Cinque Terra – Five fabulous villages in five fabulous days…

Five fabulous villages clinging to the mountains in a higdelpigledy conglomeration of shapes, sizes and crooked walls and painted in various hues of pink, yellow and dirty white.  

Nothing seems to be straight or built with any great process, yet the Italians sure knew something about foundations and concrete. ‘We came, we concreted and it stayed’ surely must have been their motto.  

What a wonderful legacy they have left for us to enjoy – whether the lines are straight or not – it is takes little away from its wonder and history.

This photo comes complete with laundry. Never ceases to amaze me what they hang out of their windows to dry.  ‘Undies’, if they escaped would wipe out a third world country and everything else as well.  

They are Monterossa Al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and then Riomaggiore as you go down the coast.  You can do them any way you like.  Hike across the top of the mountain, not for the feint hearted and not for us, the train or by ferry.  We chose the ferry to get the view from the sea – faster and much more relaxing.  

The sea is a deep dark blue/green colour and clear as a whisker. Never seen a colour like it and different even to the Great Barrier Reef at home.  

Our five days at Villa Accini at Monerossa al Mare has been just fantastic.  Our day usually started with a walk along the broadwalk to find expresso and what we can for breakfast.  Nothing is quite like home and that is what makes it so fantastic.  

Found toast today for the first time since leaving oz which I must admit ‘hit the spot’ quite nicely. 
On the first day we cruised to Riomaggiore, the furtherest village in the Cinque Terra. 

Wandered the streets and walked to the top of the hill to the church.  Every village has a church as stunning as the next.  

Then down through crooked laneways all paved with old cobblestones, worn down by the feet of a thousand Italian women doing their chores and visiting friends and the village. Kids have grown up on these laneways no doubt.   

We bumped into one bounding down the steps.  I said,  ‘you have done that before’,  ‘yes, for 50 years’ was his reply.  There you go, the apples or figs really don’t fall far from the tree.
The figs – found a tree over the edge of a fence just dripping with them and about to ripen.  Lemons and oranges are everywhere and so is lemonchello – but that is another story entirely.

Another fabulous restaurant with basil the theme of the day.  This is the home of basil and Trofie.  Trofie is a pasta shape that is specific to the Cinque Terra – is about two inches long and has a twist in the middle.  Is el-dente which is just a bit chewy on the centre.  The pesto is to die for.  My most favourite of all herbs and they keep it simple and just delicious. 
This is trofie here with pesto – tastes alot better than it looks.

Tonight I ventured out and had ravioli with spinach and cheese dressed up with a walnut sauce.  Another delicacy of the region it seems. 

View of balcony across from restaurant

Seafood something – alby said Delicious

Seafood galore.  Alby has loved the anchovies which were raw tonight and then pasta with a mix of octopus, fish, prawns, clams and whatever else they can find. Sometimes slightly battered, but all as fresh as the day.  I wish I ate seafood as anything else is a bit tricky to find.  Just as well there is pesto. 

Yesterday after being at Riomaggiore, we had a nap or siesta as they all do here.  

Even the supermarket closes for a couple of hours.  The most intriguing thing, but it works.  They all come back at 3.30ish and are happy to stay open until after 7.00pm.  It is still light here until 10.00ish and folks are still walking around doing their thang until then – whatever their thang may be…
We decided last night to walk to the old city part of Monterossa.  It is about a 20minute walk along the sea, through a tunnel and is a quaint little village or what is considered the ‘old village’.  

Lots of great restaurants and neat shops and it seems we managed to find the funkiest bar in Monterossa. This is the view along the way. 

Called ‘Fast’ it was great.  We had found it a few nights before and had a quiet drink there before dinner.  But last night, decided we needed a night cap – one quiet drink before the walk home.  HA! 
Alex Bini (right), the bar owner was just delicious.  Very down to earth and says he used to be a footballer 20kilos ago  (I loved it).  As the night wore on, became quite a character and we now know why he has had the bar for years and loves it.
Then we met Diaggo – (deeaggo- like in Ice Age movie).  He was the cutest Italian who owns a little hotel in the next street.  It is listed in Tripadvisor as a very clean, cheap hotel that is safe for single women.  That is until they meet Diaggo. 

He had fallen for a lovely girl Nina just the day before from Norway, as blond as can be.  Paula from Colombo had also arrived yesterday, who is working in Sydney as a graphic designer and wanting to become a resident.  But has to be out of Australia for 2 months so is floating around Europe (as you do).  Diaggo had a real problem with girl guests who wear make-up (like Paula) as they put make-up on his white towels and it gives him all sorts of grief getting them clean. When he started on the amount of trees it took to make Loo paper, and the more than obvious benefits of a bidet. I truly lost it.   Was very funny to hear a man so passionate his white towels and protecting Italy’s forests at the same time.
Then Alfio came along with his girlfriend Sam and a few mates and decided to shout the bar with shots of something lemon with a white powder like sugar (not drugs, but not sugar – something in Italian I couldn’t pronounce or remember) but they seemed to pack a punch.  Then more shots of lemonchello and tequila.  I kept sneaking mine into Diaggo’s glass so he was more spastic than any of us and got funnier in the process. 
Amongst all of this mayhem was a lovely fluffy dog called Molly.  She was more happy playing with bottle tops than chatting.  Her owner said she doesn’t like anyone.  But she was cute and friendly enough. The next night we saw her in another bar standing with all four paws on his hand.  So she does party tricks as well. 
Hotel Accini
After midnight they have to serve drinks in plastic glasses so no one chucks them on the street etc.  But at 1.00pm we were locked in until nearly 3.00pm when we managed to escape and make our way home.  Alby and Louise had all sorts of problems trying to put the security code in the keypad in the dark at the entrance of the hotel.  After many attempts and what we thought were quiet whispers they finally managed to open the door.  

The next day, we were chatting to the other guests, from Sydney. That you ‘YOU’ they said.  But it turns out to be a very small world as Julian is on the board at the Casino in Cairns and friends of some friends of ours –  so there you go.  We were forgiven.
The look of a hangover
Spent the day on the beach.  They certainly do the ‘beach thing’ here very well.  The umbrellas are all lined up with lovely big lounges under them with a little table attached.  
It cost 27 eurs for three chairs and two umbrellas for the whole day.  You buy it for the day and it is yours to come and go as you like.  I took my poggie (a soft pillow with kaypoc) with me and had a lovely nap in the cool breeze.  

Alby and Ella had swims in between snacks of gelato and lemon sodas.

The gelato in Italy is sensational.  Ella finds the best shop wherever we stop.  They are cheap and just so yumm.  Just as well they have no calories.
Tomorrow we are off to Vanazza – apparently another wonderful village.  But they are all wonderful. 
 Vanassa had a massive landslide in 2011 and they are slowly rebuilding it and it is nearly back to what is was apparently.  It was very quaint with a centre street and then little laneways going off from there.  There is a hefty walk to the top of the hill, but nah – not for us.

We stuck to our usual scheme of getting out of the main drag to find something good to eat and stubbled on a little restaurant.  The owner was very Italian, funny about that.  Offered us very fresh fish and hot chips.  Something similar to the home country we thought.  The fish came out whole.  Ella freaked out, but the owner took her bones out and she enjoyed it from there.  Once you got the bones sorted, it was delicious.  Hot chips were nice as well.
There was also some funky little shops arty shops with nice stuff. Added to the mounting boxes we have already sent home. Just as an afterthought, the cheapest way is normal sea mail from Italy – 50euro a box and home in about 2 weeks. DHL was 300euro.

These two photos are for Dad.  The yellow and red flowers are Lantana – the worst weed Australia every saw.  They grow it in pots here and think it is the greatest.  Then the Bouganvillea that has taken over and is half way up the second floor.  If Mum was here she would say ‘that is the new thornless variety’, and Dad would reply – ‘bullshit’…  Then he would have the Roundup out quicker than Flash Gordon…

This was our last day in the Cinque Terra.   We went to ‘Fast’ Bar for one last drink to say goodbye to our new made friends and hope that they keep in touch or get to Oz at some stage.
We have met some wonderful people along the way and stayed at some great places.  All as a matter of whatever comes comes, not overly too much planning and we are just letting things unfold as they will.  Quite a sense of freedom really.  Is there really a normal life back in Australia???

Another interesting mode of transport in Italy is the Piaggio – They are a three wheeled motorbike under a car shell.  If you can call it a car.  There is a tray back as well.  Even more hysterical are the people who drive them.  Usually very large italian men and even funnier to see the wife crammed in there as well. 

We have told Ella it is going to be her first car.  Not impressed best describes her reaction. Not sure why?

From here we caught the train to Lucca.  Met some more Australians from the Sunshine coast at the train station and then some another bunch in the rental car company from Melbourne.  They were off to Seinna and staying in a lovely villa with private chefs.  It worked out cheaper apparently.  Might have to investigate that further.

Lucca – one night in Lucca…
One night is never enough, but enough to allow you to fall in love with this beautiful old city.  Filled to the brim with churches from hundreds of years ago.  Apparently, there are two cities underneath the current Lucca.  The Romans or whoever was in power seemed to decide on whim maybe – sick of this city – lets build another one. 
There is a wall surrounding the inner city of 4km long.  There are bike tracks beside it which we will do next time we are cruising past.  In the next week or two we are thinking.  So when we have been there for a little longer than just overnight, will find out more of its amazing history. 

We did the horse and carriage ride again.  A very neat way to the see the main sights and get a feel for where is where and its not expensive.  Also quite neat clipping along amongst the old cobble stone streets. 

It never ceases to intrigue me as to who laid all the little stones, sometimes in patterns.  Then the thousands of people who have walked on them.  Where were they going and what for.  Were they happy or sad, too tired to care, rich or poor and just a simple tourist taking a gander like us.
Anyway, will ponder more on Lucca later.

Bye for now my lovelies…

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