Where Paradise Isn't Just in Your Mind....

Trip Start Aug 15, 2010
Trip End Dec 03, 2010

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Where I stayed
Annaffiare Piante

Flag of Italy  , Italian Riviera,
Wednesday, September 8, 2010

    Imagine the clear blue waters of the Mediterranean, brightly colored houses that stand out along the mountainside, and rocky coastlines of the Italian Riviera and you will be thinking about Cinque Terre. Cinque Terre is a series of five (cinque) villages that from north to south consist of Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore (the city we stayed in). The coastline, the five villages, and the surrounding hillsides are all part of the Cinque Terre National Park and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

    We arrived by train late Friday night, and were shocked at how beautiful the landscape was Saturday morning when we could properly see all that Cinque Terre has to offer. Our hostel was at the top of the mountain, quite a workout with a heavy backpack to lug, but it offered us amazing views of the sea and the vineyards that line the mountainside. All the houses in Cinque Terre are bright shades of pink, yellow, orange, and terracotta which pop on the lush green mountains and rocky coasts. It really is paradise.

    Saturday morning we went hiking from Riomaggiore, the southern most village where we stayed, to Vernazza, the fourth village. It took us a few hours and a one point it was quite a trek but for the most part it was a leisurely walk and we stopped to take many pictures. The beginning of the trail is known as Via dell' Amore (The Lovers' Walk). There are locks all along the trail that lovers lock and then throw the keys in the Mediterranean - terribly romantic. There's a statue of two lovers embracing at the end of the walk.

    We stopped in Corniglia, the third and halfway point, and broke for lunch. The terrible disadvantage of Corniglia is that you have to walk up 384 stairs to get to the actually city, a feat that was similar to walking up the Duomo in Milan. They literally were the never-ending stairs, and the only reason I probably made it to the top and in the village was the motivating factor of lunch and gelato.

    We ate lunch at a Focacceria, incidentally these are everywhere. We ate at La Flora Gata ( The Flower Cat) and I ordered a Capriccio di verdura which as focaccia with beans, carrots, and olives on top - delish! We were told to try a farinata kichererbsen, a chickpea "cake", so a group of us split it. It was an unusual texture and tasted like a vadaa, an indian snack. We got gelato at a gelateria that Rick Steves (the traveling master) has eaten at in the past. I ordered coconut, my new fav, and dark chocolate. It was so refreshing with the hot sun shinning down on us.

    The hike got harder from Corniglia to Vernazza but our group starting belting out Disney songs and old school favorites like Spice Girls which made it a lot more fun and took our mind off how difficult the trail was getting. As a tourist destionation, many other hikers speak English, which is something we're not used to here, and some people behind us who could understand the lyrics laughed at our off-key vocals.

    We stopped at Vernazza, the fourth city, which looked like all the others and then trained back to Riomaggiore. Angie, Emily and I found a rocky beach (there's no sandy beaches in this area) and cooled off in the Mediterranean Sea. It's such a rough life we lead :) The water was very clear and extra salty. Although it was deep, you could see pretty far below yourself.

    For dinner that night, we went to La Lampara and I ordered tagliolini with asparagus and clams. The clams were small and the pasta was okay, being on the Italian coast I expected a little more from my seafood and pasta. It was filling though.

    We watched the sunset after dinner and I took my most favorite pictures of the weekend of the beautiful sky and mountainside. It was probably one of my favorite moments of the weekend.

    Sunday morning my friends Allison, Kayla, Hope, and I went kayaking - for all of 15 minutes! The waters were rough because there were a lot of boats which were causing a lot of waves. Hope's kayak unluckily drifted to where the waves broke and it flipped her kayak upside down. She capsized and had to be dragged back by Kayla with her water-filled kayak. It was pretty scary but it was also really funny at the same time. Being my first time kayaking, I didn't know how to steer or turn around so I just started drifting out to sea. Luckily, I stopped freaking out and ended up getting back to the shore just fine. It was definitely a rocky fifteen minutes but we all made it out just fine, just a little wet. Whenever the situation comes to mind, I can't help but laugh about it now, after-the-fact.

    We went to the beach, since we were already wet, and laid on the rocks to dry off. It was so scenic but unusual not to have sand at a beach. Boy do those Europeans have no shame, definitely saw my fair share of boobs and butts on that beach. At least they have self-confidence. My friend Neil went cliff-jumping, something that was frightening enough just to watch. When he got back to the shore, he was dripping blood from cuts that he got climbing the sharp rocks that had barnacles on them. It was intense all around.

    Cinque Terre is definitely the most beautiful place I've ever been. It really is paradise and it was cool taking a vacation with all 31 students, minus one who didn't go. It was exactly what we all needed and was a bonding an experience we'll share forever.

Ciao for now!
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marylobo on

Looks like you had another fun trip with your VA Tech students. mom

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