Europe // Italy Part IV (Cinque Terre)

Oh sweet, beautiful, unreal Cinque Terre. Yes, Germany was wonderful. Yes, Austria was pretty. Yes, Venice and Florence were so great. But Cinque Terre… there are no words.

I originally wanted to go to the Amalfi Coast but the way we were traveling, Kevin found Cinque Terre and said it made more sense to do a few days here. One Google image search later, and I was ready to fly there immediately.

Cinque Terre literally means five towns and we stayed in Riomaggiore, the southern most town. I’m not quite sure why we picked this one, but I think I remember reading a lot of reviews and thinking this looked the prettiest.

I’m so glad we made Cinque Terre a part of our Italy trip. If you are anywhere near this area, you must incorporate it into your vacation. You must!

So we left Florence early in the morning and two train rides later (we had to connect in La Spezia), we were meeting our AirBnB host at the Riomaggiore train station. I really failed at taking pictures of our apartment, but you can see the listing of where we stayed here.

Our room was the perfect size and had a great balcony overlooking the Italian Riviera coastline. We basically dropped off our luggage, did a bit of laundry in the sink and ventured back down to the main street.

Riomaggiore is built on the sea cliff so there are a ton of hills. Wear your walking shoes!

We also noticed it’s really easy to get lost in these towns so we always tried to remember things like, “turn left at the purple house” to get back to our apartment. The below photo is literally me walking up to our apartment…

We walked around for a bit and decided it was time to eat so we grabbed a late lunch at A Pie’ de Ma’, right along the sea.

Riomaggiore is known for its crisp white wine so we had PLENTY of that.

We shared a cheese plate…

And literally the best panini we’ve ever had…

I mean… can we look at this view?

And this one? This is someone’s house. Somebody gets to live here.

Basically, all we did in Riomaggiore was walk around, drink wine, eat delicious food, sit on the rocks and take photos.

Once I discovered you could get a bottle of wine and sit with your feet in the Ligurian Sea, I realized I was in actual heaven.

We watched the sun set and found ourself walking back up the main road to find dinner. Most every place was packed but while we were waiting to get seated at IL Grottino, we met a really sweet couple from Oklahoma City. We hit it off with them once we found out the girl’s grandparents live in Kirkwood – small world!

The four of us got to chatting, exchanged numbers and planned to hike the next day together.

Oh and dinner was fine. I got pesto pasta and Kevin got fish – both were okay, but nothing to write home about.

We ended the night on our balcony – perfect first day in Cinque Terre!

Our second day was basically just like the first, except we threw a little hike in. And by little, I mean intense and rigorous.

Cinque Terre is known for being able to hike between all five towns but the main path has been closed due to falling rocks, so the only way you can get between them is via train or by hiking the mountains itself. We chose to hike the mountain to Manarola (and ride the train back), but Kevin and I didn’t pack workout clothes. I’ll write another post about what we packed for this trip, but we essentially just brought a carry on and only two pairs of shoes. So we both hiked in real pants and our Tom’s…

Despite not having the right attire, the views were well worth it.

If you look down and to the right, you can see Manarola. Waaaay down there.

View from the top!

So here’s where we made it up to the top. All we had to do next was climb back down…

Here’s a look at the “path” we had to work with.

But like I said, totally worth the views. And I’m glad we got to check out one of the other towns!

In fact, as soon as we got down to Manarola, we found pizza and wine for sustenance.

We explored Manarola for the afternoon and then caught the train back to Riomaggiore.

We went back to our apartment to freshen up and met back up with Jeff and Josie to sit on the rocks and watch the sunset again. All of us grabbed a bottle of wine each (obviously), and just relaxed. Literal perfection.

Jeff and Josie were so fun to spend the day with. It was a breath of fresh air to be able to talk to someone else who spoke English!

But back to this view…

It exists in real life…

Once the sun was down, we packed up our empty bottles and walked to find dinner. I can’t remember where we ate but again, it wasn’t that great. For some reason we weren’t too impressed with the food in Cinque Terre (except for the first place we ate!), but the views in this place made up for any of its faults.

‘Til next time Cinque Terre. I will be back again.

 

Europe // Italy Part III (Florence)

We spent our second full day in Florence not actually in Florence, but in the Tuscany region. Kevin knew going into this trip that he wanted to see the Tuscan countryside and I agreed it was probably pretty, but I was in awe at how beautiful this area really was.

When researching how to get out there, Kevin came across a tour company with really good reviews. We didn’t do many tours on our trip (only two the entire time), and instead saw the sights on our own free will, but I’d highly recommend Fun in Tuscany as the best way to visit this region.

We did the all-day Vespa tour and met our group in Florence early in the morning so they could take us out to Tuscany. Before we got on the freeway, our driver made a quick pit stop for our small group of five to see the amazing Piazzale Michelangelo. I mean, look at this view!

We drove about an hour outside of Florence and got to know our group pretty well. We were with three girls who were from Colorado but studying abroad in Prague. Our tour guide, Daniel, was hilarious and made the drive go by fast with his stories of growing up in Florence.

When we got to the winery, we had to take a test drive on the Vespas before we ventured out anywhere. I was planning on riding on the back of Kevin the whole time, but when I found out everyone else was driving, I figured I’d try to. Very long story short, I was told I wasn’t coordinated enough to drive one, so I had to ride on the back of Daniel (they don’t let first time drivers have anyone ride with them). Obviously I was pissy about that because 1. I don’t like being told no and 2. I am coordinated; I just don’t think they just didn’t let me go around enough! But whatever, I figured I should definitely not let that ruin my day. Kevin, however, thought me not being allowed to drive was the funniest thing ever.

I made myself feel better after realizing I’d look like this goofball if I actually drove one. 😉

So once we were on the Vespas, we rode up to San Gimignano, a beautiful medieval town from the third century. We stopped a few different times to take pictures of the countryside, and if you look closely in the below photo, you can see the town’s towers way up ahead.

There were vines of grapes everywhere, so we knew we were in wine country!

Okay so San Gimignano was an unexpected surprise. The town is tiny, old and completely perfect.

There is one main road – the Via Francigena – which is an ancient road that goes from France to Rome. It was apparently the road Catholics used on their pilgrimage to get to the Vatican. Daniel took us around and explained various buildings, towers and architecture.

As I did with every place we visited on this trip, I picked out my retirement home. So in 35 years, you can find me residing here…

Daniel made sure we all stopped at Gelateria Dondoli, which was named the “world’s best gelato” in the annual Gelato World Cup and I will say it was hands down, the best gelato I had in all of Italy.

Before we left San Gimignano and got back on our Vespas, we took a few more photos of this view. Un.Real.

The wine portion of our trip was after driving Vespas (smart). We visited Torciano Winery, a family-owned winery since 1720. The 15th generation Giachi family now operates the winery and our guide was one of the great-great-great (x infinity) granddaughters.

We tasted 11 wines and despite the spit buckets and rapid pace at which they poured different wines, we chugged ’em all like classy Americans do.

The wines were paired with a four-course lunch, which was good but actually nothing too memorable. But… maybe that was the wine’s fault?

We wrapped up the day with a parting toast of sparking wine and photos outside the family’s estate. And yes, I realize I’m wearing basically the same outfit in every picture. #packedlight

We were nice and tipsy on our drive back to Florence. Daniel played some 2000s hip hop and was impressed with all of our car karaoke skills.

Once we were back to our hotel, we thought more wine was a good idea so we got a bottle and sat outside in the hotel’s backyard and played cards. Fun fact: Kevin and I have a Rummy game that we’ve been keeping score of since we met 10 years ago. We just add onto our score and I made up some serious ground in Italy. Think I may finally have broken 10,000 points!

Eventually we made our way out to the city for pizza. Restaurants in Italy usually charge for tap water (or bottled), so I decided we needed MORE wine since it was cheaper to buy wine than water. But I accidentally ordered a liter of wine (aka, more than a bottle) so we ended up buying bottled water so we could take the wine home with us in said water bottle since we couldn’t drink it all at dinner.

We’re verrrry classy.

I think we both crashed by 9 p.m.

Next up is my very favorite place in the world: Cinque Terre!