Once in Europe we knew our first long stay trip was going to be a trip to Italy, most notably to visit Cinque Terre. After a bit of stressful planning we finally we able to settle on an itinerary which for logistical purposes started and ended in Venice.
We took off on a Friday night and landed in Venice late, just in time to grab a couple of glasses of wine next to the Grande Canal before heading to bed after very light exploring. We had an early train to Cinque Terre so didn’t want to do anything too crazy and surprisngly a lot of Venice was shut down near our hotel around 11 PM. That suited us just fine as we boarded our first of 3 trains (Venice to Florence, Florence to La Spezia, La Spezia to Cinque Terre) en route to the northern most city of Cinque Terre, Monterosso.
Along with being the most Northern and good starting point for the Cinque Terre hike, Monterosso is also the biggest of the 5 towns (“Cinque Terre”) and boosts the largest beach. We took full advantage of this by booking ourselves a room at Hotel Baia which is a 5 minute walk from the train station and situated directly across from the main beach. After the long train journey (~6 hours total) we deserved some relaxation so grabbed a quick bite and headed to the beach. After sunset we explored the city of Monterosso a bit more before heading back to bed with plans to get up early and take on the Cinque Terre hike.
Each of the 5 Cinque Terre (Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, Riomaggiore) are isolated but interlinked towns can be accessed by train, boat, windy roads or by a hiking trail. The hike between the towns takes you up and down a variety terrain as walk past impressive tomato, olive and grape farms to give you incredibly scenic views of the Italian Coastline and the pastel colored towns below. When Scot was there 10 years ago he was lucky enough to be able to hike to all 5 towns via the easiest trail, however due to a mudslide a few years back 2 sections of that trail are now closed. We were still able to hit the other 2 sections of the easy trail and then hit another connecting section on a much harder trail in between Corniglia and Manarola, finishing with a train ride to Riomaggiore to hit all 5 towns. Since we were there in the end of July, the hike was fairly rough and incredibly warm. Luckily with each turn you were rewarded with breathtaking views every hour or so had a chance to stop in the next town to rest up and refuel. The journey and exploring took us most of the day as we finally found ourselves grabbing a late lunch in the southernmost town of Riomaggiore at around 2 PM. One of the benefits of going on the hike was that it did allow you to walk past some restaurants with fanatastic views that you would never have noticed nor found on tripadvisor. So we took advantage and made a reservation for one in Vernazza around sunset. After working our way back home and stopping for a it of exploring we took a nap, cleaned ourselves up and headed back for an amazing dinner overlooking the ocean as the sun fell behind the hills.
The next day was full or relaxation and recovery of sore muscles for the previous days hike. We spent in our lounge chairs on the beach sipping our aperol spritz, reading and working on our sun tans. Later in the afternoon we found ourselves at a beach side bar known for it’s drink by the bucket, playing 90’s jams and being probably the only “Auburn” bar in all of Europe with it’s scattered War Eagle posters and signs. After enjoying the tunes and a few cocktails here we got ourselves together for one last dinner in the town of Monterosso before heading out on the early train to Rome the next day. We can’t leave Cinque Terre though without a quick mention of the delicious gelato we indulged in almost every night as well.
The next morning we were on our way to Rome for a few days to explore all the ancient city had to offer. Upon arrival we went straight up the pool to relax for a bit and cool off from the incredibly hot temperatures. it was there we ran into our friends Keith and Kristie who were in Europe for their honeymoon and happened to not only be in Rome the same time as us but we found out that morning were staying at the same hotel. Since we reluctantly couldn’t make their wedding back home we set up dinner with them for the next night before heading back to our room to get ready for a little city exploring and our first dinner in Rome.
After stopping by the Spanish Steps accidentally we eventually found ourselves to our rooftop dinner. It was still very hot (85 degrees) and humid at dusk but we enjoyed a beautiful dinner overlooking the city scape before becoming tourists again. We headed towards the very crowded Trevi Fountain to toss our coins and hope for a return back to Rome. After a bit of exploring we headed back to the hotel too cool off and prepare ourselves for a big day of sightseeing the next day.
We got up early to hit Vatican city as we had signed up for a guided tour that we thought would help us with the lines getting into St. Peter’s (verdict is still out on that). We were a little early so explored near the Castel Sant’Angelo and grabbed so obligatory pics outside St. Peter’s square before joining our tour starting in the Vatican Museums. As we worked our way through it was very crowded and warm so any reprieve in certain air conditioned rooms was much appreciated. Once we worked our way through the Museum and Sistine chapel we were on our own to head up the 400+ stairs of St. Peter’s Basilica for views over the entirety of Rome. From there we headed back down into St. Peter’s for a bit before the heat got the best of us. We decided best to retire back to the safety of the hotel swimming pool for the hottest part of the day before restarting our tourist mode the next. Later in the evening we joined Keith and Kristie for a lovely prix fixe menu nearby the hotel and then a few nightcaps back at the hotel for a bit of catchup.
The next morning we were back in tourist mode, this time heading to the Collesium and Palatine to check out the ancient ruins. Just standing in line and waiting for the opening we could tell it would be another scorcher. After a few hours of exploring both location we decided that was enough pictures and tourists sites for the day so once again retired back to our hotel for some pool time followed by a massage and the gym. With no real plans for tonight we went our to explore what we haven’t of Rome and found ourselves strolling by the Pantheon before landing on a dinner spot in Piazza Navona with a view of Bernini’s Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi. After enjoying a bit of late night entertainment and apertifs we headed back home as we were headed back to Venice in the morning.
Once again grabbing the early train back to Venice, we arrived and quickly jumped on a water taxi towards our B&B Bloom hotel. After a bit of confusion finding the place we settled in and began to explore all Venice has to offer. Other than checking out the Ponte Vechhio and Piazza San Marco we had no other agenda but to explore. We found ourselves going over all the major bridges and weaving our way through a variety of different pathways and roads. Eventually we found our way back to our B&B to enjoy the main reason we booked it, a free bottle of Prosecco to enjoy on the rooftop terrace. Once finished we headed out to our last dinner in Italy with a stop for our last gelato there as well. A few last minute souvenir stops and we ready to head back to London.
Even though it was hot, humid and full of tourists, Italy is a special place with great history and culture accompanied with phenomenal food and wine. No doubt we will be back soon!