Saturday, September 19, 2009

Cinque Terre - The Italian Riviera

Cinque Terre "The Five Lands"is part of the Italian Riviera and is made up of five villages: Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore. And it is amazingly beautiful! Possibly my favorite part of the trip. Although it is hard to judge b/c here we hiked and got sun at the beach versus visiting the inside of hundreds of churches and museums:). I loved how "unmodernized" it was - no high rise hotels or construction going on! It was so cute and Italian - definitely like the pictures you see in the movies!
After reaching La Speiza from Firenze we changed to a regional train to get to Vernazza - the fourth of the five cities (starting from the south). The view was breathtaking from the very beginning of the ride. We didn't even sit down on the train - we just stood up and looked at the beautiful water, mountains, and cute Italian homes built into the country side.

When we got to Vernazza of course our Pensione was straight UP the hill! When trying to book our hotel 3 months ago the only place Nathan could find available was the Pensione Sorriso - I wasn't sure if that was a good or bad thing but we took it! Trip Advisor comments said it was loud but nice. I agree with these comments. They also only had 1 four person room not 2 two person rooms so we all stayed together in a very "modest" and "cozy" room. It was really hot when we arrived and I thought "OH NO" we don't have air but we did - thank goodness!
Cozy - don't you think? Yes those are cots!
Limoncello cheers to Cinque Terre! And I have my new leather jacket on - don't you love it!:)

The first thing we did was head down to the water! So although our room had no view (it was near the train station) once we got down to the marina it was unbelievable - I think I took more pictures in this town than the rest of the time we have been here (and that is saying a lot)!

We ate dinner at a place Rick Steves suggested:) (Thanks Rick) The Restaurant Giavanni which had a view of the water. We read that this area "invented" pesto, so of course we had to have some! And that they were also known for their anchovy dishes - ewwwwwwww! But we had to order them - right? When I think anchovies I think really smelly fish that come from a can and that I puked after trying one in the 6th grade! But Bonnie is a food pusher:) and made Bob and I try one and although Bob wasn't all that impressed - surprisingly I loved it! We had anchovies in lemon sauce and if you go you HAVE to try it! I think they were so good b/c they were so fresh! We were actually fighting over who would get the last one! And the pesto was unbelievable! Good choice!

The next morning Bonnie, Nathan, and I got up to hike (surprisingly Bob didn't join us:)). The Cinque Terre is a national park and you have to pay about $8 to hike the well known trail (don't even think about trying to get around this - they have guards at the entrance/exit of each village). We trained down to Riomaggiore the first of the five villages (coming from La Spezia) and started our hike there.

The part of the trail from Riomaggore to Manarola is called the Via dell'Amore ("Walkway of Love") and I know Bob could have done this part! It was completely paved - seriously you could push a baby carriage through this part - and it only took about 15 minutes:).

We came across this really cute bench with locks all chained to the rails behind it. I guess hikers bring the locks with them and profess their love on the Via dell'Amore and "lock in their love" with their sweety! Nathan - did you bring your lock? Oh...hmmm....I didn't think so:) Well at least I had Nathan with me - Bonnie had to sit on the bench all by herself:( (Are you feeling guilty yet Bob?:))

Bonnie - party of one:(

The Via dell'Amore


View of Manarola on our way to Cornigilia

Then from Manarola we walked to Corniglia. To get to the town you have to climb 370 stairs! We saw several people with rolling suitcases trying to climb the stairs. All I could think was, "Thank God we didn't stay here- Bob would have slept in the train station!" But once we got to the top, I saw a little bus drop off several travelers with their luggage. I guess the people who climbed the stairs with all their stuff couldn't read Italian? Just so you guys know - "Bus " looks like this "Bus or Autobus" in Italian.:)

How many steps is that? Where's Bob?

Right.... 382 Steps!

Vineyards! Corniglia is know for their wine!

Then for the most strenuous part of the hike - Corniglia to Vernazza. It was really sad because although we had heard that there were fires in the mountains along the coast I didn't think we would see them first hand. But we hiked for about 30 minutes through a section of the forest that had burned down.

A little bit after hiking through this section we saved Janis' life! Haven't heard about that? Read my post here. :) I wonder how Janis and Digby are doing..... and how much their special flight off the trail cost!

What an exciting (who knew and why is it always us?) and beautiful hike! We all highly recommend it but we were glad to get to Vernazza to find Bob, hear about his "cruising chicks" and swim. Bob definitely had some interesting stories..... and pictures - really none of which I can put on this blog.:) Bob definitely liked his day in the Cinque Terre too! Gotta love the Europeans and their lack of modesty:)!

We made it!

View of Vernazza from Trail

I had another - "Well if everyone jumped off a bridge would you?" - experience. And it is safe to say that YES if everyone else jumped then I would too:) But only after they did! I need to make sure it is safe! Nathan said he would do it too, but you don't see a picture of him do you?:)

I can't believe I'm putting a picture of me in a bathing suit on my blog! But at least it is far away!

It was kind of scary...but I did it!

After getting all cleaned up we bought a bottle of wine, took to the boat to Monterrosso, and enjoyed the sun set over the mountain! Great end to a perfect day!

After walking a bit we left the beachfront road to find a restaurant (we needed a place that had something in addition to fish:)). We happened upon the Ristorante Maxi which was off a side road near the train tracks. Nathan would argue that this was our best meal in all of Italy! That might be a stretch for me but it was really good! Definitely the best pizza we had and their pesto was to die for! We were so full we couldn't even eat Gelato - now that is saying a lot!

The next morning we had to leave for Lugano:( I was very said and vowed to come back - scuba diving anyone? I do have to show a picture of what our morning coffee looked like at Pensione Sorriso - definitely the most beautiful breakfast of the trip!

However, once we got on the train we realized we were sick of hotel rooms and opted to just go back to Zurich for a nice relaxing night at "home". I will say the train ride from Genoa to Zurich was amazing though! Every five seconds we were ooohing and ahhhing over something else! Lake Como and Lugano (in the Italian part of Switzerland) were both breathtaking - we have to go back there too!

The train ride was a very scenic end to our journey - but does this picture scream "I'm done!" to you or what?

Addio per ora l'Italia. Ti amo!

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