Thursday, September 27, 2012

Two Tickets to Paradise

Cinque Terre. Five towns. Paradise on Earth. The destination of my weekend.

Yeah... Well first I had to get there. After Rome I was really impressed with Italy's public transportation. Buses, the metro, trains. What more do you need? Well after this weekend my opinion might have changed a little bit. Trains are stressful...

So after meeting up at 6:30 and boarding our train at 7:00 in the morning we headed to our first destination, Pisa. We figured that everyone had to have picture with the leaning tower and it was on our way. Well I am here to tell you that Pisa is the ugliest city I have been to in Italy.  The main piazza has a statue of a fat guy in the middle. That pretty much sums up the feel of the city. I paid an extra 2.60 euro for a few pictures that didn't turn out so well. My advice: save your time and money and invest in photoshop.

Trying to get the perfect shot.

Couldn't get it, so we went for a jumping picture.

So after a two hour stop in Pisa we thought we were on the final leg of our journey to Riomaggiore. Rookie mistake. Our tickets told us that we had to get on a train going towards La Spezia and then get off at the first stop. So of course that is what we did. Well the first stop happened to be a totally abandoned train station in the ghetto of Pisa... It was super sketchy. We got there only to find out that we were supposed to get back on a different train to La Spezia. Really? Was changing necessary? Thus after a few moments of manic panic on my part we boarded our next train. At La Spezia we easily boarded our last train to Riomaggiore. We made it to Riomaggiore at about 1:30 in the afternoon. Let me tell you Riomaggiore (and all the other towns) is gorgeous! So many colored houses just hanging to the edge of a cliff right next to the very blue water.

After seven hours of no food and stressful travel we were all starving. Too starving to look for a quality restaurant. We just had some focaccia, which was good, but not as good as what was to come. After our quick lunch we checked into our "hotel." After walking up a bunch of stairs illuminated by a sketchy red light we reached our room. It was thankfully much nicer than expected. After checking in we headed out to explore Riomaggiore. 

Our first stop, the clock tower up on the hill. It turned out that the tower was completely open to the public. We were able to explore an old building and take in some incredible views. 

So I don't know if you can tell, but Riomaggiore is kind of gorgeous.

Basking in the beauty of the town.

After our jaunt up the tower we changed into our swimsuits and booked it to the beach. Let me just tell you that swimming in the Mediterranean was unlike anything else. The water is so much more salty than the Pacific. You could not sink if you tried. And the water is warm! As a Washingtonian I have no qualms swimming in 40 degree water, but here I didn't have to. It was so very wonderful. After swimming we laid on the beach for almost two hours and just relaxed. That was really the first real down time I have had in Italy to just sit and enjoy my surroundings. It was a little piece of the dolce vita I have been hoping for.

Look at that beach!

Could we have been any happier?

Our swim session was followed by one heck of a dinner. We headed to a restaurant right on the marina. 
The Cinque Terre are known for their pesto and after eating it I totally understand why. It is fabulous! The bread was also incredible. In Tuscany they don't put salt in their bread, but in the Cinque Terre they do. It was a nice change. However, dinner also had one very unfortunate event. I tried caffe d'orzo... It is roasted barley that Italians drink as a substitute for coffee. My advice: NEVER drink it. 

After dinner we headed to the marina to watch the sun set. It was maybe the most beautiful sunset I have ever seen. We had an impromptu photo shoot and just sat and talked. Then of course we went to get gelato. Is any night every really complete without gelato?

The next morning we woke up bright and early to get a head start on our long day of hiking. We also had the best breakfast at the best bakery in all of Italy. I had focaccia and a lemon torte. YUM! I love my life (even if my thighs don't). We ate breakfast at the marina and watched all of the fisherman leave for their day of work. It was SO cool!

Touting our focaccia in fro

And that, my dear friends, was breakfast (half-eaten).

Beautiful view of the harbor.

After breakfast we headed out on our hike to the other four towns. It was one heck of a hike. So many stairs!! The views were breathtaking, the towns colorful, the food wonderful, and the people sweaty. I really can't say anymore than that. It was a day of blissful contentment, too perfect for words. So I'll let the pictures do the talking.

We left our mark on the Via Dell'Amore

The lovers.


Main Street of Manarola

The view looking back at Manarola.

The view from the trail.

A quick photo stop.


I was brave and tried seafood.

I liked it!

Another view of Vernazza.


Rocking the head scarfs we bought along the way.

So... I'm thinking I'll be back for my honeymoon. Guess I'll have to marry rich!

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