Five Heavenly Lands – Cinque Terre

Our last trip as expats was a big one; we went out with a real bang. I’d tossed out the idea to the hubs and my parents to do a little big tour de Italy before our return to the U.S., and somehow my wild plans came to fruition. After packing up our London flat, we met my parents at the airport and picked up the last leg of their travel to Pisa. From there, we rented a car for our nine-day rendezvous including Cinque Terre, Florence, Tuscany and Rome. Every part of the trip surpassed my expectations, lots of pictures ahead!

Landed in Pisa, we patiently waited for our bags until one hour later, my poor Dad’s still hadn’t arrived. Of the 20-some trips we’d taken over the last two years, this had NEVER happened. We left the airport after a slightly dissuasive conversation with baggage claim resulting in a planned baggage delivery for the next day (plus a free t-shirt…!). Hint: if your bag is ever lost, say your medication is in there (ingenious move on my part).

But let’s back up, because I’d be remiss not to mention the crazy hoops my dad jumped through to make this trip happen. On Monday, my mom discovered that my dad’s passport expired at the end of the month. It’s a little known fact that you can’t enter Schengen countries without a passport valid for at least 90 days from your date of entry. Extra unluckily, it was Labor Day and they couldn’t do a thing about it until Tuesday- they were scheduled to leave Wednesday… The hubs, my mom and I scoured the internet for a solution and my dad called anyone he knew that could help. In the end, Dad had to drive four hours to Detroit on Monday to stay the night for a hotel sleepover in order to be first in line at the passport office Tuesday, where he had the chance of getting a renewed passport on the same day. Fortunately, that all worked out.  I chalked it up to something having to go wrong on the trip, there are bound to be glitches and fortunately my dad was such a good sport and was happy as a clam as soon as we got out of the airport.

We were all breathing a bit easier after a delicious stop for gas station pizza. 7-Eleven could learn a thing or two. An hour later, we arrived to Monterosso Al Mare where we’d stay for 3 nights. A few parking hiccups had the hubs and I scrambling a bit (we’d come into the opposite side of town from our reserved space of course), but this serene scene from our B&B made it all worth it. IMG_8737

We spent an hour or so exploring the town and laughing at our luck thus far, hoping not too many more “challenges” would pop up.IMG_8743019c6665cd7bb09f7dab3042ee99e2ce517a4d480eIMG_1278IMG_8747Luck was on our side for dinner- we snagged one of the six or so tables at Da eraldo where we had possibly the best meal of the trip, and maybe all-time. Every pasta dish we ordered was packed with flavor, yet so simple. We had a hard time committing to eating elsewhere in the town!

Friday morning, our first full day, started with Italian croissants, and thankfully more after we learned how ordering breakfast at our B&B worked. Our waitress, Stella as my mom coined her, eventually came around to liking us, though we practically had to tickle her to get a smile 😉IMG_8751

Working off croissants on a walk through town before the tourists ferried in was blissful. The striped and colorful buildings and a tunnel eventually giving way to breathtaking beaches had us skipping like kids. 
DSC_0517DSC_0519 DSC_0520 DSC_0523 DSC_0524IMG_8760We’ve seen a lot over the past two years, but this view topped them all.
DSC_0529DSC_0536The hubs reserved us four first row chairs, so we scurried back to the B&B to change into our swim suits after a little shopping expedition. I couldn’t pass up the black and white reptile sarong and Mom was smitten with this hat!
IMG_8775Four heavenly hours were spent swimming in the sea and sunbathing before our boat tour with Stefano. On board, we cruised along the coast where we saw all five towns from the best vantage point, the sea. Most surprisingly interesting were the crazy rock formations going every which way.  DSC_0546Leaving from Monterosso Al Mare, we first passed in front of Vernazza, known as the most picturesque village in Cinque Terre.DSC_0553Next was Corniglia, the highest of the five villages perched on top of a promontory about 100 metres above sea.
DSC_0568Manarola is the smallest of the Cinque Terre villages but looked lively and lovely from our spot on the boat.DSC_0584The famous kissing statue was absolutely stunning in the middle of the rocky coast.DSC_0595 DSC_0597Last but not least, we cruised past Riomaggiore, known to be one of the most characteristic of the villages. DSC_061301812e73754ff727131564a4fba05194f8630cc10aDSC_0624

Docked back in Monterosso, we rushed to get ready for our restaurant pick up for Il Ciliegio, highly recommended by our B&B owner and a little ways up the mountain.

DSC_0642The view did not disappoint and neither did the dinner.  Best was the torta Monterossina, a local specialty that you won’t find elsewhere. It was served warm knocked my socks off.IMG_8818Saturday, our last full day in Cinque Terre, was spent in much of the same way as Friday- a sign that we were realllly enjoying ourselves. We sauntered through town after a variety of croissants and yogurt, picking up a few pieces of Italian style resort-ware. Dad was still sporting his cool new purchases despite the fact that his bag had arrived. The hubs even got in on a pair of those shorts. 
The gorgeous buildings and flourishing flowers were a photographers dream. Beach views from every angle certainly rivaled the Amalfi Coast. The blue umbrella beach was tempting, but we stuck to our spot in the orange and green striped section which felt a little more secluded.

Mom and Dad were officially in vacation mode and even got used to the rocky beaches.

The hubs and I were thankful for our Instagram friendly chairs. How cool are these little roofs that you can pull over to block the sun, allowing you to see your phone? I know, why would you use your phone here…
For lunch we calorie splurged on DELICIOUS focaccia pizza at the seaside Il Fornaio Di Monterosso. “When in Italy” was the theme of the trip as we ate bread and pasta
01b24c1c715a81e501207878eff0d5214b3dd64e57IMG_8848We tore ourselves away from the beach around 5 to get ready for one last seafood dinner at L’OsteriaIMG_8850It was seriously hard to pass up another chance to eat at Da eraldo but fortunately our dinners were superb and we all left happy!




IMG_8869IMG_8870IMG_8873Before officially closing out our visit, we had one last drink at Enoteca fa Eliseo and made friends with a couple of Swedes. 

A restful night of sleep was very much appreciated before a bit of mayhem the next morning. Up next- part II in Florence!

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