**WARNING** This post may contain picture overload.
My husband and I just returned from spending a few days in the beautiful, colorful string of villages on the Italian Riviera known as Cinque Terre. We decided we wanted to do something relaxing before school started and this place fit the bill: beautiful geography, lovely architecture, fantastic food, hiking, beaches, and great wine. My dad visited Cinque Terre a few years back and still talks about it, so we had to see what it was all about.
We based ourselves out of the southernmost village of the five, Riomaggiore. When we stepped off the train from Milan, we were instantly greeted with the stacks of colorful houses, blue water, boats, and the prettiest sunset. I knew then we were in for a treat.
The first order of business was to get our hands on some FOOD! I tried out this Riomaggiore pizza with shrimp, artichokes, spicy oil, and basil. My husband ordered gnocchi Bolognese.
Italian food is FLAWLESS. I mean it. I have never been somewhere that has so consistently exceeded my foodie expectations. EVERYTHING I ate there was good. Every. Single. Thing. Also, it was surprisingly affordable. 5 Euro pizzas and pastas were abundant and no less delicious than any of the more expensive meals.
After stuffing ourselves beyond capacity, we settled in for a good night’s rest before a long day of hiking the five villages.
We decided to hike from North to South since the trails from Riomaggiore to Corniglia are currently closed. We purchased all day hike and train passes for 16 Euro each and took the train up to Monterosso al Mare, about a 15 minute ride.
Since you can’t start a hike without a good breakfast, we stopped for espresso and bruschetta after a walk on the beach. Who says you can’t have anchovies and pesto for breakfast?
The weather could not have been more perfect, albeit a little hot, and the views along the trail were stunning. It was reminiscent of our hike on the Fira Trail, but more lush and colorful (and way more uphill!)
How awesome is this? This guy set up a little lemon/orange juice stand right on the trail between Monterosso and Vernazza. Yes, please!
The second village, Vernazza, ultimately ended up being my favorite! It was so charming and colorful and the food there was fabulous, especially the gelato! We were hot and sweaty after hiking for two hours (again, mostly uphill), so we were thrilled to see the little beach down below!
Some food and a dip in the water was exactly what we needed before our next leg of the journey!
The walk to Corniglia was much easier than the walk to Vernazza had been. It was also a bit shorter. We were surprised to see quite a few cars in this village as many of the villages have strict restrictions on vehicles. We stopped for a fantastic dinner of grilled focacia sandwiches (prosciutto and pesto!) and I indulged in a glass of prosecco. Seriously, why is Italy so delicious?
Since the walking routes were closed, we took the train over to Manarola, where a whole bunch of kids were celebrating a birthday on the marina and playing soccer. What a birthday party!
I discovered this lovely thing called a marocchino and my life will never be the same. Espresso and chocolate are a match made in heaven. One place even added nutella!
Also, panna cotta and strawberries.
Exhausted, full, and sunburnt, we made it back to Riomaggiore in time for another spectacular sunset!
We went back to Monterosso for a relaxing beach day the next morning. The water was perfect!
After swimming and lunch, we wandered the the village and picked up a few souvenirs to take back with us, mostly food-related! Also, because my husband loves the song Postcards from Italy by Beirut, he bought a post card from every village!
We also stopped on a different beach for a little bit of reading in the sunshine!
It was so hard to leave! As the sun was going down, we rode back to Riomaggiore, stopped for some take away pasta (think Chipotle, except with pasta!), a last glass of wine, and then turned in to pack our things for our early train ride out.
It was a lovely, lovely, lovely way to kick off our travels for this year! Bring it on, 2016-17!