Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Trip to Italy! Cinque Terre - Beaches, Cats of Italy, and Relaxation

After our sensory overload of Florence's museums and attractions, it was a relief to go somewhere quieter for a while. Off to Cinque Terre (Wiki link here), a World Heritage site on the northern coast, on the Mediterranean Sea. It's a bunch of little villages (Cinque Terre means "five towns") on sea cliffs and beaches that you can either walk to (in good weather), boat to (weather permitting) or take a train to/from. It's still pretty non-touristy, and I have to say, it was my favourite place in all of Italy. I could live there!

Our last night in Florence was insane - there was a huge thunder and lightning storm! It was raining for most of the night, but it eased up as we left. 

The train to La Spezia was a free-for-all - no first class there! We got dinged for not validating our ticket (validate!), were briefly acquainted with some gypsies, and were in generally grumpy moods after Florence's chaos after the even smaller and more erratic train to our destination, Monterosso. By the time we arrived we were frazzled.

And so, to find our wonderful hotel, up on a hill, surrounded by green hills, it felt so good to change right into some comfy clothes and go for a walk.

  • Cardigan - Alternative Apparel, thrifted, left behind
  • Cami - I kept this one; it's a useful colour
  • Skirt - Club Monaco, keeper
  • Sandals - Kenneth Cole Reaction, consignment, left behind
  • Scarf - in hair, thrifted, keeper

It was a lovely warm day in Monterosso, perfect for a stroll around. And what better to find immediately than a Cat of Italy?
Aw! A fuzzy white and grey senor!

It had rained a bit in Monterosso on the previous days, so he seemed very happy to be soaking up a few rays of sun.
"Mi scooter."
We saw him several times over our 3 day stay. He was very friendly.

Our first full day was grey and stormy, so I wore my warmest outfit.

  • Top - Oxmo, left behind
  • Cami - old, left behind
  • Trousers - thrifted, handmade, keepers!
  • Shoes - Enzo Angiolini, thrifted, left behind
  • Jewelry - pendant, gift from L

October was a great month to visit this resort town - there were a fraction of the tourists there that swamp the place during the main season.
Little drink tables? You have to rent a chair to sit on this beach.

The surf was churning! Cinque Terre experiences some severe weather - many of the towns we visited had memorials up from the great flood of Oct 25, 2011. This sculpture on the north side of town is called "Il Gigante" - he is now part of an exclusive club/hotel.
This beach reminded me of the ones here in Victoria: same seaweed, more pebbly texture.

Looking south. On each of those hills in the distance is one of the other towns of the Cinque Terre. At night, you could see the lights twinkling.
We stayed in the resort section of Monterosso. To the south, either by walking or going through a tunnel, is the "old town".
These beaches and streets would be crammed with people in the summer.
 Monterosso is a really small town.
 This rock is actually two rocks side by side. A couple of days later, we saw someone sitting on them.

The walking path to old town was closed due to weather (mudslides are an issue).
A World War II German "pillbox".

L stood on top of it.
"All mine!"
 You can see how windy it was!

Of course, we had to go inside.
You can just see Il Gigante in the distance.

This is what he used to look like, before a storm took out his shell and spear.
The shell was originally a dance floor for a swanky hotel that was there in the 70s.

We had to go through the tunnel, which had all kinds of little windows (like the one above) with art projects.
There was very little traffic on the roads. Most people walked down the centre.

On the beach in old town. All of the paths between the towns were closed, and none of the boats between towns were in operation.
 We climbed up that path!

And here we are looking back. I took the above picture in front of that pink building on the beach.
L, Louise and Mom
L and I hiked up to the buildings on the top of that opposite hill.

And up we went for a brief scout, to be returned to after lunch.
All streets go vertical eventually.

The terraces are planted with olive groves and grapes for wine.
There's the train tracks!

We found the Italian version of Grumpy Cat.
"Get off my hill."
 No amount of sweet talk would sway him.
"Exit's that way."
 The next Cat of Italy must have been a policecat, like Officer Vizzini.
"No time for petting."
 He was fairly old, so perhaps he was the Capitan.

We had lunch in the most amazing restaurant, Ciak (link). We wrote our names on the wall.
Shout out to Rich Kitty?

I had the best dish in Italy here, the gnocchi with pesto. I nearly licked the plate! I was also introduced to the local dessert specialty, SciacchetrĂ  (shack-ah-trah), an amber sweet dessert wine, served with small sliced almond biscotti, which you dip into the wine. It was astoundingly good.

After lunch, L and I headed back up the hill to investigate the graveyard at the top.
The clouds were sitting on top of the hills.
It was just beautiful.

Looking back at the resort town.
You can see a bit of the path that was closed. It would have been cool to walk that, but the weather was far too treacherous.

L and I hung out at a local cafe and drank wine and chatted with locals and other tourists - during that time, the rain hit in a crazy storm. The water flooded the street, and nearly came up to the cafe's doors. It was wild.

And just like that, the next day was lovely.
Back to my favourite dress.

  • Dress - Hemp & Co., keeper
  • Cami - left behind
  • Sandals - as above
  • Jewelry - pink crystal studs, assortment of charms on necklace

It was a bright and sunny day. Look at the morning drama!
How do you not fall in love with a place like this?

We took the little regional train to Vernazza, the next town south from Monterosso. Again, no boats running, and the trails were likely closed for the winter.

We were welcomed immediately by a Cat of Italy!
"I like a good box."
 And right past him was this elderly fellow, having a drink.
Vernazza was full of cats!
"I'm snoozing on a boat."
 He had a companion in the next boat.
The cat on the right got up and walked along the wall.

You can see him sitting on the wall in front of the yellow building here.
Vernazza is known for its enclosed harbour. We walked around it, then out onto the breakwater.
And around back, here's our cat again.

Vernazza is also known for the Doria Castle.
Through the narrow streets.

Looking up at the castle (it's just a tower).
Looking down on the southern side of Vernazza.
The water really was that blue!

Climbing up inside the tower.

From the top, there's Monterosso in the far distance.
It was much less choppy this day, as you can see by the waves.

Yet another Cat of Italy.
"Nap time, go away."
We climbed up above the town.
These towns date back to the 1000s (the 11th century).

It's awe-inspiring.
There's the Doria Castle, the breakwater and harbour.

And one last Cat of Italy in Vernazza.
Cats in boats. Big theme.

A dead ringer for Vizzini's brother, this kitty was in a hurry.
He zoomed past us. Must have been on a big case!

One of our favourite parts of Cinque Terre was our front desk gent and local resident, Theo.
What a fabulous place! I highly recommend it.

Up tomorrow: the last leg of the journey, Rome!


  1. Sheila, I enjoy your review so much! What a great trip!

    Love all the cats of course :)

  2. Nice pictures!
    Love Italy.
    It's not that far from The Netherlands.

  3. It looks beautiful Sheila! Even despite the wild weather. Such a gorgeous little town to visit! :)

  4. It looks fabulous. I love a harbour, narrow winding streets, good views and great food, and of course, meeting the locals, human and feline! xxx

  5. Where have I been ?!! you're in Italy OMG Sheila, how much fun !
    It looks like you are making the best of it , all those sights and I have a feeling Vizzini will not be happy after reading this post.
    "She has replaced me with an Italian cat…"

  6. Oh Sheila, what fabulous photos! You really capture the essence of Italy with your pictures! I love the cats! But it's also the unique angles of architecture, or finds, or people...all very intimate and personable shots! Thanks for sharing. A good friend of mine went to Cinque Terre. Her and her partner hiked absolutely everywhere, ate marvelous food and soaked in the was September when they went, and believe it was 2011 right after the terrible rains if I'm not mistaken...or maybe it was the year after?

  7. Gorgeous photos, I am especially loving all the cat shots. Looks like it would be the best place to visit for this crazy cat lady.

  8. You're killing me! I always wanted to go to Cinque Terra, and although I've been to Italy four times I still haven't been to that part. The gnocchi and sciacchetra sound yummy, and the cats are all adorable. Did you read Beautiful Ruins? It's set there.

    I also looked at your Rome pictures - they look just like mine from 1989! I love how it never changes - the Eternal City!

  9. Val, it's amazing - go there! I have never heard of "Beautiful Ruins" but thank you for the recommendation - it looks like it'll be a great Book Club pick!

  10. Oh how beautiful! I am now not certain if this is pleasure or torture, Sheila! I love the cats. The first cat napping on the boat looks like one of my previous cats.

  11. GOODNESS So many cats. I'd have to pass out so many chin scratches.


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