Ciao from Italy!

3:46 AM Manda Manning 1 Comments

Manda and I were so anxious to arrive here in Cinque Terre based off the pictures and research we had done. I can say it has completely lived up to my expectations. It was exactly what I was wanting - an Italian coastal escape. 

Lets begin with the food again, shall we? The Italian cuisine we have been spoiled with the past three days has been unreal. We have witnessed fishermen bringing in the fresh catches of the day to the restaurants in Cinque Terre, thats how fresh it is! One of our favorite dining experiences was in Manarola. We had a caprese salad to begin, which is already one of my all time favorites, but of course in Italy they are the best of the best. The caprese salads are served with a bottle of balsamic and olive oil so you can add to taste, I think the juicier the better, so it works for me. After the caprese, we went for the "choose your pasta" and "choose your sauce". We chose spaghetti and pesto, and it was life changing. The service was very nice, and we actually got an invite by our server to his friends party that night. Regrettably we had to turn the offer down, but how fun does partying with Italians sound! Another favorite was the seafood cone in Vernazza. We found this in a small shop where they offered fried seafood such as calamari, muscles, anchovies, and two other options that I couldn't make out what they might be. We chose a combination of calamari, anchovies (Yes, anchovies! They are actually a local specialty in Cinque Terre), and mussels in your cone and it is served with a couple lemon slices. 

On our second evening, as Leo (our van driver) drove us up the mountain to our cozy hostel, Manda and I sat in the front of the van with the windows down and watched as the sun melted into the green mountains. Leo give us his iPod to play music, we turned up the volume and soaked in the moment. I closed my eyes and could feel chill bumps as I thought about how important this moment was. This is why we came to Europe, for this feeling. We came here to get lost in ourselves, to feel and love, to appreciate life and these countries, to experience the culture. Having felt numb for so long, right now I am truly feeling and living in this moment. 

One of the perks of staying in a hostel is the ease of meeting people. We stayed in a small hostel in Cinque Terre that held up to sixteen people and was ran by only three people. We were there for three nights so we met a couple different waves of people. The good thing about meeting people in hostels is that they are all there for the same reason - to explore the best parts of that particular city. Manda has been making a point to gather recommendations from fellow travelers for the next cities on our trip so that we can make sure to hit all the best spots and experience the best the cities have to offer. 

As we make our way into our second week of traveling, it is beginning to feel a lot less stressful and a lot more exciting. Hitting seven cities in three weeks requires many hours of travel time, many plane rides, an uncountable amount of train rides, lots of bus rides, and of course metro rides. With that much traveling, you also have to figure out your way around each city, whether it be the metro system, water bus, or shuttles. After this first week of traveling, I have learned that the sprints through airports and train stations with our huge backpacks on is worth it for the experiences gained in these beautiful countries.


Cinque Terre - ah, where to begin. As Leah mentioned, we had been looking forward to this part of the trip for the views and the hostel, and neither disappointed. When we arrived in Monterosso, we were immediately greeted by Leo, the shuttle bus driver who works at the 5 Terre Backpackers Hostel. During the ride, we chatted with the three other girls, two Australians and one Brit, who had also arrived that day. The drive up to the hostel winds along the cliffs overlooking Monterosso. It's about a thirty minute ride, but the roads keep you plenty entertained. Francesco, the charming young Italian man who owns the hostel and has made an outstanding reputation for himself and his hostel, was there to meet us and show us our room. This was our first hostel experience and I think we were utterly spoiled. We had reserved a private room which was quite spacious and impeccably clean with a window that faced the foggy hills. The public (wi-fi) area was a veranda with comfy lounge seating and an incredible view. 

That night Francesco made mushroom risotto and tiramisu for everyone. It was a very intimate setting where everyone had the opportunity to introduce themselves, share their travel plans, where they're from, etc. A few of our favorites were Tian Eu (from Malaysia, studying abroad for his masters in engineering) and Chris and Kevin (from Canada and D.C. - Chris was studying abroad for a semester in Germany and Kevin was traveling with him for a couple of weeks). 

The next morning we hiked from Monterosso to Vernazza to Corniglia. Both paths were quite challenging as they went straight up and straight back down and all together took about three hours or so. The trail was etched into the sides of the cliffs along the coast, so the views were absolutely spectacular and quite literally breathtaking. There was a pleasant breeze that came off the water and kept us cool while we were working up a sweat. It was interesting to hear the variety of languages of the other hikers on the trails - it felt like a true cultural melting pot, joining together to share a universally enjoyable experience. 

The undertaking was rewarding, as I usually find activities like these, not only because you feel a real sense of accomplishment when you reach the peak, but also because the experience was shared with my best friend by my side. We were a sweaty, exhausted mess by the the end of it, but we will never forget the sight of the sparkling, deep teal water against the green, rocky hills and the colorful villages tucked in between - like something from a painting come to life before our eyes.

We stopped in Vernazza and enjoyed a cappuccino and snack while taking in the surroundings of fishermen docking their boats in the tiny harbor and unloading their catch of the day. When we made it to Corniglia, our first stop was for this basil and olive oil drizzled gelato we had heard about. It was my favorite gelato I've had yet. We found a path of stairs that led down to the water where we climbed the large rocks that made up the beach. We considered swimming, but we had to make a train back to Monterosso to catch our shuttle bus. Francesco made the most delightful pasta dish I've ever tasted for dinner that evening - fresh, handmade pasta stuffed with spinach and ricotta cheese with a butter cream and sage sauce. I'm still dreaming of that dish...

The following day we decided to take it easy and train hop between villages. We started in Vernazza, which was our favorite of the five towns, and sat on the rocks by the harbor. We found a "seafood cone" (as we called it) to eat and also shared a focaccia pesto pizza before setting off to Manarola. We strolled a trail along the coast that faced the village and wrapped around the cliff to a peaceful spot over the bay. In Manarola, we shared the most delicious pesto pasta that was so fresh and rich we could've licked the plate clean. We were invited by our waiter to a big birthday party he was throwing that night, but again, we had to make it back to Monterosso. Somehow we still had room for another bottle of wine, seafood pasta and white wine and butter steamed mussels. We were too full to enjoy Francesco's dinner that night, but we made room for his dessert which was a dense yet moist cake with warm dark chocolate oozing from the center. We basically made ourselves sick off food that day. 

Our last day we took the ferry from Monterosso to Portovenere, the next town south of Cinque Terre. It stopped at all of the towns except for Corniglia, which is the only one without a harbor, so we were able to admire them all once again. Portovenere was a larger town with more medieval characteristics and a bigger harbor. The "Palazatta," or Fortress Houses, lined the dock and were very harmonious with the Linguarian color scheme of reds and yellows. We had lunch by the water (most pasta, pesto, mussels and caprese salad) and then walked up the narrow, shaded streets of via Capellini. We sat by the grand black and white church of San Pietro which provided a good vantage point for the rugged Cinque Terre coast and Palmaria Island across the way.

Now, we're publishing this post from Venice, which has already had its share of great fun and new friends. Stay tuned! Ciao!


The beach in Monterosso, the town where we stayed.

The beautiful views from our hike.

The food!

The views from our hostel.

A day in Portovenere. 

All the fisheye selfies. :D


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