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Finally...our 19 day glorious October 2007 (very long detailed) trip report to Italy!

Finally...our 19 day glorious October 2007 (very long detailed) trip report to Italy!

Old Apr 10th, 2008, 11:58 AM
  #141  
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Janok,

Riomaggiore was wonderful, however you'll discover as my report goes on that we felt the same about Manarola and Corniglia!

If you're not sold on the lodging in Rio.......

You may want to take a look at this place in Manarola:

<b>Arpaiu</b>
http://www.arpaiu.com/english.html

<u>This was our second choice if La Mala was booked.</u> As you can see from the photos, the rooms look somewhat similar to La Mala....clean and bright. The prices are reasonable too.

Ciao...for now!
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Old Apr 10th, 2008, 03:27 PM
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Tried that one a few weeks ago and it was already booked. I'm learning that lodging is somewhat limited in that area. We should have booked earlier!!!

Thanks!
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Old Apr 11th, 2008, 12:43 AM
  #143  
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<b>CINQUE TERRE-PART 6

DAY 8 (October 18, 2007 Thursday)…continued

</b>Note….I didn’t plan on the CT report to take so long, but I feel compelled not to leave one detail out!

<b><u>THE LOVER’S WALK-VIA DELL’ AMORE</u></b>
We get a chuckle out of this guy cracking quips behind us. Doesn’t he know this is the famed “Lover’s Walk”? Somehow, someway we start chatting with these folks. In the beginning, part of me is a bit annoyed as, being a hopeless romantic, walking on this path (with my DH on our second honeymoon, 10 year anniversary trip), I was expecting some intense bonding w/ my mate especially on a path named for lovers. Instead, we totally and completely bonded with this couple in a matter of 20 minutes. Their names: Mark &amp; Briana (who I’ll refer to as M &amp; B) from Toronto, Canada.

That is one of the beauties we’ve encountered in traveling, and ever so much more in Italy (then again probably in all of Europe). It’s so easy to chat up other travelers. Everyone is relaxed and happy.

We’ve shared meaningful conversations and laughs with other travelers (and locals alike). We came home with oodles of email addresses scribbled on napkins, scraps of paper, etc. People who made this journey extra special that we’ve called them friends and continue to stay in touch. It’s been a gift and the icing on the cake of this trip. Sharing itineraries, tips, stories with travelers while on the train, at the next table, in a bar, and even now…on the Lover’s Walk!

Back to the path….we’re enjoying our chats with M &amp; B, so much so that we forget to take notice of all this path has to offer. I make a point to stop here and there to snap a photo. Thank goodness for the quickness of digital!

Near the end of the path there is an iron contemporary “statue” of the profiles of 2 lovers. Next to it on the railing are dozens of locks (just like the tradition on the gate at the Ponte Vecchio in Florence) whereby lovers place their lock and “symbolically” throw away the key.

At the end of the trail is a quaint caf&eacute; right on the path with small tables and umbrellas. A great spot to stop for a refreshment. We forge on as this very easy hike hasn’t broken a sweat. The scenery is just spectacular and we see a few colored buildings on the backside of Manarola.

<b><u>MANAROLA…THE PRODUCTIVE VILLAGE</u></b>
Another lovely town (aren’t they all?). Since the Torre Guardiola hike wasn’t in the cards for us, and the Via dell’ Amore was a bit short, but sweet, we decide to conquer the trail up to Volastra in search of Pirate Barbossa’s grave. We’re having a ball with our new pals M &amp; B that we don’t want the fun to end…..so, naturally, we invite them to join us.

We pop into Manarola’s Parco office to get some info…how long it would take to get up to Volastra? The agent who is not very understandable says 20 minutes. No prob. It’s now about 3pm. Next, I (stupidly) ask about where Barbossa’s Grave is…he looks at me quizzically like “what the heck are you talking about lady?”. I take that as a…”time to leave”.

We take in the sights of this town while making our way up since Volastra sits high above Manarola. As we walk up the wide concrete pathway (which I’m thinking…once again, is there any dirt hiking trails around here?), we see the old aquaduct and antiquated bridge system that we learned about while at the CT museum. It’s all pretty cool. Ducks (not just ducks, but Italian ducks…ha!) are splashing around in the stream. The guys are loving this “manly stuff” (aquaducts and bridges) while us gals comment on the gardens of squash, flowers and lemon trees….signs of daily life in the CT.

As we walk higher we are surrounded with more beauty. Each step higher, we get a new perspective of seeing CT from a different angle. We see the sanctuary off in the distance that we admired while in Rio. All photo opportunities galore. I’m going nuts. We also take notice that there aren’t any hikers taking this route. Most opt for the popular “blue trail” which goes along the coastline and heads for Corniglia.

We reach the top of Manarola and (of course) there is a church perfectly perched there which, just like Rio’s….boasts similar architecture and weathering. We stop to take a swig of water and take in the sights of the town below. It’s like a postcard against the sea.

Manarola is the area of the most productive vineyards in all of CT…that was very evident. We could see above and around all the terraced vineyards. It also boasts groves of olive trees, some of which were netted ready for harvest (and later I find out are used for the production of CT’s own olive oil). We coin it as the “working village” while the 2 others (Vernazza and Rio) are the ones we think the Italianos go for their afternoon siesta and partying.

<b><u>UP, UP AND AWAY….TO VOLASTRA (and beyond!)</u></b>
We finally reach the end of the concrete path and spy the trail markers (thick band of red red and band of white lines painted on signs or stone walls) We’re giddy with anticipation as we see what we’re in for. Off in the distance above is the town of Volastra??? (so we think!) And…there is NO WAY that it’s a 20 minute hike up. Maybe the agent said 40 and it came out like 20? Actually, it looks more than 40 minutes too!

We (happily) step off the concrete and unto the CT earth. It feels REALLY good beneath our feet. We’re walking on stones, over paths with wooden railings and weaving through lush shrubbery and old stone walls. Along the way we encounter run down shacks and tended gardens. There are few homes sprinkled here and there.

We’re having great conversations talking about our sensory overload. Kinda like: did you see…? can you smell…? We smell fragranced flowers that are unrecognizable, we hear birds chirping and then there is what we see….(So clich&eacute;’), but this is the quintessential coastal Italy that we all envisioned.

We’re enjoying this journey with our new pals. We talk about everything….life, love, work, you name it. We quickly learn about each other and there is never a dull moment.

Up, up, up we go through more of the same gorgeous scenery. We don’t encounter a soul and are loving this off-the-beaten path experience. As we make our way up and around a bend, we spy another town higher. Hmmm? I remember that I have a hiking book in the backpack called, “50 Hikes in and around Tuscany” by Jeff Taylor which has a handful of hikes in the CT.

We stop for a drink of water and to check out the book. It mentions a hike that goes up beyond Volasta through a pine forest. Now that sounded cool to all of us. It also mentioned that the town before Volastra is a tiny village called Groppo. Holy cow! Now I’m thinking the agent said 1 hr and 20 minutes!

We trek on and finally run into a couple of gals hiking from the opposite direction. They stop and tell us about their adventure how they took a wrong turn and ended up way off track. I take a chance and ask once again about Barbossa’s grave and get a blank stare like, “are you nuts?”.

<b>Next…..Where did the little Red and White trail marker go?
</b>
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Old Apr 11th, 2008, 04:17 AM
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You should write a book adventure seeker!!!!

As always, cant wait for the rest! x x x
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Old Apr 11th, 2008, 06:42 AM
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My pleasure!
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Old Apr 11th, 2008, 11:52 PM
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<b>CINQUE TERRE-PART 7

DAY 8 (October 18, 2007 Thursday)…<i>continued</i>

<u> ON THE TRAIL TO VOLASTRA (still!)</u></b>
We continue the trek up past Groppo in the distance on our left and make our way up above Volastra which is above Groppo. The views of these small towns and the view of Manarola (getting smaller and smaller) below is breathtaking.

The trail ends at a road. Our choices are to go left and descend a bit into Volastra or to continue on to take this intriguing hike that author Jeff Taylor outlines in my “50 Hikes” book. I inquire with our fearless foursome group and they all chime in……Italian pine forest or bust!

This is beautiful scenery and if you don’t take the hike up, take the shuttle up for stunning views.
The countryside is lined with vineyard after vineyard all perfectly in rows that hug the mountainside. Above we see how high we’ve come (and yet to go) as the vineyards stop and the pines begin.

We take notice of the vineyard “train” (well, not really a train…more like a cart and buggy) and mono railway system that snakes vertically from sea to mountain. We’ve seen it action on Rick Steve’s Cinque Terre show. This contraption is what the farmers use to transport grapes up and down these steep terraced vineyards. And…they pick the grapes on their backs. I’m certain it’s how they’ve done it for years and years. Talk about a labor of love. No wonder the CT white is so good.

DH is acting goofy and climbs on the “train” and pretends he’s riding it like a bronco. It makes for a fun photo. Back on track. I read in my book that you will continue up until you are above Volastra. So, we do just that. This trail is more strenuous and over very rocky terrain on narrow pathways. It’s steeper than the other trail. We take notice that the pines are now on our left, a vineyard in front of us and Volastra now just below us, but farther away beyond a paved road. The trail ends at a wooden gate. There is no red and white marker….hmm?

We think that the gate is private property so we access the situation and see a not so clear path going into the pine woods. We decide to see where it goes. As we make our way further into the forest, the vineyard is now to our left and is fenced off. We can still make out the inklings of trail and decide to press on. We figure that since this is truly off-the-beaten path, that not too many have taken it.

<b><u>GETTING LOST</u></b>
I take out my book a few times and read the passages to my mates to make sure we’re on track. It seems that we are. We press on. It’s beginning to get very thick and we’re supposed to come to a paved road (at some point, anyway). We stop and wonder if we should turn back. The Indiana Jones in us keeps us going forward. Now, we’re cursing Mr. Jeff Taylor. We’re cracking jokes that he has a hidden camera in this forest for his amusement. We come across a rusty old abandoned cars and fridge. It’s time to get out. I’m seriously a bit frightened about getting lost. I can see the headlines, “2 couples lost in Cinque Terre pine forest”. Exotic, but yikes!

Since the forest is getting thick, it seems that it is getting darker. We feel like Indian Jones and the temple of doom (aka the pine forest). We start humming a few bars to keep things light. Time to make an executive decision to abort and head towards the fenced vineyards. The “so-called” trail we’ve been following has descended into the valley, so now we are heading upward. Voila! We come to a fence and a paved road on the other side. The road goes to??? We climb over the fence. We’re sweaty now and low on water. We’re not sure where we’re at. Our choices…go left or right.

It would be obvious to choose left and go back the way we came. But….we trust Jeff Taylor (who, during this hike we’ve composed a letter that will send him giving him a piece of our minds) who states that the paved road will eventually meet up w/ Volastra.

<b><u>BARBOSSA…WHERE ARE YOU?</u></b>
We spy a cemetery in the middle of nowhere to the right. We head that way (secretly, I’m still on my mission to find Barbossa’s grave). It’s out of place here in the middle of a pine forest. We walk in and see an old Italian woman who speaks no English tending the graves. I figure, what the heck…so I ask the undying question, “Barbossa’s grave”? Figuring the name Barbossa would be understandable in Italian. She shakes her head “no”.

The gang pumps her for info the best they can. We find out that if we continue the way we were going, we’d end up (in a couple days…if we made it!) in La Spezia. I look through all the graves to search for Barbossa. I don’t know why I’ve all of a sudden become so obsessed.

Back on the road in the right direction. This has been an adventure. I wonder where we went wrong. We think that maybe that wooden gate is where we should’ve walked through. Where or where was that trusted red and white marker? We laugh (now) since we know we’re on the right track.

We come to the paved road that leads into Volastra. Triumph! I’m relieved. We’re hungry as bears and need some water. Volastra is a cute town, a bit more modern and newer (it seems) as the buildings don’t look so “old world”. A tiny caf&eacute;/store is in the distance….we bee line for it. We reload on water and snacks (mainly junk salty stuff like chips, etc.). We inquire about the trail to get back to Corniglia. We’re told to take Trail 7A and they give us directions how to get there. The mystery is also solved that the agent was saying that the shuttle takes 20 min. to get up to Volastra. Didn’t he know that we were going to tackle it as the fearless foursome?

And yes, I did ask one last time about Barbossa’s grave. And got that blank stare!

<b><u>CORNIGLIA OR BUST</u></b>
We easily find the trailmarker to 7A. There are no hikers. Just us. We wanted off-the-beaten path and by golly, that’s what we got! We’re WAY up high. It’s not really a “hiking trail”, but the trail the farmers take between their vineyards. It’s absolutely stunning up here and not for the faint of heart. Some areas are pretty tricky and we have to put one foot in front of the other as to not slip off the side. Talk about adventure. I don’t recall signing up for this! Some areas we’re hugging the stone wall and not looking down. Thank goodness this is just in a few spots, but I was getting concerned as to what we faced ahead. I can see the headlines once again, “2 couples plunge to their death on the Cinque Terre Vineyard footpath”. Again….exotic, but yikes!

We pass a farmer in the fields taking a siesta with his dog. He looks weathered (like the churches) and perfectly perched (like the churches). He smiles at us and his dog comes over to greet us. We show him our cameras and motion if it’s okay to snap a photo. He obliges and picks up a tool like a machete and poses as if he is working in the field….classic!

As we hike I wonder if the cemetery in the pine forest was real. Maybe it was a mirage and the old caretaker and angel. She’s an angel in my book pointing us in the right direction. I can only imagine how far we would’ve walked towards La Spezia before we turned around (or if we ever would). We’d eventually find our way, but what if it were dark? Frightening!

<b><u>CORNIGLIA….<i>THAR SHE BLOWS!</i></u></b>
This is vineyard country as far as the eye can see. Where the heck is Corniglia? The sun is going down and before I was concerned that I wouldn’t get to see the sunset from our terrace or from the Vernazza harbor. Now I just want to get off this trail and into town while it is still light out. We take the pace up a notch as we want to have light.

We turn a bend and see Corniglia. She looks so beautiful….like Emerald City. Maybe because we’re desperate to get there. The hike down takes us past olive groves waiting for harvest. The trees are intertwined with orange mesh netting to collect the falling olives. We’re making good time and it’s reassuring to see Corniglia get closer and closer. The sun is beginning to set and we’re almost there….thank heavens.

Finally we step into Corniglia. We are so happy! DH and I had planned to eat at a mom and pop trattoria here called <b>Osteria a Cantina de Mananan</b>. This was on our list. A few Fodorite’s had recommended it highly. It sounds good to M &amp; B, so we’re on a mission to find it. We do, but it doesn’t open for another 30 minutes. We can’t wait that long and decide to get back to Vernazza….as quickly as possible!

<b><u>HOME SWEET HOME</u></b>
It’s late, we’re tired, sweaty and hungry…but (surprisingly) in good spirits. We get to the train station and pull out our schedule. The next train to Vernazza is due to arrive in minutes. The next one is an hour later. We’re standing on the other side (mountain side) of the boarding platform. To get to the other side you have to take the ramp down which goes under the tracks and comes up on the other side. There is <u>no way</u> we’re going to make it. The train pulls up and I don’t think twice….I run over the tracks and jump on the train. And the gang follows. There are signs posted in large writing, “DO NOT CROSS TRACKS”. We spill into the car and are laughing like crazy. Everyone looks at us like we’re nuts….we are. We can’t believe the kind of day we’ve had. The Indiana Jones adventure continues!

What a day we had….great memories. It’s a given that M &amp; B will be joining us for dinner…we don’t want the fun to end. We invite them to check out our room at La Mala. They are impressed (but not impressed about the 83 steps to get there, especially after hours of hiking!).

We’re famished and head towards town in search of FOOD! We ask Da Sandro’s about the Pesto Lasagna…it was last night’s special. We spy another mom and pop trattoria across the way called <b>Il Baretto</b> which looks like another winner. On the way over I spy Antonio chatting up (of course) some ladies. He sees us and gives us his trademark smile. We smile back. There are a couple tables available so we grab one. It’s a very busy and popular place. Smells good too. The menu arrives and it’s chock full of local specialties…all at very reasonable prices, hence the crowd.

We decide on sharing a slew of delicacies: mussels, anchovies, pesto w/ pasta, veggie soup, salad, etc. Polished off with a dessert each. Good simple food that couldn’t come out fast enough. We opted for bottles of water instead of CT white. We were energized and wanted to get a fast start on hiking the next day. The meal was grand with such great company. The conversation flowed and flowed. We were laughing until we cried. What a perfect end to a crazy spontaneous day. The people at the next couple tables joined in as we all told stories.

M &amp; B take the train back to their town, Monterosso. The plan is: more adventure for tomorrow. DH and I are to hike from Vernazza to Monterosso and meet up w/ them. We’ll all boat back to Rio and then train up to Corniglia where we’ll hike back to Vernazza. That way…we have hiked the entire 5 villages.

No Burgus for us tonight. We’re exhausted and drag ourselves up those 83 steps to our room. We both take a long hot shower and sit on the daybed downstairs with the window open to the sea. We quietly watch the moon and listen to the sound of the ocean. Soon enough we’re in bed and fast asleep. Too tired to dream.

<b>Next…Hike to Monterosso, Boat ride, and our fabulous last night at Da Piva’s!

</b>
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Old Apr 13th, 2008, 01:03 PM
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Adventureseeker, I have read many travel books, and none have been as interesting to me, as your trip report. You have a wonderful way of describing your adventures, that has the same feeling, I feel when in Italy. We are going to Venice, and Tuscany this September. We have been there before, but you've given me some great tips for Venice, and Florence. I can't wait to read your report on Tuscany. I'm glad you had such a wonderful experience on your trip. I'm taking notes as I write this. Thank you so much. Margaret.
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Old Apr 13th, 2008, 06:19 PM
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Grazie MaggieT!
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Old Apr 13th, 2008, 11:43 PM
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<b>CINQUE TERRE-PART 8

DAY 9 (October 19, 2007 Friday)

</b>This entry may be a bit &quot;warm and fuzzy&quot;. It's our very last full day in Vernazza and it kinda does that to ya!

<u><b>THE MORNING AFTER</b></u>
We got up early 6:30am ...surprisingly. Interesting how alert you can be when not having any vino the night before! Yesterday was a very spontaneous action packed day and today…..we had a plan.

Of course, we first checked out the terrace. It was nice to see the sea at dawn. Yesterday we could hear the ocean, but couldn’t pull ourselves out of bed to actually look at it. Another good day for hiking: not too hot, some clouds in the skies.

We changed and headed down to greet Vernazza. It was like the movie “Groundhog day”….same time, same place. I swear. Although we were actually setting foot into town a few hours later than the day before….it was the same buzz. How nice to live in a “rustic” fishing village (ha!). I forgot to mention how many times I had to ask DH if I was annoying him with how many times I told him how much I loved this place. He would politely say, “no”. Then it was, “yes, dear”. Now he simply answered, “I know”.

We were here on our third day and knew what to expect….the trio of cats perched at the bottom of the stairs (today, they were sleeping all curled up into a ball), the locals opening up their shops. Today, since it was a bit early they were gathered around having what I’d call a “board meeting”. Theirs seemed more of a pow wow session in the middle of town with their caff&eacute; du jour (probably from Burgus).

I stopped in my tracks taking it all in. DH knew I wanted to savor and was on a mission so he told me….”meet ya at the harbor”. Off he went. This was cool. Kinda like Venice in the early morning (even though we were an hour or two behind our Venice’s am schedule). This is what Vernazza looked liked before the trains unloaded all the daytrippers and hikers. Mind you…it really was pleasantly “busy” while we were here. We truly expected the Rick Steve’s fan club (no offense….really!) to be taking over Cinque Terre. That wasn’t the case in mid-October (thank goodness).

<b><u>ANTONIO…WHO?</u></b>
In the midst of it all…there was Antonio (remember…the town Casanova). It was time for a proper introduction. He flashed his trademark smile and came over. He introduced himself as did I. He was charming as ever…..Vernazza to the core. I felt a friendship coming on. He made me smile. I knew that from that moment on, I’d never forget him. And…..I was right.

He walked me down to Burgus. I felt like I had the mayor of Vernazza at my disposal. We got to Burgus and DH was there outside looking out at the harbor. He turned, saw us and had a perma grin on his face. He knew.

DH met Antonio. Antonio was a Vernazzan. He and Mama rent out rooms in Vernazza. He’s well traveled and loves his village…and it shows. We envy his life. Like I said before…”this ain’t no sleepy fishing village”. I already know that Antonio will be a big part of my memoir. Even more than my priced necklace and bracelet that will remind me every time I look a them…about my 4 days of my life in the Cinque Terre.

Six months later as I write this….I remember. It is so crystal clear. I think of not only Vernazza, but about this guy named Antonio who I (once) coined as the town casanova. In the next 24 hours he becomes so much more than that (to me).

<b><u>BACK TO BURGUS</u></b>
We say our goodbye, reluctantly to Antonio, as we step inside Burgus. We are greeted by the same gal who was here yesterday. Remember I mentioned how quiet she was. Today, it was like we were old friends. We knew the drill….get the handmade fish plate (today DH and I changed it up....he got the butter yellow and I, the pale turquoise) and select the pastry. Quick as a whip, the gal had our pot of green tea (w/ cute cups) and juices on our table. We looked over at her and she gave us a shy nod. It was a look that I’ll never forget.

There we were day # 3 in Burgus, in Vernazza, in the Cinque Terre. Do I remind DH how happy I am to be here…..”no”. He knows. He feels the same….I can tell. The music is playing and we’re ahead of schedule so we linger. We love the people who come in and everyone knows each other like a secret club. It’s very cool. All of a sudden, the “Raiders of the Lost Ark” theme song plays….<u>I swear.</u> I swear on a stack of bibles. I swear with needles in my eye. I’m a professed movie buff. I KNOW this song. We were just humming bars of this song while in the Italian outback (aka pine forest). DH (‘til today) claims that wasn’t the song. Yes, it was a soundtrack he says, but not of “Raiders”. I know in my heart and soul that it was. Like I said….Burgus plays cool tunes. It was SO apropos.


<b><u>VERNAZZA ENOTECAS</u></b>
DH and make our way up through town. As we head up, we see the gang at Da Sandro’s in their trattoria having a meal before they open. DH tells me to get a photo….I can’t resist. This is a perfect photo op. They all know us since we dined there on our first night and went back to see about their delizioso pesto lasagna the next. I was in their doorway with my camera and they ranted and hollered while I snapped a photo. Such a classic shot….the cook gave a fab popeye muscle pose. I made a 8 X 10 photo and sent it to them. You can see it on our CT photo slideshow.

We need to pick up some waters for the hike. We have time to kill and I’ve been meaning to check out this enoteca near the train station called <b>Sotto l’arco</b>. It’s a beauty. They have an incredible selection and styled so pleasingly. The best product they have here are it’s owners. They are the NICEST people and are so knowledgeable about the local vintages, etc. I spy a stack of NYC travel books nearby and we chat about their upcoming trip to the USA. We click immediately. So much so that I wish we could ship back cases of CT vino home to support them. We bought a local Limoncino (CT’s own version of limoncello) and CT white to toast our last night at sunset. DH treks our goodies up to the room while I wait in town.

<b><u>VERNAZZA TO MONTEROSSO AL MARE</u></b>
We’re on our way to Monterosso. We’re actually pretty proud that we’ve (finally) got an early start. We spy that infamous red/white trailmarker smack dab in the middle of town. Slam Dunk. Before we head left to start the trail we spy Antonio who gives us both a Vernazzan nod, Antonio style. Geez….he has grown on us!

We snake up the stairs on the opposite side of our La Mala “climb”. The stairs meander through the alleys and stairways and doors. There is a whole life here. We finally reach some dirt and step upon it. We make our way and come across the Nazionale Parco booth who checks our pass to make sure we’re legit. We get waved on.

Remember I mentioned how countless hikers to this area suggested hiking South to North due to the incline and stairs? Well, it didn’t appear to be a very good suggestion as we trudged our way up and onward. The views of the Vernazza harbor as we made our way were stunning. I have at least 50 photos of this same harbor as we climb higher and higher while it gets smaller and smaller. We’re encountering more hikers on this trail than yesterday (mind you, no one else was on that crazy mission to find Barbossa’s grave!). It’s not too crowded, we’re just not used to taking the trail with anyone else.

On we go and it’s striking every step of the way. We’re planning on a 2 hr. trek to meet up w/ M &amp; B (remember that fun Canadian couple from yesterday?). It’s very picturesque as all of the blue trail promises. Because it’s the most popular we’re noticing a lot of activity coming from the North (Monterosso). We’re used to having the trail to ourselves. No prob, we’re glad to share and oblige. There are many areas on this trail that only one can pass, so we find ourselves moving over or stopping to let the other direction pass. No biggie, but we were really spoiled yesterday!

<b><u> MEOW,</u></b>
About halfway to Monterosso we come across a picnic area filled with wild cats. They are cared for as someone has left food/water with a sign to ask hikers to be sure bowls are filled. La Dolce Vita (the sweet life).

We trek further and eventually spy Monterosso beach in the distance It is beautiful. We can see why this is the “beach” of CT. From a distance it looks like a resort spot all nestled in a mountainside. It’s a gorgeous day and I can only imagine what kind of a “hot spot” this place is in summer. We’re passing more and more hikers. Okay, now It’s almost comical as we see them coming towards us like a trail of ants. We’re glad we’re here in the Fall and wonder if Summer would have this much allure on us while crowded with hikers.

We see a few youngsters with their parents and think of our son back home (in very good hands), but know that he’d love this hike. The first day here we already made a pact that we’d return (hopefully sooner than later) to bring our boy back to experience this splendor. He’s taken a lot of adventures with us during his young 7 years of life. But….nothing like hiking Italy’s Cinque Terre.


<b><u>MONTEROSSO AL MARE</u></b>
As we get closer to Monterosso we spy a couple kayakers in the cove below. What an adventure they are on. The water seems so much clearer here than the other 4 villages. No wonder this is the resort town. As we get closer we see the ferry. It is docked picking up passengers. Our plan today is to take the boat the length of the CT for the ocean perspective. It’s a gorgeous sunny day and the sea is calm.

We get closer and are right on schedule. There are so many hikers on the trail. We stop and let some pass and vis-a-vis. Our hike begins to descend upon Monterosso. Finally we get it. There are stairs upon stairs and decline upon decline. Our concerns about the climb and stairs that we took coming out of Vernazza seemed like nothing compared to these coming out of Monterosso. So we can attest that going South to North is the way to go!

We finally reach Monterosso and can easily see the allure. It must crank in the summer. All of the rental boats, umbrellas and beachy rentals were all locked up for the season. The stretch of sand looked inviting (as well as the Mediterranean sea). There were a handful of diehards laying out catching some rays.

Monterosso is comprised of 2 parts: old town and new town. It’s a gorgeous town which we wish we had more time to explore. Being that it is a “bookend” cars are allowed. And…it’s bigger than the other 4. We spied our waiting BFF’s (Best Friends Forever) M &amp; B immediately. We were right on schedule. We exchanged hugs, pleasantries, etc. They immediately dragged us over to their fave focaccia caf&eacute; (didn’t I say they were our BFF’s?). We all had a slice (or two). The chatting went on and on. Never a dull moment.

We had a plan to take the boat to Rio. Before that, M and I were talking about taking a swim. Hmmmm….could we fit it into our plan? We decided instead to take off our shoes, roll up our crop pants and wade. It was pure heaven. The water was that crystal clear deep turquoise and oh so clean. We could’ve dived in clothes and all. We thought about it…..seriously. It was refreshing.

While wading, M and I handpicked some gorgeous pebbles. Mine are at home in a dish (which I got in Tuscany) on a bookshelf in my home office that is devoted to our Italy trip. The guys ran into town to check out a guitar shop (which was closed for siesta…..early!). M &amp; B showed us their room at their quaint inn which was near the ocean. It was nothing like La Mala, but very nice and the owners were very sweet.

We decided to grab a quick lunch at a nearby caf&eacute;’. We were served ironically by a young italian lad wearing a &quot;I &quot;heart&quot; NY&quot; shirt who was to be attending a wedding in California (close to our home) the following week....small world! He had lived in NYC and was back in CT helping his family <i>famiglia</i> with their business. I just love that Italian dedication to family. We have experienced it everywhere. We lunched on a very simple, but tasty salad, bruschetta and pesto pasta.

<b><u>BOAT RIDE IN PARADISE</u></b>
Next was the boat ride from North to South. We hopped on in Monterosso and were traveling to Rio. We made a stop in each town….Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and finally Riomaggiorre. When we past Vernazza, we could see La Mala and our window in the stone wall. When were between Corniglia and Manarola we spied the 7A trail down from Volastra ...were we really that high up? Did we really go that far? It was mind boggling to see where we had hiked.

We’ve only been here 3 days and it seemed like forever. We really covered a lot of ground and there was still so much more to discover. I tried not to think about us leaving tomorrow. We HIGHLY recommend taking the boat between Rio and Monterosso. It’s so breathtaking to see these glorious villages from the sea.

We met a woman on the boat who was a member of an Austrian Chorale who were traveling throughout Italy singing in churches. She invited us to a concert they were having that evening at the church on the harbor in Vernazza. We all agreed that was a “must” for the evening agenda.

M &amp; B were also leaving tomorrow. They had a car and were heading towards Lake Como area. We had to pick up our car rental in La Spezia tomorrow by noon. I hated to think that we had to leave CT and our new friends. I hate goodbyes. I already knew that saying goodbye to Vernazza and to M &amp; B was going to hurt.

<b><u>CORNIGLIA TO VERNAZZA HIKE</u></b>
Once we got off the boat in Riomaggiore, we took the train back to Corniglia. We had read about the gazillion steps to get into town from Rio and decided to take the shuttle. That was a wise decision. Once in town, we stopped for a <u>much deserved</u> gelato. Now, how much hazelnut gelato can one gal eat? Not enough, I daresay! It was a good gelato. But….nothing like the gelato in Florence (is anything!). We asked someone to snap a photo (one of my fave in CT) ….of our fearless foursome with double decker gelato cones. Classic!

There is a boutique across from the Gelato Artignale shop which has some great local trinkets and objets d’art. B and I picked out a few fun things to bring home.

Off we go…..hike #3 Corniglia to Vernazza. We found that infamous red/white and were on our way. Based on research, the hike would be about 1 ½ hours….which it was. Again, more of the same coastal beauty: on one side….vineyards, old sheds, ancient stone walls, gardens, etc. On the other: sea as far as the eye can see, coves, rugged coastline, etc.

We were enjoying another hike with our new friends, but it surely wasn’t anywhere close to yesterday’s adventure. More chats, more laughs. This trek had hikers, but it was nowhere close to our Vernazza-Monterosso hike this morning. I felt secure knowing that we were on the blue trail heading home. This would be our last night in CT and I wanted to see our last sunset on our terrace or at the Vernazza harbor. I was confident that it would happen.

It is almost impossible to pick out the best trail. They all had their own personality and beauty. Although our Volastra adventure will go down in our books as a fave, the blue trails were all breathtaking. Each moment and corner is a photographer’s dream. I’m just an amateur, but the scenery makes all of my photos look like I’m a pro.

<b><u>INSPIRATION ABOUNDS!</u></b>
It’s hard not to get inspired here. From the moment I set foot in Venice I was inspired. Inspired to do something great…something creative….something meaningful. Whether it be painting, sketching, writing. I’m inspired to learn more….about history, about art. This place called Italy draws it out of me. I’m not the only one…..I’ve read numerous times on this board how much Italy has an affect. This place makes me want to live a better life filled with passion and gusto. I thought I was doing that already, but somehow I want more…and it all makes sense now.

We are right on schedule in the middle between Corniglia and Vernazza. At one point I turn back and see the town of Corniglia in the distance. It’s so lovely…..and so far away just like a miniature fantasy town. We finally see Vernazza ahead of us and I spy our terrace at La Mala…aaaahhh! It’s a picture postcard this angle of Vernazza with the tower jutting out to the sea. It’s all about perspective here!

We take the stairs down into our “home sweet home”. The sun is due to set within the hour. This is our last afternoon, our last sunset and our last night in this enchanting place called Vernazza. Even M &amp; B are under it’s spell. The plan is that they will train back to Monterosso and spend their last night with us in Vernazza. Works for us!

<b><u>OUR LAST CT SUNSET</u></b>
M &amp; B are off to the train while DH and I climb our 83 stairs to our beloved La Mala. We get to our room and DH grabs our bottle of CT white from our fridge and we immediately take it and 2 glasses out to the terrace. We’re not the only ones there. There is a young couple who are from Florida also enjoying the sunset. Lucky them….this is their first night (of 3) at La Mala. They are sweet and we are enjoying their company. DH goes back to the room to fetch 2 more glasses. We share our CT wine and make a toast. They ask about the hikes and DH fills them in (and no, I don’t dare bring up Barbossa’s grave, thank you very much!).

It’s a beautiful farewell sunset. We make a toast and watch a fisherman is in his boat in a nearby cove. I can’t believe it’s our last night here. I turn to DH and he can see it in my eyes, I’m about to tell him how much I love it here. He knows and he feels the same way.

……..Another great day in paradise.

<b>Next…..our last night at Da Piva’s w/ Antonio. A tearful goodbye to Cinque Terre.


</b>
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Old Apr 14th, 2008, 02:41 AM
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I'm looking forward to hearing all about Antonio heehee!!

Aww I cant wait to go... your report makes if feel much more real! I would love to have a nosey at ure pics, do you have a link? Carole x x
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Old Apr 14th, 2008, 10:39 AM
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CT Photo Slideshow:

http://flickr.com/photos/debandstan/...32316280/show/

Enjoy......
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Old Apr 14th, 2008, 11:29 AM
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<b>CINQUE TERRE-PART 9

DAY 9 (October 19, 2007 Friday)

<u>GOING OUT IN STYLE AT DA PIVA’S</u></b>
We say goodbye to the CT sunset and the young couple on the terrace as we head to the room to shower. M &amp; B are meeting us back here in a half an hour. We better get the show on the road!

Tonight’s plan is to have dinner and then go to the Austrian Chorale concert at the church. We all decided to get gussied up since this was our last night in the CT. M &amp; B arrive and we’re not quite ready. They go out on the terrace and wait for us.

Everyone looks fancy compared to the hiking garb we’ve seen each other in the last couple days. We head down the stairs into the village. At the bottom of the stairs is Da Piva's, a trattoria owned by Maestro Da Piva (in the day he was a dashing guitarist…still is, just older and wiser). As we checked out the menu, a server passed between us with terracotta bowls steaming with seafood risotto. That was their plan....to lure us with the amazing waft of local seafood...it worked!

We peeked inside and a table of locals were hollering, ranting and raving for us to come in. You know who was at the center of it all……Antonio.

We relented and grabbed a table outside. Our waiter was Da Piva's strapping son (The Italian Stallion), Raphael. He was a sweetheart. A product of a Italian legendary musician (Da Piva) and a Parisian gal. Good genes. I kept telling him that I was taking him home for my single girlfriends! He would just blush which added to his allure.

On the menu.....&quot;Marinated Muscles&quot; (seriously). That got a hoop hollering laugh out of us. I was trying (unsuccessfully) to explain this error to Raphael who knew only broken english (gosh darn, does he have to be so cute?). So we ordered Seafood Risotto (of course!), salads, garliky spinach, pesto tonetto, grilled local fish and marinated mussels (uh, I mean muscles) and a bottle of CT white. The fish came out whole and Raphael artfully and quickly de-boned it in front of us. We finished it off with some CT white vino. Yet another satisfying memorable meal with great conversations, friends and food!

We peeked our head inside and the locals wouldn't let us leave (nor did we want to), so we were lured inside to partake of some local flair: music, flowing homemade Limoncino (CT's version of Limoncello), Antonio and stories galore. The charming smallish one room trattoria was lined with newspaper articles, photos, memorabilia of Maestro Da Piva's illustrious career. Impressive. He was a real looker in the day (which he generously passed onto Raphael!).

We grabbed a table next to Antonio's gang and Da Piva immediately reached behind the bar and produced a vat of homemade Limoncino which he generally poured for us....a gift from the Maestro himself. Love the CT hospitality!
Can it get better than this?

The guitar was being passed around and the locals sang tunes like, &quot;Americano&quot;, &quot;Volare&quot;, to name a few. A lively, happy bunch. Antonio pulled his chair over next to us and chatted away.

M, who is an accomplished guitarist, graced us all with a couple tunes he wrote. Bellisimo! He was in heaven and so were we. Somehow we knew this was the scene here every night and wished we stumbled across it nights' past. We were privy to life in Vernazza. Why would anyone want to leave? We sure didn't. We did tell the Austrian singer on the boat we’d for sure come to see the performance, we had to keep our word.

A few got up to dance. Antonio, who knew we were leaving the next day kept chanting, &quot;Debbie (that’s me), don't go&quot; and was pretending he was crying. Like I said, a flirt...but, I just adored him (and DH too!)….he kinda grows on ya. Throughout the evening a few ladies came in and out. And each one got the Antonio “welcome”.

We didn’t want to leave for the church concert, this was way too much fun. But, we had to make an appearance. When we got up, everyone ranted and hollered again telling us not to go. We told them we’d definitely be back. Antonio, once again….”Debbie, don’t go”. Once we showed them the flyer for the concert which had an illustration of 3 choir angels singing, the crowd roared. They thought it was hilarious that we were leaving this party to go to this conservative church concert. One of the servers who didn’t speak a stitch of English looked at the flyer and laughed so hard she was crying. Now the gang is shooing us out saying things like, “go to church”, “go pray”, etc.

Off we went. It was a short jaunt and we were running (really). We wanted to get in there and back to the action at Da Piva's. It was beautiful in the church and the acoustics sensational. It gave me goosebumps. The altar was lit with candles and the choir was like a group of singing angels (just like the flyer…ha!)…bellisimo. We stayed for a set and then went back to Da Piva's. You can only guess how wild the group got when we stepped back in.

More of the same: great energy, laughter, limoncino and music. The clock was ticking and M &amp; B would have to leave to take their train (which was the last train of the evening). I tried not to think of saying goodbye to them. It had been a wild, crazy, perfect adventure. It was time…we walked out side with our BFF's, hugged and said a quick goodbye as they ran to catch their train. We didn't want them to go.

DH and I went back inside. The laughter and energy was what we needed to forget that our friends were gone....that and Maestro waiting with a couple glasses of Limoncino. A few more people came in and joined the fun.

One was a Swedish guy who was a professional guitarist in a band back in his hometown. We invited him to sit with us. He grabbed a guitar and played. He was phenomenal. DH and I kept rattling off songs by Led Zeppelin, U2, etc. and he played them beautifully.

I was telling him about Hawaiian Slack Key and about a local band at home who are an outstanding flamenco guitar group called Benise. He was intrigued. DH went up the 83 stairs to our room to fetch my iPod. There we were: in Italy, in Vernazza, at Da Piva's one earbud in my ear and one in the Swedish guys's ear listening to music.

He would listen and play a few chords of what he just heard. WOW! He noticed an old guitar perched high on a shelf. He was stunned and went over to the Maestro to tell him that was the guitar he learned to play on which was a very rare brand. ......Small world.

It was late and we were full of Limoncino and exhausted. We hugged the gang, said &quot;ciao&quot; while making a reluctant exit. Last words ala Antonio, “Debbie, don’t go” with a few fake tears.

This was hands down our favorite night in all of Italy. Our dinner at Florence’s La Giostra was now in second place.

<b>Next….our last morning in Vernazza and a tearful goodbye.

</b>
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Old Apr 14th, 2008, 12:06 PM
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Great Report. Thanks for posting. We leave for Venice - Montepluciano - Positano on May 23rd.

Jami
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Old Apr 14th, 2008, 12:29 PM
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BTW - We are aslo staying at LO. Like you I felt like it was a must.

I just read your section on the Rialto Market and looked at the photos. Thank you so much for sharing. I am sitting in my kitchen looking at my collection of &quot;food photos&quot; from our last trip to Italy in 2005. Most of the photos are from the Campo di fiori (sp) market in Rome. Plus a few great lemon photos from Capri. I feel they make beautiful and meaningful wall art.

Thanks again for the great report.

Jami
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Old Apr 15th, 2008, 03:27 AM
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Awww what gorgeous pics!! Thank u so much - really enjoyed whiling away a good 10 mins (at work) having a nosey at them.... u have def captured everthing u have described so well on camera and vice versa!

Between ure report and me googling everything I can possibly think of for our trip Im not going to get any work done before we leave!!

Thanks again for the link x x

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Old Apr 15th, 2008, 06:36 AM
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Jami,

I'm glad you're getting something out of the report.

Be sure to tell us all about your stay at LO when you return. You're going to love it!

In Tuscany, the <b>Val d'Orcia</b> region was our fave. Next time we will base out of Montepulciano. Where are you staying? I've had this place bookmarked for our next trip...

Villa Ciccolina: http://www.villacicolina.it/

Ahhh....Positano. That's on our wish list for next time.

Carolemg,

Work?...who needs it! You've got a trip to plan (ha!). Priorities!

Ciao...for now.
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Old Apr 15th, 2008, 07:27 PM
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I will definitely post after our trip. I am soexcited about LO.

We are staying at a small hotel in the center of Montepulciano, La Terrazza di Montepulciano. Nothing fancy since we are only going to be there for a couple of nights and will be exploring most of the time. It is really just to check out the area for a future vacation. Our main focus is Venice and Positano. Plus we really like driving to see the countryside. It would be more efficient to take the train but we dcided to meander down to The coast over a couple of days.

First time to Venice and second to Positano. I adore the Amalfi Coast. We are also going to see Pompei this trip.

Jami
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Old Apr 15th, 2008, 09:13 PM
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adventureseeker (or should I say, &quot;Debbie&quot --

Loved your trip report so far. I'm kind of depressed knowing that there is only one more installment coming.

I loved your pictures and imagined you snapped the one of the &quot;broken heart&quot; rock because you were dreading leaving your beloved CT.

I, of course, loved all the pics of the Italian kitties, too.

I am not the &quot;hiking&quot; type, but I could certainly see spending a week just basking in Vernazza with an SO. (I'm still looking for the SO. S'pose Antonio is free? )

Thanks for the incredible report! Better than reading any travel guide!

Paula
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Old Apr 17th, 2008, 09:30 AM
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Grazie, grazie!

One more installment of CT (which I'll get it done tonight) and then it's off to Tuscany. CT was written more like my journal...you all got a glimpse of how this place got a hold of my heart.

<b>The Tuscany leg will be written more like Venice/Florence....a trip report w/ details and info. </b> Not quite so warm and fuzzy (uh, maybe just a little).

Paula,

I'm sure Antonio will make himself &quot;free&quot;. He seems to have that gift!

Thx for your kind comments about the photos. I look at them way too often and they are a constant reminder of such a special trip that will be a part of me forever.

I had taken over 2,000 photos (not including the ones I deleted along the way!). The slideshow I created for Fodor's is just an inkling. Can you see why it took me 6 months to organize and gather my notes? I was on photo and &quot;journal&quot; overload.

Ciao...for now!

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Old Apr 19th, 2008, 07:49 AM
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I have been loving your report and as always, am looking forward to the next installments!

Your reference to Benise startled me .... they were the last thing I would think you'd mention, but I could definitely see the tie-in. That would have made the evening absolutely perfect ... Roni Benise grabbing the guitar and playing there!! (I'm in SoCal too ... have seen them at the Greek, and at the local malls/street fairs)

Thanks so much for your report!

Denice
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