Paris – Italy
When planning our trip to Italy – accommodations were the most challenging to come by. We were certain that we wanted to be within walking distance to the train line that connected the five villages (Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola & Riomaggiore) but found it challenging to find any availability. Upon several recommendations – we stumbled upon Levanto, a town found next to Monterosso al Mare. Our walk to the train station was approx 10 minutes away (3 if you walk at my pace), we had breakfast included, a plethora of little restaurants within strolling distance and the beach – OHHHHHH the beach! A brilliant and convenient alternative to staying in the hustling/bustling tourist jungle that is the five villages.
On our first day, we woke bright and early to catch the train from Levanto to Monterosso (the train connects all of the villages, allowing you to move quickly from village to village if you choose not to hike/sweat/cry/die between them). This day was a highlight of our entire trip. The first time exploring these places is pure magic. The structures, the colors, the culture in these ocean side/cliff side villages are so breathtaking. You are straight up visiting postcards. We meandered through Monterosso and eventually set out to walk the trail to Vernazza. OK. So for some reason, I assumed this would be a keen, little walking path that would delicately lead us along to the next glorious piece of eye-candy. I thought when they said “NO HIGH HEELS”, they were just being cheeky. I thought I wouldn’t have to shower-due-to-excessive-amounts-of-sweat later that night. Sigh* Well yeah, I was wrong. The trail we took was mostly up and mostly down, sprinkled with 1 billion stairs and teeny-narrow paths. As you take these trails, you need to know that there may be times when you need to hug yourself to a cliff to allow eleven large, Norwegian walkers (and their walking sticks) to inch their way past you. There may be times when you drop to your knees screaming, “DEAR GOD NO! NO IT CAN’T GO ON LIKE THIS!!!!” and take a ten minute weeping break. There may be times when your husband has to hold you back as you snarl and lash out at the woman navigating the trails in a pair of strappy, kitten heels with nary a hair out of place. There may be times when you peacefully curl into the fetal position, knowing this is what the end looks like. But then my friends – you round a corner. You round a corner and see Vernazza, sprawled out and extending into the ocean. And you remember – there is wine down there. We ran the rest of the way.
Vernazza was our favorite village to explore. The harbor/promenade hooks around and creates scrumptious places to sit near the water, eat/drink on patios overlooking the ocean and a main square to engage in some mad people-watching. We nabbed a table on a patio with an unobstructed view of the ocean and sunset. What started as a pit-stop, soon became one bottle of wine, which then became more litres of wine… annnnnnd eventually the sun set. We talked for hours, ate for hours, wined for hours and see’d things for hours. When it was finally dark and they were kicking us out, we agreed that wherever the wine went, we would go. Thankfully, the wine caught the last train home and went to bed. You did good Italy, you did good.