Monday, May 14, 2012

Cinque Terre

On the first day we were on the cruise we found out that our last port, Santa Margherita, had been changed to La Spezia. I was BUMMED because I had mapped out a fun day for us on our own in Santa Margherita and I knew NOTHING about La Spezia and with internet at 75 cents a minute I really didn't have a way to plan out La Spezia. We bit the bullet and purchased shore excursions so we didn't wander aimlessly around a town we knew nothing about. I was THRILLED when we found out that one of the excursions would take us to Cinque Terre, the 5 tiny villages that line the coast in the Cinque Terre National Park. We had to board the life boats to get us from the ship to the pier. That was a little scary to me but we made it safely to shore and before we knew it we were on the bus driving through La Spezia. The city is a great naval base so we got to see lots of neat ships and destroyers as we winded up a tiny road to the coast. The 5 villages are all very small and isolated in the mountains so there were lots of ups and downs on the way. The coolest thing were the terrace rows--they are all mainly farmers and have been for centuries. The landscape is SO steep so it takes forever to get anything done!!
Our first stop was Manarola, a beautiful little town!! We got to view the terraces up close and then we were able to head down to the water to wander for a while. Magnificent!
Look at the terraces!

The Stations of the Cross on the terraces. Someone thought they were scarecrows. 

Then we walked down the Via dell' Amore (walk of love) to the neighboring town of Riomaggiore. The walk was BEAUTIFUL! I felt very safe even though we were perched on the side of a cliff. One of the coolest parts was that couples bring locks and lock them around the fencing surrounding the walk way of the Via and throw the key into the water, symbolizing their endless love! It was kind of sweet and apparently came from a book.

Tiny little restaurant hanging off of the cliff

Me walking down the via

The covered part of the via

We explored Riomaggiore for a bit before boarding the ferry to Monteroso. OMG--getting to the ferry was a little frightening--we had to walk down some rocks and just hop on! Once on and over it, Forrest and I sat right up front so we could take some pictures. The scenery was breathtaking!!!
Boats in Riomaggiore

Scary way to enter the boat!

I think this is Cornilla up on the hill

We had lots of free time once we arrived in Monteroso, which we filled with eating! The sweet couple that we met the day before had told us that Rick Steves (do you watch his travel shows? we love him!) had a restaurant suggestion there so we followed them to The Belevedere, which was right on the water. It was so pleasant to sit and relax, drink the local wine, and fill up our bellies with seafood and pasta!! We did get to do a little wandering and exploring before hopping the train back to La Spezia.
Local wine

Me with St. Francis and the wolf, who looked remarkably like Sonny

Monastery at the top of Monteroso.

Forrest wants to have a walk way like this one day

Lunch time!

Black and white pasta with muscles

Seafood pasta

It was bittersweet to get back on the boat for our last dinner. We had such an amazing time that even though we were exhausted, we didn't want it to end!!
Despite a melt down in the airport on my part the next day, we returned home safe and sound (and even got an upgrade to 1st class for part of the trip--woohoo!). I know it will be some time before we get to take an amazing vacation like that again so I am SO glad that we got the opportunity to go this year. Our "normal" is about to change with Forrest's graduation and we can't wait to see what all this year has in store for us!


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