Before I talk about Monterosso, I want to talk about Cinque Terre as a whole. It all started when our family watched Cars2 and one of the three main races was held in Porta Corso, Italy. It was beyond beautiful and when it came time to plan our vacation, I knew I wanted to go there. Only problem was that Porta Corso is a fictitious town. Kind of hard to visit those these days. As I was doing other research using Rick Steves’ website, DVDs, and books, I saw Cinque Terre and realized that it had to have been used in the design process of the movie. Anyway, what I learned of Cinque Terre sucked me in and captured my heart, and it would have done so even if I hadn’t already fallen love with it, sort of, through Cars2.
Here are the two pictures I posted in October of how much these two places look alike.
When we woke up on our 2nd morning in Italy, we were beyond excited. I had a very detailed list of what we were going to do and when (listed near the bottom of this page). Cinque Terre means “five lands” because there are really five towns that make up this amazing place. The picture you see above is actually of Vernazza, one of the five, but not the one I’m going to show our pictures of today.
We wanted to see each of the five towns and had intentions of hiking between two of them. Most tourists come to Cinque Terre to hike between the towns overlooking the Mediterranean, but with four kids, we were only going to tackle the one stretch that was stroller friendly. However, due to heavy rains, the section we were going to do was closed. The sections that were open were for “expert hikers” and last time I checked, none of us are.
We also had every intention of taking a boat ride between two towns so we could see the cities from a distance, but the train ticket guy said the boats weren’t running due to high winds. Not entirely sure he was right, but he never did tell us where to go to get on a boat, so we just took the train.
But let me back up a little…
Our GPS took us on an adventure to even GET to Cinque Terre. It took us on roads that were so tight that we sometimes had to give way to oncoming traffic. We were fortunate to get behind a big dump-truck and he showed us what to do… we had to honk around each turn to let other drivers know we were there. When he got off the road, we were left on our own but I assure you I was honking to let other drivers know we were coming. There were some patches of road that were dirt and didn’t look safe, but we had no choice but to keep going. It was nerve-wracking even for me, and I love driving in challenging places. We drove under these conditions for about thirty minutes, maybe an hour. (There is an easier way to get there, we just didn’t know about it. We definitely figured it out before the return trip because I was actually a little concerned about driving that route back in the dark.)
And then I saw it. I saw the water, the slopes where they grow grapes, and little clusters of houses perched along the edge. I actually started crying. I was overcome with the beauty of what I saw and it had come so suddenly around a curve that it took my breath away.
We kept trying to get a picture of it as we drove and it took several attempts to get one that wasn’t too blurry. There was nowhere to stop to take a picture and we were itching to get there, so we just kept going. Here’s the best we could do:
When we finally arrived in the town of Monterosso al Mare we parked at a very conveniently located parking garage.
As we started walking, the colors of the houses just made me smile. It is a colorful town.
We walked through a tunnel to get to the beach area. We let the boys go pick shells on the sand… they were so excited about this! I don’t know if those shells made it back home.At the end of our day, we actually end up eating dinner in this town before heading home.
Our itinerary for this day:
Drive to Monterosso, La Spezia, Italy Cinque Terra arriving at 9:30. Park in main parking area and explore that city. Take a train (1.20 Euro a person) to the next city, called Vernazza. Have lunch at Il Pirata delle CT and drink a deliciously sweet dessert wine called Sciacchetrà (pronounced shah|keh|TRAH; try it with biscotti) Give everyone motrin or Tylenol.*
(Il Pirata delle Cinque Terre Via G Guidoni, 36, Vernazza, Italy Lucca and Maximo were both the two most helpful people that I’ve met in Vernazza. My friend and I recently stayed in Vernazza for two days and we made sure that we had breakfast there every morning. Lucca gave excellent recommendations for dinner locations in other towns. And he let us use his wifi. Can’t wait to go back to visit them soon! Ask the brothers for a restaurant idea for Cornigilia!!) http://www.ilpiratarooms.com/eng_home.html)
Take boat from Vernazza to Riogimaggiore (Should be 7E per person). I think this boat departs at 12:20. (See http://www.navigazionegolfodeipoeti.it/orario.asp?lang=eng) We would arrive at 12:50.
Explore a bit of Riogimaggiore until 2:00. Hike from Rio to Manarola. (This should take us 1 hour.) (Possibly eat a cactus fruit?) Explore a bit of Manarola until we’re tired of it. Probably about an hour. Take the train from Manarola to Cornigila. Explore a bit of Cornigilia and have dinner there. Take the train from Cornigilia to Monteroso, making sure to get back before the car park closes.
Drive back to Camp Darby.
*Regarding the Tylenol or Motrin: my boys are prone to leg cramps and through our extensive traveling I’ve learned that if I give them a dose of either of these medicines at lunch, they do not end up getting leg cramps.
So, that’s the itinerary but I’m going to split each town into its own post. There are just too many pictures I want to share to fit them all in a single one.
What I think we’re doing today:
I can’t even believe the day has come. Our last full day in Germany.
We will check out of the hotel in Wiesbaden and travel to Ramstein to spend tonight in order to avoid having to wake up crazy-early to get to our flight on time. Something about waking four kids in the middle of the night doesn’t sound at all appealing. Staying on Ramstein provides us many extra hours of sleep. When I say “many,” I’m not kidding.
Our time in Germany has been such an amazing adventure and Matt and I are very thankful we were given this opportunity. We think we’d like to return a few years from now and see other places… and maybe revisit some of our favorites from this tour. We’d also love to bring Parker back to see where he was born and his first house.
Tonight we fall asleep in Germany. Tomorrow night will be spent on a plane somewhere over American soil. I’ve said this before but leaving is bittersweet. I hate how cliche that is, but it is so true. The bitter is in the leaving our friends and the home we’ve made here; the sweet is in the returning to our family and our country.
Yesterday I shared our plans for the day and wrote that I hoped the falling snow didn’t disrupt them. Turns out we did have to cancel our lunch plans which made me really nervous that I wasn’t going to be able to say my real “see-ya-laters” to Christy and her family. Our back-up plans still had us going to Mexico Lindo (YUM!) and doing birthday celebrations for both Christy and Aimee, but instead of the girls going to Maldaner afterwards we simply exchanged our Christmas gifts just after the birthday gifts.
We had a lovely evening, great conversation, super fun gifts, and were officially able to hug and say see you later. The gifts given to me were precious and thoughtful. One day I’ll share with you what they were but for now, the gifts from both Aimee and Christy have to be kept a secret, and I can’t tell you why right now! I love surprises and I LOVE my friends!
Our last group shot while in Germany: