Coming back to our Italy recaps: I left off at the end of day 3, the day when we explored three of the five towns of Cinque Terre, on the northwest coast of Italy.
Day 4: Bonassola, Vernazza, Corniglia
Storms were (again) on the forecast for the day, so we were fortunate to get a bit of sunshine during the morning. We walked out to the beach of Levanto, the town where we were staying.
Levanto is the first town to the north of Cinque Terre, so it is a bit less touristy and crowded.
Some colorful and beautiful, if somewhat forlorn looking, mansions graced the coastal hills of Levanto. I would love to rehab one of them!
Ryan and I walked north along the coast, taking the old railway line that had been converted to a walking and biking path. It was an easy 30 min walk to the next town up the coast, Bonassola.
This town was even less touristy than Levanto. In other words, it just looked like a lovely beach town that locals lived in. Like Levanto, it was in a much flatter area than the towns of Cinque Terre, so there was more room for the town to sprawl out.
Having completed our arduous 😉 30 min walk, Ryan and I took a much needed Gelato Break at the cafe with the red and white striped patio awnings (above). We sat out on the plaza, enjoying the ambiance and lack of crowds.
It was at times like that, when we were sitting around just enjoying a snack or a break, that I would look around me and marvel (enviously) that this setting and this scenario was just plain life for the Italians. Every town is so pretty and lush with gardens, and the people are so happy, I just have to wonder if maybe over here we’re doing it wrong.
We walked around the town, and I loved how this simple apartment building had a crazy old cactus garden in the front. If one thing was clear from day one of the trip, it was the fact that Italians will fit a garden in anywhere they can.
When we were done exploring Bonassola (it wasn’t beach weather yet, so there wasn’t much going on)- we hopped a train south to Vernazza, one of the two Cinque Terres left to see.
As the train pulled into the station at Vernazza, we wanted to turn right around and go back to the quiet calm of Bonassola.
When our train stopped in Vernazza, we were barely able to squeeze off of it amongst all the crowds both on the train and the platform. It was a Friday in May, which is still technically off season, and the crowds were disgustingly thick. We had to wait a good 15 min before we could descend the simple staircase down from the platform and into the town.
The main street of Vernazza was similar to that of Riomaggiore and Manarola. Lined with touristy shops and cafes and pizza joints, and rather uninteresting.
We did find a beautiful old church, and the light was so awesome as Ryan looked out the window, that I had to snap this shot.
Down at the harbor, we were taking photos, when suddenly an enormous wave swept in and soaked a bunch of people. That’s why, in the photo above, Ryan is wringing water out of his socks 🙂
The weather wasn’t perfect, but the little slices of sun shining through the storm clouds were appreciated.
Before leaving Vernazza, we walked to the top of the town. I loved the tiny staircases leading to doors in walls that were everywhere.
At the top of the town, we got dessert at Il Pirata delle Cinque Terre. Here’s the deal: It got rave reviews in our Rick Steve book as well as on TripAdvisor, but we weren’t impressed. The view was that of . . . a parking lot. The panna cotta dessert came buried in chocolate and raspberry sauces, whipped cream, and maraschino cherries – clearly for sugar-loving Americans. Panna Cotta is such a beautiful, simple dessert that it shouldn’t be messed up with extra stuff.
We watched this group of tourists (above) as they hiked up the road, then stopped and looked around, bewildered. I guessed that they, too, were looking for this restaurant, and like us, were confused by its not appearing to be what they expected.
Sure enough, they all whipped out their Rick Steves books and started talking and pointing confusedly. That’s when I snapped this photo. They chose not to stay for an Amercianized dessert.
Our last stop in the CT was Corniglia, a town perched high above the train tracks and ocean. After getting off the train, I turned around, looked south down the coast, and saw the town of Manarola perched on the cliff.
To get to Corniglia, we had to walk down a skinny road and then climb 328 steps to the top of the hill (mountain?).
While walking down the skinny road, this van (pictured above)came driving past us. We had to lean against the slanted embankment to not get run over. Just another day on a road in Italy.
Then the climb began, and it was absolutely worth every gasp of breath. Because of the climb, only the most determined and adventurous tourists came to Corniglia. The decrease in tourists gave us a glimpse into the magic that must have graced all 5 towns before they were discovered by the hordes.
See the funny metal cart above? Ryan and I dubbed it the “Wine Rollercoaster.” It’s a motorized cart that rides a metal rollercoaster track down and up through the steep vineyards. In the photo below, the gray line running up the vineyard is the track for the cart. So clever, right?!
Some of the terraced areas are more overgrown and forgotten vineyards. For generations, families in the CT always divided their land equally between their kids, and as a result the parcels became smaller and smaller. Many people don’t see the point in farming a tiny parcel for just a bit of wine.
Ryan and I took an afternoon wine break at the most delightful wine bar ever. It quickly became one of my favorite spots of the entire trip.
See the patio above? And see the greenery-covered doorway above right? The doorway was the tiny storage / storefront of the wine bar, and the seating area was the patio covered by grape vines.
Nothing is better than sitting under grape vines, sipping fabulous and cheap local wine, and gazing out on the sea and cliffs.
When I finally tore myself away from the wine patio, we stopped on the terrace to get another obligatory “couples” photo for my mom. 🙂
Returning to Levanto, we dined for a second time at L’Articiocca. Once again, it was fabulous.
Not going to lie . . . we were a bit shocked when the scampi appetizer arrived at the table. We knew it would be raw (freshly caught) shrimp, but we didn’t expect it to be so large, or served with the head and claws still attached.
The shock didn’t stop us from playing with him, though, and it certainly didn’t stop us from enjoying our entire dinner.
Clockwise, from top left: Scampi over Burrata . . . Gattafin (Herb dumplings) topped with wild boar ragu . . . Truffled Gnocchi . . . Trofie (local pasta) ai Gamberi (shrimp).
After dinner, it was time to pack up and hit the sack, because the next day we were heading to the hills of Tuscany!
In case you missed it: