Remember Easter? That holiday we celebrated nearly three weeks ago? You know, the last time I wrote a blog post…
Well, in Switzerland, we got two public holidays (Friday & Monday) for Easter, which made it a delightfully long weekend. My dad & his wife came to visit, so I took an additional two days to have nearly a week with them. Upon arrival in Vevey, they came to see the Nestle office (and to buy chocolate, of course).
Vevey is lovely, but I have an unwritten rule that I don’t like to use my vacation days to stay in town. So, the next morning, we headed out to begin a 4-day Italian roadtrip. With such crummy weather in Vevey, we left in search of the sun!
We were headed for Cinque Terre – a series of five small villages along the Mediterranean coast. On the way, we stopped in Casale Monferrato for lunch. I love that nearly every Italian town is adorable.
I visited Cinque Terre over a weekend in the summer of 2003 while I was studying French in Dijon, France. I remember it’s beauty and it’s delicious food. I knew my dad would enjoy the challenge of the coastal hike, so it was the lead contender when we decided we wanted to take a roadtrip. While it was still early in the season, the sun was shining bright! It wasn’t warm enough to fully enjoy the beach, but the mild temperatures made the hike much more bearable. Plus, there were fewer tourists.
We stayed in Monterosso Al Mare, because you can drive cars into that town to park. I can’t remember exactly, but I’d say it took less than an hour before breaking down and having our first gelato…
We had dinner at Ristorante Belvedere the first night (and again the second night, because it was so good). We heard about a seafood stew we needed to try. It was one of the wildest things I’ve ever been served! They put a huge bowl on the table, then they came out with a large pot. They carefully poured out the broth and then the most surprising thing happened…an entire squid, an entire lobster, several large shrimp, many mussels, and several large portions of fish followed!!
[I love the curiosity of the women at the table next to us!]
It was incredibly delicious! We ordered some pasta, too, since we weren’t aware how huge the stew would be. My black & white pasta was one of the best things I’ve ever eaten! (It was why we went back for a second night.) Each spaghetti noodle was half white and half black. Amazing! All of the mussels were just a bonus!
After such a delicious meal, our trip was off to a good start!
The next morning we embarked on “the hike.” There is a coastal hike that runs between the five cities. Unfortunately, due to landslides, flooding, etc., portions of the path are closed. We knew we would only be able to hike from our city to Vernazza and then to Corniglia. There is an option to go “up and over” to make it to the final two cities, but it takes much longer, so we planned to take the train to the remaining cities and then a boat ride all the way back to the beginning. It was physically exhausting, but oh-so-beautiful! I will let the pictures do the talking. I know there are too many, but it’s hard to filter when there are so many beautiful ones! You’ll spy gelato a few times, because the rule was we were allowed to have it in each city.
[View of Monterosso Al Mare as we started out on the hike]
[Took this picture to attempt to showcase the path we were hiking]
[A final glimpse of our original city before it disappeared]
[Lilies in the wild on Easter weekend was just perfect!]
[The first peak of Vernazza – city #2]
[How lovely to have musicians playing on the path as we approached the next town]
[So many stairs]
[First view of Corniglia, city #3]
[Looking over the edge of the cliff]
[Apparently, Corniglia grows lemons the size of your head!]
[Corniglia also has the best gelato. The honey flavor was AMAZING!]
When we got down to the train station, we had to wait about 40 minutes for the next train. That’s when we decided not to stop in Manarola (city #4), but to take the train straight through to Riomaggiore (city #5).
From Riomaggiore, we caught the boat back to Monterosso Al Mare. It was crazy to see how far we hiked. (About 4 miles, according to a Google search.)
[Monterosso Al Mare]
Since I’ve been to Cinque Terre before, I wanted to make sure we visited somewhere else that was new to me (and my visitors). One of my friends who lives in Italy LOVES Siena, so I added it to our roadtrip. I lost my joy a little bit during the drive – first when trying to get out of Monterosso Al Mare toward Siena…and then when trying to park the car in Siena. Thankfully, Siena was beautiful enough to forget about my issues in the car.
I wish we could have spent more time in this charming city. We visited the Duomo, which was really spectacular.
We roamed through the windy streets ooh-ing and aah-ing at the shop windows and general adorable-ness. We were aiming to have lunch in Il Campo. Rick Steves thinks it’s the best square in Italy. I LOVED it. So beautiful, and it’s true – people treat it as if they’re at the beach. Bodies are lying everywhere on the square.
After gelato (of course), we drove up to Florence. You may remember that I was in Florence this time last year celebrating my Barnacle’s 30th birthday. While Garmin failed in the final moments of winding through the city centre, once out of the car, I was much more familiar with where we were going. I love visiting new places, but there’s something neat about becoming familiar with a city. We stayed less than a block from the Duomo. They had a hard time choosing which Duomo they preferred.
We met two of my friends for dinner. One of them lives in Florence, and the other lives in Rome. It was so fun to catch up with them over a lovely meal at Il Santo Bevitore.
Our final day in Italy included several fun things…
[Buying a new purse at the leather market]
[Visiting Michelangelo’s ‘David’ at the Accademia Gallery]
[Buying olive oil and amazingly delicious balsamic vinegar from the sweetest Italian man]
[Walking by the Uffizi Gallery & surrounding piazzas]
[Visiting Ponte Vecchio]
[Having a snack on a rooftop terrace overlooking the Duomo…just as it started to rain]
Unfortunately, we drove home most of the way in the rain. But, we lucked out with 3.5 beautifully sunny days during our Italian roadtrip! Can’t complain about the little bit of rain!
It was so fun to show off some places I’ve visited before and to explore a new one together. Italy never disappoints – there’s just too much character and too much delicious food not to love it!