So back in June we finally took a much-deserved break and went on vacation for a week. I had been looking forward to this trip for so long because ever since we moved to the Netherlands, I hadn’t had a real break — I wanted to get the hang of the new job, the new city and, of course, moving to a new country has also a financial impact (new apartment, whoop whoop!).
We decided on the dates and then looked for deals online. The winner?
Italy! One week in Cinque Terre & Tuscany. Hell to the yea!
Neither of us had been there before and thanks to great deal-finding skills, Chris found us a route.
* Spoiler alert: we wanted to chill, hardcore. So this is not a long post about the cultural and architectural wonders of Florence *
First stop: Pisa.
We flew to Pisa because it was the cheapest flight connection from Amsterdam, and located perfectly if you want to visit the region + Cinque Terre. But, of course, since we were there, we couldn’t help but check out the number one tourist attraction in the city?…
My thoughts on the Leaning Tower of Pisa:
- If the architects of this tower didn’t do such a bad job, the city wouldn’t even be on the traveler’s route… I mean, it is cute and all, but if you travel enough, you will have seen far more beautiful places. So one (or multiple) man’s fails, is a city’s win? 😉
- I had no clue that there’s a big church right next to it… (oops!)
3. The best part about going there is that you get to stare at the people leaning against the air, trying to snap a photo where they keep the tower from falling over them! (I saw a video of a guy who went around the tower high-fiving people who were posing… wish I would’ve seen it before going there, I think we might have done that, too!)
4. You are suddenly confronted with which type of tourist you are… do you give in to the cliché and take a pic with the tower, too? Label me a typical millennial, but I was curious on what my friends thought so I did an Instagram poll. The result? 50/50! (I had no idea it was such a divisive topic?! haha). I didn’t see it until hours later, since I had then an important choice to make — do I pose with the tower? and which pose?
We decided to take it up a notch, and be a little creative: so I went for the cuddly hug. Gotta show the country some love, right? 😉 Because, in the end, we’re only counting on going to Pisa this once, so might as well take the cheesy pic, laugh about all the weird poses we could think of, and then move on to the main point of this trip. Which brings me to…
Second stop: Cinque Terre!
What a beautiful, beautiful place! You, like me, must have seen hundreds of pictures of Cinque Terre on Instagram, especially of Manarola, the village we chose to make our “home” for the couple of days we spent there. But, let me tell you, it is so much more charming up close!
The cliffs create these cute little bays where the houses seem to simply have been juxtaposed all the way up the hill. They are simple, but colorful, which adds to the charm of the landscape. And, no matter where you look, there is blue — the skies and the water which has the most beautiful tone — along with the green of the mountains!
Our hotel was located almost at the top of the hill, which made for a bit of a hike each evening when returning, and the HARDEST mattresses (so I will spare you details on the hotel itself). I swear it felt like sleeping on the floor… BUT it was relatively quiet so we could enjoy the calm evening, and at a good price with friendly service.
We arrived in the afternoon and took the time to explore Manarola, have some food, and relax. There, I would recommend the very famous Nessun Dorma, which stands on the opposite hill from the town, and it is the perfect spot to watch the sun set over Manarola, with a nice cold drink.
We also had a delicious dinner at da Aristide, a restaurant that has a small gazebo in the middle of the street. But, I mean, the place is so small so that you’ll easily find what you’re looking for.
And speaking of food, a few things we learned in Italy:
- They bring you bread right at the beginning but don’t expect you to eat it before your meal?... and there may, or may not, be eye rolls as you dip your bread in olive oil
- Unless it’s a touristy spot (and even so), don’t expect to get a pizza at a trattoria or a nicer restaurant. Unlike the rest of the world, Italians don’t think pizza belongs with the rest of the dishes (somehow a downgrade for them to serve pizza)
- You’re gonna have to pay the coperto, which is basically their fee for letting you use their cutlery, dishes, and table. You’d think that’d be included in the overall price, huh? 😉
Alright, food side notes done. Let’s get back to the trip!
The next day was set for hiking and visiting all the five towns (Cinque Terre’s actual translation).
And speaking of service… as every tourist, we heard about the “Lovers Lane” or “Path of Love” (Via dell’Amore in Italian), a scenic walking route that takes you from town to town. What the internet forgets to mention is that this route has been closed for seven years, now!
Our receptionist, at the hotel:
“So the Lovers Lane has actually been closed for a while now… but you can take the longer trail through the mountains, it is beautiful.”
Us: “But we saw we could do it online?…”
Receptionist: “Yes, because you see… there was an incident a few years back with a landslide. No one died, but a couple of tourists were injured and, instead of fixing it, the government just decided to close it.”
Us: “Why? It seems so nice!”
Receptionist: “First of all, because we’re in Italy…” he stated as he gave us a knowledgeable wink.
Obviously, we made that our catch-phrase for the vacation!
Anyways, with the easy Lover’s Path closed, we mustered up some strength and took to the hike up the mountain!
FYI, if you plan on doing it: one of the trails will take several hours, making it impossible to view all five towns by foot in a day. We ended up combining the hike with the ferry and the train that connects them.
I would, regardless, recommend it. If anything, the view from the top of the mountain is even more beautiful than at the base. The steep mountains with vineyards and colorful flowers, the endless blue, and the fact that (at least in late May / early June) you have the place almost to yourself!
Totally worth feeling sweaty, burnt by the sun, and completely exhausted already halfway up.
It is just such a great way of spending a day enjoying nature, especially with someone else! We talked, laughed, sang (when we were on our own — and probably now my boyfriend is wondering why I am sharing this with the world?…), took tons of photos, and rested a few times.
After a three-hour hike, including a small break in Volastra (a hidden village in the mountain halfway between Manarola and Corniglia), we finally arrived in Corniglia. And, you guessed it, time for food again!
We explored the town a little as we looked for meal options, and came across so many cute alleyways, and even an old-school supermarket.
Food and break taken, we took the train from Corniglia to Vernazza as, unlike the other towns, Corniglia is not accessible by sea.
I loved Vernazza, and had de-li-cious ice cream there! However, by this time, it was the peak of the day, so the place was packed with people, which made it nearly impossible to take nice photos. But, you know what? At the end of the day it is not about the photos, but what you experience… (in my case the ice cream, the little break, the walk up the little castle tower that felt as long as the 3 hour hike before!), and the feeling of being up there, enjoying the view and the sunshine!
Finally, exhausted but still with enough time for one more town, we had to decide between Monterosso and Riomaggiore. In the end, we opted for taking the ferry from Vernazza to Riomaggiore, as this is one of the most iconic images of this area.
It was sooo nice to sit on that ferry with fresh wind, not moving, you guys! I am so out of shape, so I really appreciated that I could just sit at the end of the day without any more steps or steep hills.
We loved, loved, LOVED Cinque Terre and would definitely go back! It is the perfect place to disconnect from a busy lifestyle and just enjoy buying outdoors. (Never thought I’d say that, as I would very much describe myself as a city person… maybe I’m getting older and wiser? 😉 ).
If going again, perhaps I’d try staying in a couple of different spots, so that we could do the whole thing walking, with a bit more time. And definitely visit Monterrosso, the one town we didn’t have time for!
But alas, we were on a schedule and it was time for our next stop! What is it, you ask? Sleeping in a castle in Tuscany!
I will be sharing the 2nd part of the trip soon, but in the meantime, I’d love to hear: have you been to Cinque Terre? What was your favorite thing/place?
Until next time!