Today’s Florence file comes with an apology on my end. Chronologically speaking, I’ve missed a post on my day trip to Modena, but that will be coming later this week, along with my Pisa and Lucca canyon posts. But I really couldn’t pass up writing about this trip first.
This past Sunday, a group of friends and I woke up at an ungodly hour to venture to the legendary Instagram goldmine of a beach destination that is Cinque Terre. We arrived bright and early at 6:15 am to our bus stop, where we met our Smart Trip tour group who, unbeknownst to us, was full of our friends! As students in Florence, we book so many weekend trips that we often don’t coordinate schedules with some of our other friends, and due to the beautiful weather and popularity of Cinque Terre, we gladly joined up to explore together for the day.
Cinque Terre is a particularly rugged portion of the Italian Riviera coastline consisting of five remote sister villages, connected mainly by train. These colorful little villages are notorious for their stunning beaches, colorful little hillside houses, and their reputation as the birthplace of pesto.
Our bus arrived about two hours after leaving Florence in the only village with a parking lot, Manarola. Although it is tiny, Manarola really set the tone for what was to come; technicolor buildings stacked along cobblestone paths, boats strewn about on the sidewalk as if they were parked bikes, and the unmistakable smell of fresh seafood. We continued down the path to the waterfront, only to find several rock formations in the shallows with ledges carved out for sunbathing locals. A little launch assisted many tiny boats in making their way into the calm Mediterranean, as many younger boys headed out for the day to work and play on the sea. Since Manarola is so tiny, we continued on to the next village shortly after our arrival.
A 5-minute train ride took us to the slightly bigger village of Riomaggiore, where our tour guide was eager to show us his favorite place to eat; a Mamma Mia! themed seafood restaurant that apparently was home to the best pesto pizza and fried calamari around. I wasn’t hungry enough to buy anything, but I did have a bite of Kelly’s pesto pizza and gladly relieved Oliver of a giant calamari he was too squeamish to eat, and I can attest that it was definitely worth the hype. Once again, the rocky shoreline proved to be ideal for jumping off rocks into the crystal clear water, and after some swimming and basking in the sun, we headed off to our final destination, Monterosso al Mare.
Monterosso is the largest village in Cinque Terre and attracts the most tourists due to its stunning beach, which is where we spent the bulk of our day. Our tour guide insisted we follow him to a great spot, and since he wasn’t wrong about the pesto pizza place, we were inclined to follow him. After about a thirty second walk from the train station, we arrived at a bar that looked like it would fit in better in Hawaii, not Italy, but still, we continued. The bar, Colpi di Timone, was famous for its drunk buckets- huge frozen mixed drinks that came in big plastic buckets, perfect for when you want a cold drink on the beach that will last you all day so you don’t have to keep going back. The crowd favorite drink was the Miami Vice, a bucket that was half strawberry daiquiri, half piña colada, but I opted for the margarona, a frozen lemon-lime margarita topped off with an ice cold Corona.
We hauled our giant buckets down to the crowded beach and squeezed our towels together into a tiny piece of unclaimed beach, dropping our belongings and making a beeline for the water. While the beach is rocky and a bit painful to walk on, the water makes it well worth it. The water was so unbelievably warm and clear that it was impossible to get us to leave. The extra salinity of the Mediterranean came in handy by allowing us to simply float all afternoon long, laughing, talking, and taking in the stunning mountains and colorful buildings around us. A few people in our group wanted to stay on the shore and tan, which was definitely a relief because the New Yorker in me was not about to just let my bag sit out unguarded on a busy beach!
After about three hours of enjoying the beach, it was time for us to head back home, but first, we changed out of our suits and grabbed some food for our drive home. I opted for the focaccia with goat cheese, arugula, and tomato, which was so pretty but was devoured before I could even think to get a picture. Unfortunately, while trying to juggle all of my sandy belongings while paying for my food, I dropped my phone, shattering the bottom part of the screen. My little black case from the Apple store has protected me countless times in the past, but was just no match for the Tuscan cobblestone. Regardless, it was an awesome day and definitely one of my new favorite places. Now I’m doing whatever it takes to get back onto a beach, including telling my dad to look into sailboat charter places on the Italian Riviera.
As I mentioned in the beginning, I’ve totally been slacking on getting these up on time, so expect a ton of posts this week as I get ready to head to Oktoberfest this Friday, and then Paris and Ireland the following week.