Mmmmm, it was La Dolce Vita in Italy for a week with Audrey, and I’m not talking about the gelato considering I ate only two scoops the whole time. It was so hot it was all melting too fast, a lot like our days there that seemed to just disappear so quickly. Italy is no stranger to me. As our friendly neighbor here in France, I’ve been five or six times between Tuscany, Venice, and Basilicata for work and play but I have so much more to see. I had never been to the eternal city of Rome, and had been dreaming of Cinque Terre up the coast for several summers now. Rome was a happy accident on this trip, as we stopped through in commute and stayed a few days with our friend Emma who showed us the best of Roman life from a local perspective. I was blown away by the city’s monuments (even after years living in a place as historic as Paris). We enjoyed some nights out, one until dawn watching the sunrise over the city as it has been for thousands of years now. Visiting friends in foreign places is such an amazing way to meet new people too, and in the good company of designers from Italy’s top fashion houses, we were recounted hilarious stories of Roman nights that ended with late morning coffees all the way down in Naples. We didn’t manage to get up to so much trouble, but if I find myself back in Rome, I have to say I am game for such debauchery, if only to live to tell the story. It was all cut a bit short though as Audrey and I had a planned to get to Cinque Terre. We hopped the train North and spent five days in the five colorful fishing villages that have come to be known as Cinque Terre. Tourists packed like sardines onto the beaches and town roads, we still managed to find room to get some sun here and swim along the gorgeous coast line. When we decided we had enough of all the people, we came across a secret tip from some adventurous australians that led us down an abandoned railway tunnel in pitch black darkness for 1 kilometer. On the other side, a gorgeous quiet beach perfect for a dip sans bikini. A nice way to say “Ciao Italy!” until next time. And yes, there will definitely be a next time…
A FEW QUICK TIPS FOR ROME
Ristorante Baccano – A few streets down from the Trevi Fountain away from the crowds this is a nice little spot for a traditional Italian lunch! I had the octopus and saffron potato salad topped of with some fennel. The waitresses wear cute little black outfits with white aprons for extra charm.
Coromandel – For an Italian meal that is a bit less traditional, Coromandel was delicious. The kitchen uses tons of traditional italian ingredients like ricotta, pesto, squid etc. but in new and unexpected combinations. Totally loved it. The place is quiet, with darling decor and a very nice staff.
Bar Del Fico – A nice happening spot any night of the week to enjoy a bar night with some real Italians and a minimal amount of tourists, either inside or on their terrace. The system is a bit odd, so you pay for your drinks in advance and then order them at the bar.
Garbo – A very cool little late night spot with an old school Italian vibe. Perfect for if you want to stay out late and enjoy drinks with friends over conversation versus a wild party, plus a friendly and funny staff. Their motto is “Garbo is for all!” so truly, come as you are!
A FEW QUICK TIPS FOR CINQUE TERRE
Accommodations — I have to admit, I was not impressed with the look of places to stay for visiting Cinque Terre. Ideally you will need to stay either in La Spezia (the main city closest to les Cinque Terre) or in one of the villages but be close to the train station. I just didn’t find gorgeous hotels. Instead you can stay in an Airbnb (there are many available in any of the villages) but you must make sure you are in walking distance of a train station, as you will need the trains everyday. The Airbnb’s however are not exactly full of Italian charm, more outdated than anything else but they are affordable and some are conveniently located.
Transport — The main way of transport between the villages are the trains. They run rather frequently and tickets can be purchased for just a few euros at the station. It’s only a matter of minutes once on the train from village to village, however you can wait in serious lines to buy the tickets. Always by your return in advance to avoid waiting and missing trains. You can also check the schedules for departures as you don’t want to waste too much vacation time waiting around for the train to arrive. The trains start leaving very early in the morning and run quite late, so you can start and finish your day out as you like.
Beaches & Boating — While the coast line of Cinque Terre is stunning, the beaches can be a bit of trouble. They are rocky, and the chairs and umbrellas for rent each day fill up fast. If the weather is good be there by 10AM to get a spot. Monterosso is the best village for the beach. It’s not ideal but the beaches are rock, which can be tough on your feet. Corneglia has a secret beach called Guvano, which is quite an adventure to get to! Ask around there and you’ll find your way. It’s worth it. If you prefer to explore from a boat, be sure to reserve in advance, as these too fill up and are often cancelled due to wind.
Dining — Get ready for a carb overload, but just go for it and don’t worry about the swimsuit. There are not particular restaurants that stood out to me above the others, but pretty much anywhere you stop to eat in any of the villages or La Spezia is going to serve you up their Italian momma’s cooking. Wether that be pizzas, lasagna, or pasta. Most places have seafood options which are quite good considering the vicinity of the fishing. My favourites though were the Foccaciarias where you can grab a fresh foccacia sandwich to go complete with cheesy goodness. Those seem traditional here and are not to be missed.