I was among those who were sad to leave Venice, but I already know that I will return some day. However, we were on to our next adventure! We were heading to the Cinque Terre area, specifically Monterosso al Mare.

Cinque Terre is considered to be the Italian Riviera. I did not know that and was delighted to discover that, to the extent that I’m sure that I was completely obnoxious calling it the Italian Riviera every chance I could! Cinque Terre is located in Northern Italy, south of Genoa in the Liguria area. The area is comprised of five small very colorful villages (from north to south….Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore), each town resting on a cliff and/or beach, similar to what we recall when picturing the Amalfi coast.

When we were approaching Cinque Terre and were driving through steep, windy roads (thank you, Sandro, for keeping us safe!), the terrain changed suddenly, and it immediately reminded me of Southern California, specifically in the Malibu Canyon area. The only difference to me was that clusters of homes were built tightly together into steep hillsides throughout the canyon, and we all know that California builders would never be able to achieve that in our beloved earthquake country!

Because of the conditions of the roads due to extensive damage from flooding and mudslides in 2011, the roads are impassible, certainly via buses. We were dropped off at a train station and waited to board a local train to Monterosso. While at the train platform, our tour escort, Cary, warned us not to get near the yellow line because there is a nonstopping train that zooms past the platform at high speed. Well, true to her words, that train sped past, blowing some of the tour members who had their backs to the train so hard that it moved them forward! Why didn’t I have my camera out waiting for that shot?!?!? What an adventure we were on!

Monterosso beach Cinque Terre Italy

Monterosso

Our hotel (second on the left in he photo above) was terrific, located on the central walkway overlooking the beach and ocean beyond. Some of the lucky tour members had ocean views while some poor schlubs (ugh, that would be me) had a view of a rock wall and the employees’ alley below at the back side of the hotel. Oh well…I had been the only one to have a Hansel and Gretel hotel room in Venice!

We couldn’t dump off our luggage fast enough in our rooms. We (as in me!) quickly ran out to the patio chairs in front of our hotel room so that we could relax with a drink…or two?…overlooking the ocean. It was SO fun and relaxing!

Monterosso beach Cinque Terre Italy

Monterosso beach Cinque Terre Italy

We all made plans as to who was going where for dinner. I joined Sue and Kathy so we could head out for a local restaurant in the older section of town (“old” bring an odd word considering that the entire town was old) that served a pear and cheese pasta entree. It sounded delicious!

Monterosso harbor Cinque Terre Italy

On our way towards the old village of Monterosso.

As we were wandering…

Monterosso women on bench Cinque Terre Italy

Some local women.  I love the elderly woman in the middle.

After getting somewhat lost, we finally found the restaurant and dined al fresco. Wine was in order! Cary told us that wine was less expensive than water, so we all only needed to hear that exactly once as our excuse for ordering wine! ;) We each ordered the same appetizer, a Caprese salad. My goodness…could the mozzarella and tomatoes be any fresher?!?

Monterosso Caprese Salad Cinque Terre Italy

I made up the name of this entree!

Monterosso Pear and Cheese Beggars Pillows Ciinque Terre Italy

Sue excused herself to use the restaurant restroom while Kathy and I had a nice conversation. We apparently lost track of time because Sue almost collapsed in her chair when she returned. Apparently she had gotten locked in the bathroom and couldn’t get out. Her knocking finally found some help, with the owner telling her “To the right! To the right!” trying to get Sue to turn the bathroom door key so she could free herself from the bathroom. Hmmm…she might still be there if no one had come to her aid!

The next morning, our choices for the day were to either rent a beach umbrella and chaise along the beach or tour the other villages by either train, hike, or small boat. Once I heard that the hiking trail was steep, narrow, and without guard rails, and that a couple of hikers had fallen to their deaths, uh, it was a no-brainer for me. I decided to visit the villages by boat!

Monterosso harbor boat Cinque Terre Italy

Our next adventure begins!

This is the “older” side of Monterosso

The boat ride was refreshing, and it was instantly apparent to me that it was going to be a joyfully bad hair day. Oh well…I was on the Italian Riviera! What’s not to love about that? My first visit was Vernazza, the first village south of Monterosso.

Vernazza Cinque Terre Italy

Vernazza

Vernazza boat Cinque Terre Italy

Vernazza Harbor Cinque Terre Italy

Vernazza restaurant umbrellas Cinque Terre Italy

Vernazza restaurant kitchen Cinque Terre Italy

Taking a peek inside a restaurant kitchen

Street scenes

Vernazza woman in window Cinque Terre Italy

Vernazza friends Cinque Terre Italy

Friends

Vernazza menu board Cinque Terre Italy

How could we go for more than a couple of hours without a snack?  We did a three-way, courtesy of Sue.

Vernazza focaccia Cinque Terre Italy

One bite and you know you need to return

Sue, Bob, and I got on the next boat thinking that it was headed for Manarola, but it took us to Riomaggiore instead. It was all good! Riomaggiore is outstanding!

Riomaggiore Cinque Terre Italy

Riomaggiore

Riomaggiore harbor boats Cinque Terre Italy

Riomaggiore hillside houses Cinque Terre Italy

Riomaggiore restaurant sign Cinque Terre Italy

This was Sue’s favorite sign. Why bother erasing?

I honestly had full intention of going off on my own once we arrived in Riomaggiore…REALLY!!!…but Bob began climbing a short winding staircase, so excited about what he saw, to the extent that I couldn’t help but follow his lead.

On the way up a short flight of stairs, we found such incredible craftsmanship on the walls.

Riomaggiore tiles Cinque Terre Italy

Bob was on a mission to climb as high as he could.  Who was I to argue with this adorable man?

Riomaggiore Bob Cinque Terre Italy

Bob and I then tried to coax Sue to follow us.  Another short windy flight up….”Sue, you have to see this!”  Up she came.

Riomaggiore wall art Cinque Terre Italy

Oh, wow, Sue, you can’t miss this!”  Up she came.  ;)

Riomaggiore rock planter Cinque Terre Italy

Have I ever told you how much I adore this woman?

Sue Riomaggiore Cinque Terre Italy

Sue

Before we knew it, we were near the top of this steep hill, overlooking this magnificent postcard-perfect village and ocean on a bright, beautiful day.

Riomaggiore hillside houses Cinque Terre Italy

While we were exploring, a woman hiking by herself said hello and started a conversation with us. We found out that her name was Liz and that she was traveling solo through Italy. Liz was recently divorced after a 27-year marriage and had moved from the San Francisco Bay Area back to her family in Colorado before deciding to embark on a personal journey to Italy. She was traveling for a short while in Italy before beginning a six-month education in Umbria to study Italian. Combine “Eat, Pray, Love” with “Under the Tuscan Sun” and you have the makings of complete envy on my part. What an adventure she was on!

We were starving by this time, so we asked Liz to join us for lunch. We found a very cute outdoor cafe where we shared a bottle of red wine, and we each ordered what we thought were personal-sized pizzas. What turned out to be our delight ;) is that they were large pizzas. Yes, please!

Riomaggiore pizza Cinque Terre Italy

To die for

We pretended that we couldn’t possibly finish the entire pizza ourselves (it’s a mind game that always works so we feel better about our gluttony!) but, believe me; there wasn’t a crumb left by the time we finished our lunch!

After we had finished our meals, we decided to head back to Monterosso by boat. Before we said goodbye to Liz, I took a photo of her with a promise to send it to her. Our very best to Liz!

Liz

It was time to head back to Monterosso.  We boarded a boat and arrived safely.

After renting umbrellas and a chaise and relaxing on the beach, our group met at the Ristorante Belvedere in Monterosso for our farewell dinner in honor of our bus driver, Sandro, who was going to drive us to Rome before then driving back to Belgium (I think!). Cary had purchased a few bottles of Prosecco so we could honor Sandro.

Rick Steve tours, Monterosso, Italy

Cary and Sandro

On to our dinner!

Sue, Kathy, and I had already decided that we were going to share the Amphora Belvedere, consisting of lobsters, mussels, clams, octopus, swordfish.  The stew is brought to the table in an Amphora pot and placed in a large earthenware bowl.  We were not disappointed.

Amphora Belvedere Monterosso Cinque Terre Italy

Amphora Belvedere

The best part of this photo is Sue’s expression!

Octopus Amphora Belvedere Monterosso Cinque Terre Italy

Look at the size of that octopus!

And because we did a lot of walking that day ;) we treated ourselves to dessert!  Hey, hey, hey…at least we split it three ways!

Panna Cotta Cinque Terre Italy

Again, more unforgettable memories on this wonderful stay along the Italian Riviera!

On to Roma!

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