After our time in the city and the country, it was time to head to the coast! We took the train from Lucca to Viareggio, then La Spezia, and finally we arrived in Manarola, the second village in Cinque Terre. The train station was packed with tour groups, but the crowds lessened as we walked up the hill. I was so happy when I saw the view from our balcony at Da Baranin.
View from the balcony
Manarola is a jumble of pastel houses surrounded by terraced vineyards and the Ligurian Sea. It is ridiculously picturesque. After exploring some of the streets in town, we walked along the vineyard path. The views were amazing.
Train tracks toward Riomaggiore
Houses in Manarola
Like a postcard
After the walk, we had dinner at Trattoria dal Billy, a few doors down from where we were staying. We started with the mixed antipasto di mare, which was 12 different dishes, so delicious. Then we had the squid ink pasta with with razor clams, mussels, shrimp...yum. Our waiter was hilarious. Dan loved him.
Squid ink pasta
Ready to eat
Sunset at Billy's
The next morning we had breakfast on the patio at Da Baranin. A basket of warm croissants, focaccia and other breads, plus cold cuts, cheese, yogurt, cereal, eggs, and a cappuccino for me. Then it was time to hike! The coastal trail to Corniglia was still closed, so we hiked up to Volastra, through the vineyards, then continued onto Corniglia. It was gorgeous. Also hot and tiring, but luckily we did it in the morning.
Manarola from above
Dan on the trail
In Corniglia we stopped for lemon granita (me) and gelato (Dan). We also picked up cold watermelon and an eggplant, tomato, and prosciutto panini. Then we hiked on the trail from Corniglia to Vernazza, stopping to eat the watermelon. It was possibly the most delicious watermelon I ever tasted. The sandwich was also delicious.
Corniglia in the distance
Vernazza was so crowded! We got a pesto foccacia, then I had gelato and Dan had a lemon granita (the one in Corniglia was better). We walked around the piazza, went inside the church, and after a rest, we decided to continue on to Monterosso.
We saw roller coaster tracks all over the vineyards in Cinque Terre, for the grapes. The crazy-terraced vineyards are so low to the ground, Dan wondered how the grapes are harvested. Our waiter at Billy's told us he had worked on the grape harvest before, and had to lay on the ground to pick them. So labor-intensive. I would love to see the grape harvest.
Vineyard roller coaster
The last trail was the most challenging, lots of steps and narrow paths, plus we were tired from the first two hikes, and the hot afternoon sun was beating down on us. But finally we made it to Monterosso! We saw a resort near the end of the trail, before the village entrance, with a beautiful shimmering blue swimming pool...it was like a mirage. Dan and I marveled that no one was swimming in it, we wanted to jump in! I went for a dip in the ocean to cool off, and then we took the ferry back to Manarola and got another gelato. We rested for a bit, then returned to Billy's for dinner. This time we had the lobster pasta with red sauce, then oven-roasted sea bream with potatoes and olives. So delicious, though we ordered way too much food. But Dan finished everything...after all, we had hiked for five hours earlier in the day!
Lobster pasta with red sauce
Sunset at Billy's, part 2
I wanted to go to Santa Margherita Ligure, but the ferry schedule didn't work out for us, so we went to Porto Venere the next day. It is a pretty seaside resort town with a fortress on a hill. We didn't hear much English there, but there were many Italians on holiday. We sampled some very tasty pesto there, wish we had bought some. Also, how do they make the pesto stay so bright green?
View from the fortress
At the fortress
San Lorenzo church
We could see the island of Palmaria across the water. I had read about a restaurant there, so we took the ferry to the island. There were sunbathers everywhere, and a military canteen (that appeared closed), but no restaurants in sight. I was getting cranky with hunger when we ran into an English-speaking family who were trying to return to Porto Venere. They pointed us to the restaurant, and we shared the ferry schedule. Dan said it was divine intervention (again).
Dan waiting on the ferry
View of Porto Venere from Palmaria
We had a delicious lunch at Locanda Lorena...seafood antipasto, spaghetti di mare with red sauce, and another pasta with langoustine, asparagus, and white sauce.
(Also, now we know where Santa Claus spends summers, as the chef
there.) During our meal we saw a huge platter of lobster delivered to
another table, later an enormous flounder was presented to them. After
lunch we went for a swim in Palmaria, there were so many Italians vacationers! Then we took the ferries back to
Porto Venere and Manarola. After a gelato, we went for another swim in
Manarola, there is a great swimming spot with deep water and not too
crowded. Then I read my book on the balcony with a glass of wine, before we had our final dinner on the coast. We went to Da Aristide, where we tried yet another seafood antipasto. Then Dan had the stuffed anchovies, and I had the seafood ravioli. We ate so much seafood and pasta on the coast! And it was all delicious.
Glass of wine before dinner
Our time on the coast went by too quickly! The next morning after breakfast we took the train to Florence, stopping in La Spezia and Pisa to change trains. We passed the marble mountains of Carrara along the way.