Alright, we are half way through our travel series! We loved the Cinque Terra. The Cinque Terra is an area of 5 villages in northern Italy that are carved into the coastal cliffs. They do not (normally) allow vehicles in some of the towns, and the only way to get in town is by train or walk in from the designated parking areas. We loved that there were no cars. We stayed in the 4th village called Vernazza. This area is also a bit touristy, but felt more authentic rather than resort like. It had a great small town charm and we got to know the faces of locals. The service was a little rude, but the delicious pesto meals and amazing view made it worth it.
We stayed at a hotel called Gianni Franzi, and it was the most what I imagined Italy to be like. It was very simple but elegant with white walls, wood fixtures worn by the sea air, door sized green shutters that lead out to a balcony of curved green wrought iron. Even the 6 uneven flights of stairs to get up to the room added to the experience (89 stairs to be exact)...except for lugging our suitcases up them. The actual hotel had a big green door, and a tiny spiral Staircase that lead up to the second floor of rooms. I also really enjoyed the art throughout the Cinque Terre.
We stalked a shop owner who had a chocolate lab our second night here because we missed Pete so much, and she ended up being American. She loved this area that she had visited every year for 16 years and met a man named Francesco and, in her words, "you know the story from there." It was a very romantic town.
The first night we were there is was the Euro Cup semifinal match between Italy & Germany. We asked our waiters that night where to watch the game and they all pointed us to the same place. A locked door that didn't really look in business. But, sure enough, when it came down to game time a little old man came and opened the door to a den of a bar with a TV that occasionally shorted out but did the job. And then filled in the rest of the town's old men. Ryan and I single handedly ended up bringing down the average age in the place about 20 years, I'm sure. But it was so much fun, they all grumbled and yelled at the TV when Germany was doing well and grumbled and yelled at the TV in a slightly more friendly manner when Italy had success. I'm not a huge sports person, but loved experiencing the game with locals again, almost as much as I enjoyed the game we saw in Rome.
So the thing that is great about the Cinque Terra area is that the 5 towns are all in hiking distance. Unfortunately when we were there 2 of the hikes were closed because they had been damaged by a mudslide several months back. But we did the first hike which was called via dell'amore. The significance (according to our buddy Rick Steves) is that because the villages were very isolated because of the terrain, and people rarely married outside of their village because of this. But a trail was built in the 1920's between the first two towns and for the first time made easy travel between the two villages, and it became a meeting point for young lovers between the towns. So now couples come and leave locks and, well, graffiti to signify their love.
The water around the area is gorgeous. I'm not a huge fan of swimming in the ocean, but after a hot day I couldn't resist.
One thing we were sad that we missed was eating at Il Pirata delle Cinque Terre. It was a Rick suggestion, and we went up there but it was still a week shy of opening after the mudslide. We got to meet the owners (who are also twins) and they were very friendly and funny, and told us all about the storm. I wish we had gotten to spend a lunchtime with them.
- no cars
- easy to get around, trains connect all 5 towns
- good sea food (even anchovies!!)
- easy and inexpensive transportation between towns
- great hiking and walks
- easy to communicate
- old men who like soccer
- mudslide, boooo
- steps everywhere (probably should say this is a yay too because we came back in better shape)
- have to pay for Internet
- go swimming lots, our favorite place to swim was Manarola!
- eat at the pirate place
- eat pesto, this region is the birthplace of it
- Find and try the tegame alla Vernazza. It's anchovies, tomatoes and potatoes baked (surprisingly delicious) most restaurants in Vernazza have it
- if you're going to hike, buy a CT card. You had to have it for entrance to the trails, costs about 5€
- Stay in Vernazza, or better yet don't stay in Monterosso it was the most crowded, expensive and touristy (probably because it was the flattest and least amount of steps)