Tag Archives: Europe

travel bug: europe, part vi

Our second day started with a delicious breakfast in our room (apparently this is big in Italy – two of our three hotels offered it!), which we needed for our main activity: hiking the coastal trail from Vernazza to Montorosso. We had read that this was the toughest of the coastal trails connecting the Cinque Terre, but we were looking forward to a bit of a workout after all the gelato!

We walked down the winding main road in Manarola to the train station and took the train to Vernazza.

Once we arrived in Venrazza, we made our way into the main part of the town where the trail begins. We had read about the mudslides that devastated two of the Cinque Terre, Vernazza and Corniglia, and had heard that Corniglia was pretty much back to normal, but that Vernazza was still struggling to rebuild. We quickly noticed that the whole downtown was under construction and learned that the town was covered in 10-12 feet (FEET!) of mud. While it looked surprisingly good for what had happened, it was clear that they still had a ways to go before everything was back to normal. Still, you could tell why many once referred to Vernazza as the jewel of the Cinque Terre. It was very well laid out and has a beautiful coastline.

We made our way to the trailhead and started our trek.

It was stunningly beautiful right from the start. And hard. You certainly need sturdy shoes for this one! There’s not much more to say about it, I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.

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It was an amazing hike – probably the second best of my life (the best one being the one when we got engaged!). I would recommend doing it in the direction we did – not from Monterosso to Vernazza because the stairs are in to/out of Monterosso and they are BRUTAL. I cant imagine going up them at the beginning of that hike. Much better to go down them at the end.

When we got to Monterosso, we decided we needed lunch and fast. So, we wandered along the beach and found a focacciaria for some quick and tasty grub.

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We sat and rested our feet for a bit then wandered back along the beach (stopping for gelato, of course!) to the train station. We decided to pop into Corniglia to see what it was like before heading back to our home base of Manarola.

We (fortunately or unfortunately, depending on your take) didn’t know that to get from the train stop in Corniglia to the center of town one has to walk up nearly 400 steps. And this is after the many, many steps we already faced outside Monterosso (fortunately we went down those!).

But what a view from the top!

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We got to the top and meandered through the quaint town.

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There were lots of little shops and restaurants, we could see the town was definitely back in business after the landslides!

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When our legs couldn’t handle it anymore, we made our way back to Manarola to rest up for dinner. After napping and showering, we participated in La Torreta’s little happy hour and then headed towards Volastra, a little hill town above Manarola, for dinner at Cappun Magru. We planned to walk there, but didn’t really know where exactly we were headed… So, we just wandered (basically) until we found what we thought was Volastra.

It was not Volastra. More wandering…

Finally we found the town and the restaurant – and we had worked up quite a sweat in the process! Boy was it worth the effort – what an amazing experience we had at Cappun Magru. The restaurant is owned by a very friendly couple and housed in the husband’s family home. We learned all this from the wife, who was our hostess/server/welcoming committee. Not only was the atmosphere lovely, but the food was outstanding. Certainly worth the adventure getting there! Here is the view FROM OUR TABLE:

Up next: Cinque Terre, day 2.5!

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travel bug: europe, part ii

We left for Florence on Sunday afternoon, taking the fast train from Venice. Well, because the earthquake’s epicenter was between Venice and Florence, our train trip was not as speedy as we had hoped. This ended up being a bit of a blessing because we were able to sneak in a much needed long nap (jet lag is not fun when you have Italian cities to explore!).

We arrived in a rainy Florence and thanked our lucky stars that I happened to check the forecast before we packed and thus crammed raincoats and an umbrella into our bags. Phew. We wandered over to our hotel, Soggiorno Battistero, which was easy to find since it is right on the Piazza del Duomo (seriously, right.on.the.square!). The below picture was taken later on in our trip, but our window is in the top row of windows in the yellowish building (with green shutters) on the right hand side of the picture.

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Despite the rain, we decided to wander around to start to orient ourselves to the city. And we got drenched. So, naturally, we stopped in at a local cafe to grab a cappuccino and dry off. Then we headed back to the hotel to rest and change for dinner.

The owners of our wonderful little hotel were so helpful in advance of our trip, answering my frequent emails quickly and helping us make the difficult decision of where to eat while in town. For dinner our first night, we went to Boccadama, which is right on the Piazza Santa Croce. It was a nice spot for our first night since it was right on the square and had lots of delicious (cheap!) wine. We sat, undisturbed, with our vino for quite a while which was lovely. The food was so so, which would have been disappointing if we had been wanting anything more than a comfy (dry!) place with good wine. After dinner, we meandered back to our hotel, stopping for gelato on the way, and crashed hard (after saying a little prayer for the rain to end before we woke up!).

Sadly, our prayers went unanswered and we awoke to raindrops on our window. Fortunately, we had a beautiful breakfast brought to us (in our room!) complete with my favorite coffee of the trip. After fueling up, we grabbed our rain jackets and umbrellas and took to the streets, undeterred by the rain. It slowed a bit while we were out and we got to really enjoy a quiet Florence, which we realized later was a rarity this time of year!

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We spent most of the morning wandering around, popping in and out of cafes when the rain would pick up. When our tummies started rumbling, we found our way to ‘ino, a little sandwich shop near the Ponte Vecchio (our plan was to wander around the Oltrarno – the other side of the Arno – after lunch). Ino was a gem! Delicious sandwiches on freshly baked bread were just what we needed for our afternoon of walking (and walking and walking). Don’t feel too bad for us, all the walking resulted in some pictures like this:

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Ok, this has become quite long… So, the rest of Florence (and more of these great views!) in part iii.

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