Tag Archives: cinque terre

Making our way to Tuscany!

Today we woke up around 8 and had breakfast at our hotel.  We met Greg and Erin at 10:20 outside their hotel and we made our way to the train station. We were on a mission to make it to our villa in Tuscany. We took the 11:07 train from Monterosso to Pisa. Then from there we had to find the airport shuttle to pick up our rental car. It was tricky finding the airport shuttle because we thought it was a bus outside the train station, when really it was a train. If you’re looking for the airport shuttle in the Pisa train station just keep following the signs for “airport” and you buy your ticket right outside the train/shuttle. It’s very easy once you find it. Once we found the train it was super fast and we were able to get the rental van and make our way to Montaione to pick up the keys to the villa. The drive was pretty easy and the country was so beautiful! We also got stuck in the middle of a weird old/fancy car race. It was awkward because people were on the side of the road waiting for the cars and here we were just some Americans in a van. It was cool though!

Cool cars in a parade thing
Our van.

It took about an hour to get to Montaione so by now we were running a bit late because another group was already almost to the villa; it was after 2 pm. Montaione was a weird small town, very quiet. It had a fantastic view of the country side by where we parked though. It was also very chilly here compared to the Cinque Terre; it almost felt like fall. It took a bit to find the hotel where the woman was waiting to give us the keys.

We followed the woman to the villa and she drove like a maniac! She was literally leaving us in her dust. We were driving so fast to keep up with her and the roads were gravel and curvy. We were expecting to see Julie and Alyssa’s group at our villa but we saw them on our way there waiting outside a different villa that they thought was ours. We had no idea where we were going so we called them and told them to wait there until we knew.

She drove crazy!

When we got to the villa it was about a 5 minute drive from where we saw the other group. Greg had me and Don go on a mission to go get the other group. I was pumped to drive in Italy! We found the other group and had them follow us to the real villa.

Our villa is called Villa Le Cascine and it looks awesome!! I couldn’t believe how beautiful everything around us was. The house is huge and amazing. The pool is also awesome. Once we got settled in there was another group who was in need of help so Don, the navigator, and Julie the driver went to go find the next group. They also were able to stop by a grocery store. I stayed behind. My throat was really starting to hurt which was really concerning because I had just had strep the week before coming to Italy and I had just finished my antibiotics. I’m so worried I’m getting sick again! It’s a pretty extreme pain but I don’t want to be a downer and I’m in Italy. Luckily for me, Dave (Mel’s husband), had little bottles of Jack Daniels and he shared some with me and after 2 my throat felt great! So I hung out by the pool to drink some whisky and get to know everyone while Don rescued lost people and got groceries. Let’s just say, I felt pretty much 100% better by the time he got back.

We made our own dinner tonight, but for the remainder of our stay here we will have chefs coming to cook. The villa had a little gift of pasta and sauce so we made that and also had some bread and wine of course! It was getting dark and we were still waiting on Jim and Doreen to arrive at the villa. They had been driving for awhile and Don had been in contact with Doreen to try to figure out where they were. They got to a point where they were lost and Don knew where they were so it was rescue mission #3 time! I drove, Don navigated, and Alyssa came with us to bring Jim and Doreen to the villa. It was kind of scary driving because it was pitch black, but the mission was successful.

Here’s some pictures of the place.

Our room. None of he windows had screens, pretty cool!
Awesome pool!
Common area

Can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings!

Here’s a bonus video of Greg driving.

Last Day In The Cinque Terre

Well today I woke up and felt pretty rough. We got up and got out to eat breakfast around 9. We decided to try a restaurant instead of our hotel. It was pretty good and it was called Fast Bar. It was basically a diner.

Fast Bar-Great for breakfast!

You could get your pretty standard breakfast here so I had bacon, eggs and toast. Then I couldn’t decide if I wanted soda or a coffee so I got both a coke and a cappuccino. It was a good combo because I quickly started to feel better.

It started raining after breakfast but it quickly stopped. We wanted to take a boat tour or do the water taxi but since the water was rough they had canceled all of the boats. We decided to take the train to the first town, Riomaggiore, because we had not been there yet. Riomaggiore was very beautiful. It was also very quiet, probably because the rain had kept many tour groups away. We walked around the town and took pictures. We also had a snack here of fried anchovies, fish, and octopus. Riomaggiore was very nice; every town has it’s own charm it’s hard to pick my favorite!

I really wanted to go back to Manarola and today was our last day so we decided to go.  There was a restaurant in Manarola that I had read about called Nessun Dorma that I really wanted to try so we went there for lunch. The restaurant is high up along the water on the North side of Manarola, so the views of the town were amazing. I had a really good strawberry daiquiri and Don had a pina colada. For my meal I had a sandwich and Don had a salad. I am not sure if the dinner menu is larger or larger portions but I would say if not then this place is better for a light lunch. Everything was very good and I would definitely go back.

Amazing view of Manarola from Nessun Dorma

After lunch I was so tired it was crazy. I felt like I was just going to fall asleep standing up. All I wanted to do was sleep. We were trying to figure out what to do and Greg had texted us about a wine walk in Manarola so we decided to try it out. It was kind of hard to find where the wine walk started and we were also confused because we though it was a guided tour. But if you follow the main street into the town it will curve around and just before you get to the church you will see a wine bar and if you look up you will see a path above you that you can take stairs to. The wine walk is basically a little trail that goes along the top of the town. There is an area you can climb stairs to get a panoramic view which includes a view of Corniglia. If you have Rick Steve’s book on the Cinque Terre he gives details about this trail and how to get there. We were lucky enough to find it without the book and I also got  a second wind on the hike. The views were amazing. At one point on the hike we were above the restaurant where we ate for lunch. We rested there for a bit looking down at the restaurant and we saw a marriage proposal happen! It was exciting to see everyone react to it.

On the wine walk
The crazy, scary stairs on the way up to the panoramic view.

After the walk we decided to have a glass of wine at the wine bar near the entrance of the walk. It was a cool place, very chill and relaxed. The owner even brought us some bread and cheese. I wish I could remember the name of this place but you will see it if you’re in Manarola headed towards the church.

After the wine we headed back to the train for our final night in Monterosso. We decided to have dinner with Greg and Erin. We ate at a pizza place that was recommended by the guy at Greg’s hotel. I believe it was called Ristorante Pizzeria Da Ely. We were able to sit outside and we each had our own personal pizza. It was delicious!! I really enjoyed this place. After dinner we went to find some gelato and then we went back to hotel so we could pack and get ready to go to the villa in Tuscany!

Cinque Terre-Corniglia to Vernazza.

Today we had breakfast at our hotel, Hotel Souvenir. The breakfast was ok but nothing like what we had at Hotel iQ Roma!

After breakfast we took the train to the town of Corniglia. We wanted to do a trail between two of the towns but many of the trails between the towns were closed. The one between Corniglia and Vernazza was open and it seemed to be a good trail for us. Originally I had not planned or wanted to see Corniglia because it was very high up and required climbing about 300 steps. This did not sound appealing but we did it. When we first got up to the town it did not seem that impressive, especially compared to Manarola, but it was cute.

Me not wanting to climb the stairs.

But the views were awesome.

We walked around a bit and got some focaccia for a snack. Then we decided to do the walk to Vernazza. The walk at first was pretty hard because a lot of it was up steps. It was also a bit crowded at times. We made a lot of stops to take pictures and look at the scenery. There were really cool views of Corniglia from the trail. It was much prettier to look at from afar.

At one point we met a Giants fan and we talked about the Cubs. She also told us we were getting close and the rest of the walk was easier for us because it was downhill. We made it to a cafe the woman told us about and I got an iced coffee and Don had a lemon slushy. The views from here were beautiful and we were so happy we had completed the trail!

After our drinks were finished we went outside and were a bit confused because after walking more we were not seeing Vernazza. Don looked at his map and come to find out we were only half way! We had already been on this trail for an hour! The entire trail was just over 2 miles and should take about an hour haha. But we had more to go. It wasn’t that the trail was hard we just were taking our time and taking in the scenery. This did not make me very happy because I was getting hungry. Luckily the rest of the walk was downhill.

Once we got to Vernazza it was very busy, but pretty. We took a lot of pictures and decided to have lunch near the water at Ristorante Belforte. Their kitchen was closing soon for the afternoon so we ordered quickly. We tried some more anchovies that were prepared differently: fried, salted, and with lemon. I had a spaghetti with meat sauce and Don had pasta with mussels. We both enjoyed our meal a lot.

After lunch we took the train back to Monterosso. After a small nap we heard from Greg that him and his friend Erin had arrived in Monterosso.  We decided to meet up for drinks on the rooftop of their hotel. They were staying at Albergo Stella della Marina and it looked very nice. We had some wine and an appetizer at Enoteca Internazionale. This place was closer to our hotel but I had a recommendation for it and it looked so cute! We had a meat and cheese plate and it was delicious. Why is food so good here?!

We needed some real dinner though and Greg’s hotel guy had recommended a few places so we tried out Trattoria II Piccolo Diavolo. It didn’t look that great but the food was awesome! I really enjoyed my food. I had a pasta with red sauce and a pesto sauce; it was amazing! Don again had the mussel pasta and he said it was better than the one he had at lunch.

After dinner we continued drinking and went to a bar called Enoteca Da Eliseo. It was very fun and our waitress was awesome. We had a variety of drinks here, which resulted in us probably drinking too much. Pretty awesome day here in the Cinque Terre.


Italy-Day 3-Cinque Terre

Today we had to wake up super early because we had an early train to catch to go to Cinque Terre. Our train left Roma Termini at 6:50 am. It was sad to leave our hotel in Rome so soon because we really liked it, but we were excited to see what the Cinque Terre was like. The Cinque Terre is made up of villages on the coast. The towns are built into hillsides so it’s very rugged and steep. The five villages are: Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, and Monterosso. The Cinque Terre is an unique experience because there is a train line that runs between the 5 towns, there are hiking trails between each town, and there are boats you can also use to town hop. So it’s very common for people to try to experience each village. Most of the villages do not have cars either so that is cool. I really wanted to stay in Manarola because from pictures it seemed the most beautiful to me, but most of the hotels were booked. We ended up staying in Monterosso, which was probably the best situation because out of all of the towns it is the most flat, so we didn’t have to trudge our luggage up too many crazy stairs.

I had purchased our train tickets online previously so they were fairly cheap; I think they were about $40 for the two of us. The train went from Rome to La Spezia, the biggest town just South of the Cinque Terre. Once it got to La Spezia we would have to switch to the train that went to the five towns of the Cinque Terre. We picked up sandwiches and coffee from a shop inside Roma Termini and got on our train. It was very nice. I wish the U.S. had a train system like Italy. We both had windows seats because we sat across from each other with a table in between us. It was really cool to see the country side. As we got closer to La Spezia the train got way more crowded. Switching to the train to Monterosso was pretty easy, it’s crazy how easy and convenient the trains are here.

Once we arrived in Monterosso it was very crowded. Right when you get out of the train station you are on the boardwalk for the beach. There were people every where, it was crazy. I think we were both surprised at how crowded it was and we both questioned if this was going to the nice quaint place we had hoped for.  It was only around noon when we got there so after walking from the train, which was about 10 minutes, we found a restaurant for lunch. We ate at Ristorante il Moretto. We had a nice salad to start and then we both had pasta. I had spaghetti; first spaghetti in Italy! It was very good. Don had pasta with seafood I believe and he really enjoyed it also. We sat near an older man who went to UIUC and knew exactly where Champaign-Urbana was so that was funny. He started talking to us because I was wearing a Cubs shirt. I also saw my first cat here!

Sleepy cat in the restaurant.

After eating we went looking for our hotel, it was just a short walk from the restaurant and we were able to check in. The room and bathroom are very small but it is nice enough. We are staying at Hotel Souvenir. The outside patio is very nice here.

Once we got settled in we decided we should explore Monterosso a bit. So we walked around and then went down by the water. We felt the water and it was pretty cold, but also the beach was all pebbles so it was hard to walk on. We decided to get some ice cream and cappuccino. The place we got ice cream at was called Nuovo Eden, we chose it because it had a really nice outdoor seating area. It was pretty good. While we were here we decided that we should check out Manarola tonight.

We took the train to Manarola which is the second village in the Cinque Terre. It was also the place I wanted to stay for our time here. It was absolutely beautiful. So picturesque and quiet. We did figure out that by late afternoon all the day trippers and tour groups had left the villages so it was much less crowded.

I had done a lot of research on Manarola so I had a restaurant in mind called, Trattoria dal Billy. It was a hike to get up to it, Manarola is a lot more steep than Monterosso, but it was definitely worth it! We got seated outside on one of the balconies with a nice view of the sunset. We decided to try anchovies here because that is one of the foods of the Cinque Terre. I was pretty hesitant because they came as full little fish on a plate with olive oil and lemon seasoning. It was intimidating but I did it and they were good! Especially good on bread. I ordered the pasta with pesto because the Cinque Terre is known as the birthplace of pesto. It was delicious! Don had calamari and shrimp. We basically ended up sharing everything and it was delicious. We both loved this place and we also had our first wine in Italy here!

After dinner we walked around more. I found another cat on a rooftop behind the church. Don tried to take a picture of it and had his flash on and it totally disturbed a couple making out on the other side of the rooftop. We couldn’t stop laughing!

We walked down by the water and found another one of the restaurants that I wanted to try, so we definitely have to come back to Manarola! It was so amazing. Here’s some night time pictures we took.

We had fun taking pictures on the way back to the train also. There was a long tunnel with some weird art and writings.