Sunday, December 19

this is what heaven might be like

the harbor bay at Riomaggiore
Cinque Terre. Sigh.
So do you want the made-up story that sounds more believable? Or the real story that sounds like I'm making it up? 
Okay. But you have to read it all. I promise it's worth it.
After being in crowded, foreign cities with lots of ancient ruins for almost two weeks, Erica and I decided we needed a vacation from our...vacation. So we woke up at 6am to catch a train to Pisa. For the record, there is nothing in Pisa except for that leaning tower to which every American pilgrimages. So we did some yoga on the train platform instead, whilst waiting for our train to La Spezia (the little changeover town 10 minutes from Cinque Terre). By 10:30am we were practically asleep again, so we downed due cappucin and shared an iPod with some Russian techno on the last leg of the train. You gotta do what you gotta do.
Then we stepped out into this land of milk and honey...

And within ten minutes, these nice young (and I don't say that lightly) gentlemen approached us:

I promise they clean up well.
"Hey, do you girls know what town this is?" 
To give them some credit, Cinque Terre consists of five small beach towns. Lining the coast, from south to north, they are:
  1. Riomaggiore
  2. Manarola
  3. Corniglia
  4. Vernazza
  5. Monterosso al mare
We had gotten off the train in the first one (Riomaggiore) and were planning on hiking from town to town on the somewhat-sketch trails that link the quaint little villages.  Below is a shot from the most user-friendly trail linking the first two towns. Its cliff walls are covered in locks, an old European tradition between two lovers. Bridge, does that heart in the bottom right corner say you and Steve?!?!

Via dell'Amore...locks of love
Did we leave behind a lock? Sadly, no. We are unprepared, dumb American tourists. And while we're talking about dumb American tourists...

"cliff-jumping" in Manarola
Where was I? Aw yes, boy #1 and boy #2 ended up both being from California. Go figure. And our Cinque Terre traveling numbers went from two to four. Just like that. The rest is history.  

Manarola, shot from the vineyard walk
So now that Erica and I had found potential body guards for our two-day stay, we had to test the waters a bit. Would they carry our backpacks? Buy us coffee? Pay for our hostel?! Okay, that last one technically happened, but only by accident.
"Italian" guy, Erica, me
Shout out to Lululemon! Couldn't have done it without you.
We only spent about 20 minutes in town #3 (Corniglia)...just long enough to become BFF's with the local Gelato shop owner. I thought he was a nice enough old man, until he wouldn't let me order what I wanted and kept repeating, "You like this better, you like this better." He then proceeded to give Hunter and I some kind of soft-serve with honey and pure lemon juice drizzled on top. And I think M&M's were somehow involved. Onward to Vernazza (#4)!
by far the most breathtaking hike to Vernazza
Vernazza wins. In every way. It's a new way to spell paradise, and the place I'd like to retire. (When I get a job from which to retire.) Bridget stayed there with her man Steve this past summer and told me I HAD to stay with Monica, this cute little Italian woman who owns a restaurant and B&B right on the edge of that cliff with the castle tower down below...

Vernazza's harbor down below
Erica and I had made previous reservations with her for the night. After eating the most incredible pesto lasagna in the world at her restaurant, we learned that she actually had us down for a different night in terms of a room. So she then dragged us into her living room and proceeded to take out her address book and call every last one of her friends in Vernazza to find us a place to stay...to no avail. Lucky for us our two adopted body guards already had a hostel dorm room paid for back in the first town (10-minute train ride)...WITH A TON OF OPEN BEDS IN IT! Did I mention we love "free?"

And since nothing ever works out quite as planned in Europe, there were obviously a few other travelers now booked in that hostel room as well by the time we got back there. Good thing we like making friends. We spent the night getting to know a girl from London, a guy from Canada, and a girl from Trinidad—in true hostel-fashion.
And then the following morning we snacked on some foccacia bread for breakfast (the area is known for it...who knew?), stuck our feet in the Ligurian Sea, and started off on our longest hike yet. To town #5...

hiking into Monterosso al mare

loving the tank tops, boys...not
Yes, we told the random stranger taking the picture that we were in Cinque Terre celebrating our one-year anniversaries.

beach at Monterosso al mare
When YOU go to Cinque Terre...go for more than two days to begin with...and then plan on extending your stay. Two things we failed to do and highly regret. 

7 comments:

e.day said...

i do think this is what heaven will look like. amazing! gotta love the sigma chi tanks. ohhh frat boys. i wonder where in california they are from!

it looks like you had an amazing time. i can't wait to visit! and that lock part was so stinking cool!!

C. said...

I really like the photo you shot titled, ‘Manarola, shot from the vineyard walk’. Nice composition.

Bridget said...

i did draw that heart!!! our love is all over the place! j/k but that'd be kewl. and vernazza is the shiz. i think retiring there together would be superb, spidatter.

thanks for the shout out :)

Megan said...

Such an amazing place! I actually got engaged in RIomaggiore almost 4 years ago and am dying to go back for an anniversary... or any time really :)

JMay said...

Amazing!!! I think that's what Heaven must be like too :-) Such amazing photos!

Camanda said...

Awwww this makes me soo happy!!! I'm SO glad you went and got to experience Italia! Now we gotta make the trip together one day.

Lana said...

Ah, totally agree with you on that. I was interrailing last summer and unfortunately only had one day to do all five villages... Could have stayed for at least a week. Beautiful pics!

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