Sunday, August 07, 2016

Cinque Terre & Levanto: Picturesque Towns on the Italian Riviera

Cinque Terre, Italy - from the boat
Sean, Kristin and I decided on Italy for our road trip this summer - and wow, what a beautiful place to choose! Remember last year's trip to Bordeaux? Our road trip adventures were just too much fun, so a repeat was in order this year! Last Thursday I flew to Geneva and hopped into Kristin's car for a five hour drive. We decided to brave the Mont Blanc tunnel - instead of driving 100 km around - which resulted in a 2 hour traffic jam - and a lot of catching up of events in our lives over the past year. 

Levanto, and our cute Airbnb on top of a hill above town, was itself an amazing surprise. Booking accomodation within the villages themselves is quite an expensive endeavour, so most people stay in Levanto or La Spezia. We arrived late, expecting to have dinner on Spanish time - y'know, around 11:00 - and it turned out the Italians eat a couple hours early and were closing by then!  Lunch is at noon or 1:00, not 2:00 or 3:00, and dinner is at 8:00 or 9:00pm, not 10:00 or 11:00pm.  We managed to entrap ourselves in this Spanish-Italian difference quite a few times. Nevertheless, we found some amazing eats:

  • Gelato, of course, is to die for. I'd say the little one we visited by the train station on Monterroso al Mare was my favourite. Strateciatella with actual, dark chocolate, thick stripes (not chocolate shavings). Yum!
  • La Picea Pizza- You won't believe this - but this global award-winning restaurant turned out to be our last resort-  twice! It was the only place that would serve us the first night, and we were so hungry, we didn't notice the Tripadvisor #1 in Levanto logo and awards. Two nights later, we ended up in the same pickle- no food at 11pm! - and headed back to have the most amazing pizza of our lives.  I had artichoke and mushroom and Sean and Kristin tried the award-winning truffle, ham (I think) and pine nut pizza.
  • Foccacia & Salads -  Unfortunately, I can't quite remember the name of the place we went, but most of the restaurants we stopped at had delicious giant salads, of which I had many (I managed to stick to my trainer's eating plan for most of the trip ;)
  • Trofie Pasta & Arrabiata Sauce  - Definitely stop by one of the tourist shops and pick yourself up souvenirs of pasta and dried pesto or arrabiata mix (you mix it with olive oil to make a sauce). They are not kidding when they say "picantissimo!" - that is some spicy sauce!

We spent our first full day in Levanto on the beautiful beach and the next day village-hopping by foot and fast, but veeerry late trains. Unfortunately one of the main hiking paths between the villages was closed due to bad weather, so we only hiked a gentle couple of hours and were then stuck waiting for trains the rest of the time. 

One of the best parts was standing by the sea, watching people cliff-diving.  My favourite photo of the trip is the one below, where I managed to capture this girl mid-air, arms back, as if she were flying into the water.

Cliff Diving in Cinque Terre
Check out the slideshow below of the beautiful Cinque Terre villages- Monterosso al MareVernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore.  Photo credit to Kristin for a few of the Cinque Terre photos she took from the boat, which I included in the show:)  Remember, if you are on mobile device that doesn't support Flash, click here for my Cinque Terre Flickr Set page, click the first photo and click play or flip through.

Well, here's to even more mini-Singapore reunions in the very near future!  Stay tuned for my next post on our visit to Genova, Santa Margherita and Portofino the day after we left Levanto - coming up shortly!

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