11 June 2012

Cinque Terre, Italy

I've had a little obsession with Italy ever since my Mum's friend kept talking about Italy, she was doing Italian language classes, they were making pasta and she travelled to Italy. It sparked a love inside of me. A love for somewhere I had never travelled to before. I bought myself an Italian phrasebook and started learning the numbers and a few key phrases and I fell in love with Italian food - really, what's not to love about pizza, pasta and pastries? I had dreams of travelling there and experiencing the Italian way of life. It wasn't until last year that I finally set foot into the country that I had fallen in love with, when we went and stayed near Lake Como with some friends. Then we went to Torino with Roy's sister and her friend and touched foot into the country when we drove over the Grand Saint-Bernard pass one summer afternoon.

A couple of weekends ago, Roy took me to Italy for my birthday. We're so lucky to live somewhere that we can just jump in the car and drive to a different country on the weekends. It was a three day weekend for Roy which meant we could spend two nights somewhere and he could be back for work on the Tuesday. We'd been wanting to go to Cinque Terre ever since Roy saw a travel brochure about it in our letter box. The colours of the buildings and the thought of staying in a place that was right beside the Mediterranean Sea sounded so inviting. We didn't manage to get there last year for various reasons and it wasn't until we started counting the weekends that we had left before we return to Australia did we realise that we need take advantage of our fantastic opportunity to travel.

Last October that region of Italy was devastated by terrible storms and landslides. Farms and vineyards were destroyed and towns were buried in layers of mud, demolishing shops and restaurants in it's way. We kept our eyes on updates on the status of the towns and their ability to accomodate tourists during their clean up. The thought of damaged towns and a clean up process didn't put us off our travel but it did put us off going too early since it would have been difficult to get around since most of the walking paths were destroyed also.

We didn't have the best start to our road trip. I noticed one of our headlights wasn't working. We drove to the nearest petrol station, checked in the manual how to get the bulb out, bought a new one, put it in, tested it... nothing. Then we thought perhaps it might have been a fuse. We checked the manual again, bought some fuses, changed a few of them, tested it... nothing. We decided that since the sun doesn't go down until late and we wouldn't be driving at night that it would be safe to continue on our trip without a headlight.

We drove up the mountains and through the Grand Saint-Bernard tunnel, into Italy. We stopped for some petrol along the way and I previously didn't know this but they still have good old service at the service stations. An attendant came and filled up our car. He also noticed that our headlight wasn't working and proceeded to remove it. He didn't speak any english and we don't speak much italian so it was hard to explain to him that we had already tried to fix it. He then threw our brand new bulb in the rubbish bin. Finally we managed to explain to another attendant (in french) that we had tried to fix it and the bulb that he had thrown away was indeed brand new. The guy fished it out of the trash and fitted it back in and we were on our way again.

We drove to a town called Levanto and asked the tourist centre where we could park the car for two days. She drew a cross on a paper map and said that there is an unofficial parking area where we can leave the car for as long as we want for free. We drove to where the cross was on the map and arrived at a grassy lot that didn't look much like a car park. We decided to trust the lady and leave the little panda for the weekend. It was a short walk to the train station where we waited to catch the train to our destination - Vernazza.

Vernazza suffered the most damage during the landslides last year so there was a lot of shops and businesses that are still under construction but it was still a very beautiful town. It just so happened that we arrived on the day they were holding an award ceremony for the local police so the town was bustling with people.

The guesthouse that we stayed in was up lots of steps and it took us a little while to find it. We wandered through the narrow pedestrian streets and eventually we spotted the place. We were greeted by the owners sister who didn't speak a word of english but we managed to work out that we needed to wait for her brother to come and he would sort us out. We sat and soaked in the view. We had such a nice view out of our window.

We spent the afternoon wandering around Vernazza and enjoying the seaside way of life and eating gelati.

Dinner time came around and rather than eating at a restaurant we got some takeaway, a bottle of sparkling wine and sat up on our terrace and watched the sunset change the colours of the mediterranean. Beautiful!

The next morning we went to a restaurant up the hill that was recommended to us by the owner of our guesthouse. It wasn't that good of a breakfast (coffee, cake and orange juice) but it did have some spectacular views.

Part of the attraction of Cinque Terre is the many walking and hiking paths that wind up and through the hills. Roy planned out a nice day of hiking, kayaking, boat tripping, gelati eating and exploring. We set off on a hike to Monterosso.

We met some kitties along the way.

An old WWII Nazi Pillbox bunker.
We hired a kayak from the beach at Monterosso and followed some advice from the guy we hired it from. He told us to paddle around the nearest headland to 'zone A' where boats and fishing is banned. The water was cristal clear and so beautiful. After our paddle, we took a quick dip in the sea. We didn't last very long in there because it was quite cold but it was really nice to freshen up after a sweaty paddle on the kayaks. 

After our explore of the town we hopped on a boat which stops in four of the five towns. It doesn't stop at Corniglia because unlike the other towns, it sits high up on a cliff away from the sea. We got off the boat at the most southerly town - Riomaggiore and had a quick explore before we walked to the next town called Manarolo. Roy did some research before we came on our adventure and found that a lot of people recommended a gelateria. Both of us can never turn down a good, sweet thing so we indulged in our second gelati of the trip. Despite the rave reviews, it was fairly mediocre compared to the nice gelati we had in Vernazza. 


Via dell'amore between Riomaggiore and Manarolo.

Sfogliatelle - lobster tail pastry.


Dinner was eaten that night whilst watching the sun set again. It was beautiful!

Enjoying a prosecco and limoncino.
Even though it was only two nights, the fact that we didn't have wifi distracting us and the bustle of everyday life weighing us down, it felt like we were there for ages. It was such a nice break. We were lucky enough to see dolphins during our boat trip, eat FANTASTIC food, see AMAZING views and get a taste of the relaxed lifestyle by the sea. Such a great place to visit!

1 comment:

  1. Those views are gorgeous!!!! I thought of you befriending the Croatian cats when I saw the kitty pictures :-)