, and narrow, narrow, narrower.  I can't imagine tackling this portion in the summertime when the trails are jammed with tourists.  

Looking back at Vernazza on the trail to Monterosso

Apparently, this part of the trail was actually closed, but, since there was no padlocked gate {as there was at the trail head from Manarola to Corniglia}, no one paid a few measly signs any mind.  Those trixy National Park peeps tried to impede our travels with piles we dubbed "Italian Roadblocks," but we climbed right over those suckers... as did the cutest local couple of all time!  I couldn't imagine living in one of the homes along the trail... it would give a whole new meaning to "hey honey, can you run to the store for me real quick?" 

Shit's about to get major, folks.

The end of the trail was insane... steep, steep, steep!  Our legs felt every inch of this sucker for the next several days. 

Monterosso... Almost. Kinda.

We ended our journey in Monterosso, where we split our first gelato of the trip and poked around in the little shops before catching a train back to Manarola to clean up and rest our barkin' pups.  


Before snuggling up with our vino to watch the sunset, I bought enough Ligurian pesto, olive oil soaps, and olive wood cheese trays to sink a party barge.  That pesto should be traded on the stock market.  Mouthwatering. 

cocktail hour on the porch
ridiculously cute...

After chatting it up with two sisters from Minnesota {maybe our Italian hiking friend can come visit them?} and newlyweds from Philly, we dragged our aching bones to Trattoria di Billy for more knock-your-socks-off sea views.  And more Ligurian pesto.  Obvs.  

I think Billy earns a spot in the Top 8 just because I wanted to bathe in that damn pesto. 

Prosciutto Antipasti... get in my belly, piggie.
Ligurian Pesto - no words.

We tucked in early and slept like rocks.  Rocks dipped in pesto with crampy calves.  Pure bliss. 

Tomorrow... Pisa & Firenze, plus a few travel questions answered!  


  1. SUCH beautiful pics!!! looks like you guys had a blast. That food makes me huuuuunngry.

  2. Great pictures! I love Cinque Terre and cannot wait to go back. The B&B looked amazing!

  3. Your Italy review is like a book I can't put down- so excited to read about each day! Random question, but what kind of shoes do you bring to hike in?

  4. oh my goodness, cinque terre was definitely already on my list of places I needed to visit stat, but it's jumped way up there after this vicarious little tour! :)

  5. amazing amazing amazing. that is all.

  6. Thanks for kicking my travel bug up about 600 percent this morning. Y'all travel perfectly - fanny pack and all!

  7. freaking beautiful. I want to go to there. Thanks for sharing!

  8. Gorgeous! All the food looks amazing but that Caprese salad pic had me drooling, YUM!

  9. OOh Vernazzo was my favorite of the cinque terre. I stayed in Riomaggiore and scaling those vertical "streets" with 100-pound non-roller bags was pretty much the must sisyphean moment of my life. I chose to forego the lover's walk because hiking to our hotel was enough of a workout, but I'm super impressed you guys did it! Your pictures are gorgeous!

  10. So glad your Italian adventure improved so much after the "hiccups" of the first day.

    Lovely photos!

  11. LOVE!! You now have me debating Greece or Italy for our 10th anniversary destination. Ugh - the choices :-)

  12. You are totally lapping me on posting pics. Sigh. I finally finished downloading last night. Anyway, I am only going back to Italy in late March early April from now on! Wasn't it the most fab time? Also, did you notice that all the Italians were dressed as if it was the dead of winter? I saw more full length parkas and leather coats, while I was warm in a dress and cardi. Bizarro!

  13. My goodness.... It all looks so beautiful and perfect! And the food? Holy lord, I'm drooling and it's not even 9AM. Beautiful pictures and of course, love the commentary!

  14. Everything looks and sounds delightful! I can certainly appreciate a good Italian hotel shower. My mother and I rated each hotel we were at in Italy by the shower (the convent-run hotel in Siena won!).

  15. Vernazza!!!! That is where we stayed while we were in Cinque Terre. Such a sweet little village! Ohhhh my goodness this post made me so hungry. Can't wait to hear more!

  16. Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous! What a fun trip! Can't wait to hear more!

  17. I just found out that I am going to Italy for the first time in August so I am hanging on your every word! Can't wait to hear the rest (and get my paws on some of that pesto!)

    Question for you: I know you're an iPhone girl- did your phone work? What about the internet? I'm assuming a special international data plan is needed...?

  18. Love Cinque Terre! And that caprese looks amazing. After I got back from Italy, I was always disappointed in all the mozzarella I had here. Even the good stuff can't compare!

  19. Kate, the music on the La Torretta website is so SOOTHING! I think I just might leave it in the background all day.

    Can't wait to hear more!



  20. Oh to be back in Italy. I am loving your travelogue and can't wait to see more!

  21. Ahhh I love this post! Took me right back to Cinque Terra and Genoa!

    1...those steps!!!! We walked down them and even going down I thought they'd never end. I can't believe you went UP!

    2...Wasn't the end of the trail insane? I think we did it backwards from you and we did the steep parts at the beginning. It was about 95 degrees the day we did it and I thought I was going to die. No one prepared me for it. You look much nicer than I did in my pictures from here.

    3...I am CRAVING some pesto and pasta from there. Eating in Genoa (not too far from there) was my favorite food from the whole trip. Nothing like that seafood and pesto!!

  22. All that pesto talk (and picture) is making me crave it like mad! :)

  23. gnome + saint + a LOBSTER relief in the wall=fantabulous

  24. OMG! I'm dying to eat all that food. It looks DELISH!

    Love the references to Minnesota =)

  25. so glad to hear the fantastic reviews of la torretta! my husband and i originally planned on visiting cinque terre on our honeymoon last year (cut it out at the last minute) and would have stayed there. looks like a wonderful trip...i'm really enjoying these recaps.


happy little comments!