From Florence, we hired a driver to take us to the wondrous Cinque Terre and the time-honored Pisa for the day. And when I say it was wanderlust come to life, I mean it. To see Cinque Terre and fulfill the Leaning Tower of Pisa photo moment; classic life stuff. We started our day traveling past Carrara, where the world-famous marble is sourced (there are blocks of it sitting in lots waiting to be sent all over the world; it’s a sight to see). From there, we passed the port city of La Spezia and began our journey into the winding hills of Parco Nazionale delle Cinque Terre. Now, a quick overview of Cinque Terre: Cinque Terre means “five lands” and five old seaside towns compose the national park that runs along the rugged Italian Riviera. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and Italy’s smallest National Park (almost 15 miles in total). The towns in Cinque Terre were shut off from the world until the 1970’s so, they still have a very unique culture which adds to their appeal.
The views afforded us as we drove towards our first destination, Riomaggiore, were incredible. Once we arrived, at Riomaggiore, we were totally engulfed in the beauty, charm, and rustic nature of it. The photos below speak for themselves. Hope you enjoy!(Pictured: The beginning of Parco Nazionale delle Cinque Terre.)(Pictured: The dock where boats unload, crazy, no?)(Pictured: The start of the Lover’s Walk, currently closed due to a landslide.)From Riomaggiore, we hopped on the train to Vernazza. Yet another stunning town in Cinque Terre. We stopped in Antica Osteria il Baretto for lunch, and wow it was so good. We tried a bottle of local white wine and I ordered a local cod dish to start and a pesto pasta dish for my main (Liguria region is famous for pesto sauce), all of which were amazing life choices. After lunch, we walked around Vernazza. It was stunning. Again, I hope the photos below speak for themselves. (Pictured: You know it’s off-season when the chairs are stacked in the square and the boats are pulled in from the dock.)(Pictured above and below: The Church of Santa Margherita d’Antiochia of Vernazza that was constructed in 1318. The seaside views and rustic quality make it very special.)(Pictured: Seaside views from The Church of Santa Margherita d’Antiochia.)(Pictured: The shop where I bought three paintings of the three towns we visited in Cinque Terre. The artist was there and signed the paintings for me; they are now framed in our living room in Dublin.)
Fun fact about Cinque Terre, not all five villages are right on the water. Corniglia, our last stop, is a town that sits high above the water on top of a cliff. And there is no access to the village by car, only via a trail walk. It’s quite unique. After our hike in, we spent time exploring the shops and enjoying the cliff side views. Once again, I hope the photos below speak for themselves. Then we began part two of our day as we headed towards Pisa. Pisa was full of tourists, and we arrived towards sundown, so, we (allegedly) missed the crowds. We spent some time walking around the Piazza dei Miracoli admiring the four buildings housed there. They are the Leaning Tower of Pisa which is more accurately referred to by Italians as the campanile (bell tower), the stunning Baptistery, the Duomo di Pisa, which rests on a white marble pavement and is an impressive example of Romanesque architecture, and finally the camposanto (cemetery) which is a cloister enclosing a burial ground with earth reputedly brought back during the Crusades from Golgotha (the hill where Jesus was crucified) so that noble Pisans could rest on holy ground. Amazing. (Pictured: The campanile i.e. The Leaning Tower of Pisa.)(Pictured: The Duomo di Pisa.)(Pictured: The Baptistery.)(Pictured: On the left side of the photo is the camposanto i.e., cemetery.) (Pictured: Typical tourist pic number one.)(Pictured: Typical tourist pic number two.)
After our return to Florence, we made our way to Trattoria Al Tranvai (another Michelin Guide restaurant). And then, we had the most amazing dinner experience. The owner and chef told us all about the history of the restaurant (it was originally his grandmother’s) and his history as a chef via food magazines and news clippings that he happened to have on-hand (typical). Then, we exchanged travel stories and at the end of the night, he gifted us a bottle of his family’s home-pressed olive oil. I mean, this type of thing doesn’t happen that often. It was an incredible way to end the day. We will cherish the memory forever. And yes, we did get a selfie with him, because, why not? Oh Italy, I love you. Until next time, arrivederci.