The Italian Riviera has been on my list of places to explore for a while now, so it was with much excitement that we finally booked flights for a four day adventure to Cinque Terre.
We flew into Pisa, had a quick stop off to see the leaning tower, and then took a train down to the little town of Manarola where we were staying. After spending most of the day travelling in considerable humidity, it was such a relief to put our bathers on and take a dip in the refreshing ocean down in the port.
After swimming, we went to refuel at Marina Piccola which is right at the front of the harbour with a beautiful view over the ocean. I couldn’t resist the look of the fresh clam pasta with cheese and it definitely didn’t disappoint. I hadn’t had seafood pasta this good since the last time I was in Italy, in July last year. We also shared tagliatelle with the sweetest, most succulent crab claws and some fritto misto (mixed fry). What a great start to the holiday!
The sun was just beginning to set when we finished dinner so we ventured up the hill to a great little bar to watch the day turn to night and enjoy some cocktails. We were spoiled with a full moon; picture perfection.
The next morning we woke bright and early so we could spend the whole day seeing the other towns. Unfortunately, almost all of the ocean walking trails were shut so we didn’t get a chance to do any of the hikes, but we jumped on the very efficient train and made our way between Vernazza, Monterosso and Riomaggiore for lunch, swimming, dinner and dessert.
I absolutely loved the cute harbour at Vernazza and the stunning view from its hills; it’s such a romantic and relaxing place. We ended up spending most of the afternoon here – Micu off swimming in the ocean, and me sitting with my feet in the water looking out over the beautiful town as the sun set. It was so blissful watching the fish and sea snails go about their day, seeing the local children play in the water and hearing the ocean gently crash against the rocks. London felt so far away after only a day.
The next morning we woke to more blue skies despite the forecast predicting thunderstorms all day. We figured we should make the most of the sunshine while it was there, so we ventured to the final of the five towns, Corniglia, which is situated up on the hill above the sea. It’s surrounded by vineyards so it has quite a different feel to the other towns but it was just as pretty and charming as the others.
After Corniglia we jumped between Monterosso for more beach time, lunch at Vernazza, back to Monterosso for the afternoon and then Manarola for dinner and drinks. We managed to miss the brief rain while perched up high over Vernazza at lunch, but we weren’t so lucky when we were having dinner at 9pm that night. Just as we made it to our destination, Trattoria Dal Billy, it broke out into a full on thunderstorm right over Manarola. We escaped most of the rain but it sure made for a memorable night with a lightning display over the harbour and unrelenting thunder and rain. It didn’t really matter because the food (and hospitality) at Billy’s was unbelievable. I had squid ink seafood pasta and Micu had bottarga pasta which he said was the best pasta he had ever eaten. Quite a statement! Our night was topped off with delicious dessert (torta caprese and tiramisu) and some exceptionally strong limoncino (the north’s version of limoncello) and grappa shots.
We spent our final morning enjoying the views of Manarola from our favourite hillside post, before squeezing in one last meal before catching the train back to Pisa.
After spending four blissful days exploring the Cinque Terre, I’ve come to realise that Italy is probably my favourite country in Europe. Not only does it have amazing food, but it has unbelievable coastlines, beautiful countryside, pretty architecture, friendly locals and great wine. I’m already dreaming of my next Italian getaway.
© 2014 Fiona Tregeagle.