After soaking up art history in Siena and spending a night in the hilltop town of Pietrasanta, my family and I headed for the coast. Specifically, the famous cluster of villages called Cinque Terre, or 'Five Villages.' I had high expectations for this place, as I'd seen photos of it used as screensavers and thought it was fake. Let me assure you, Cinque Terre is real, just as shockingly beautiful as you would hope, and I got my new screensaver.
The drive down to the town of Monterosso al Mare is frightening. Think hairpin turns, switchbacks and speeding vespas. Oh, and cliffs that drop off into the ocean. Luckily(?) we drove behind a produce truck that honked every single time it was approaching a sharp bend to give oncoming cars a moment's notice. You can barely call these 'roads' roads, they're more like widened sidewalks with justenoughroom to squeeze by oncoming traffic. Oh, and Vespa/motorcycle drivers? Nuts. If anything, they speed up and pass you going around a corner. Might as well live on the edge if you live in this paradise, right?
The public beach. Lots of speedos.
This water. I mean .... come on.
I admit, I was hoping to see some Shark Week action here. Sorry (not sorry)! Lots of little vineyards of olive trees, fig trees dot the landscape.
In order to get the screensaver-worthy shots we had hoped for, my family and I did a 2.5 hour, harder-than-it-looked hike from the town of Monterosso al Mare to Vernazza. It was entirely worth it.
The hiking trail is much like the backcountry roads of Italy. Narrow, no lane markers, no guard rails, and traffic in both directions. There are a few nooks/crawlspaces off to the side should someone else need to pass you ... so my sister and I coined the term "NOOK YOURSELF!!" to warn of oncoming foot traffic.
On another note, people live on the side of these cliffs. Here's someone (very thin)'s front door.
When you least expect it, the trail opens up and gives you a killer view of Vernazza. This town got it right: everyone paint their house a bold color, hang your brightly-colored laundry out to dry outside it, and make sure your shutters are stunners, too. Nice work, Vernazza!
The outdoor cafes and their mismatched bold umbrellas? Perfect.
The train station on the left will take you between all the five towns if you don't feel like hiking. I recommend the hike.
Special shoutout to my lovely friend Lauren Ann Johnson who told me to do it. Thanks Lauren!!
I love the little cherub clinging on to the cross of this church.
The major hub was the inlet with those bright umbrellas. My family and I located some beers and--finally--the pizza we'd been looking for. Turns out using focaccia as the dough, real Italian tomatoes, mozzerella and oregano really does the trick. Here's the view of the inlet.
After lunch, we found a cave (no joke) underneath the hillside that people were ducking through. It takes you to the other side of the bay -- a prime location for quiet sunbathing, beach glass scouting and relaxing.
Beautiful rocks to perch on.
After three blissful days and countless gelatos, it was time to close the door on Cinque Terre and head back to the U.S. I will never forget this place, these colors, that food, the people, the culture. Grazie Italia, tornerò a visitare quando posso permettermelo.
All the photos above (and more of Italy) can be viewed and purchased here.
Thanks for reading my blog, whoever you are!
Adventuuuuuurrrre is out there! Looking forward to the next one.