Sunday, February 10, 2013

Cinque Terre

Now that the weather is colder and the holiday season has passed, I've decided to go back and post about some of the places we've had the opportunity to visit over the past year.

Of all the cities we have had the opportunity to visit here in Italy, Cinque Terre is our favorite.  It is really a group of five tiny towns located on the coastline of the Italian Riviera in the north west section of the boot of Italy, hence its name Cinque (meaning five) and Terra (meaning earths).

We actually ended up in Cinque Terre on a fluke.  Back in September, we learned that Tory would have a Cross Country meet in Florence over Columbus day weekend.  The weather in Italy, particularly northern Italy, is very unpredictable in October but we decided to give it a go and headed out to Cinque Terre over the long weekend.  Let me stop here and remind you that the year before, in October, two cities in Cinque Terre were virtually destroyed when heavy rains caused mudslides.  People were killed.  The week before we went, 2 more people were killed when heavy rains caused a mudslide on the trails between two of the towns.  But we were determined and so we booked a couple of rooms at Camp Darby, another Army base located in Italy, close to the town of Pisa (BIG mistake). A couple of days before our trip, we learned that Tory's meet had been canceled.  Honestly, we were happy--no meet meant 3 days in Cinque Terre!

Day One

Let me digress here a little bit....

This is a perfect representation of how well my giant American car fits here in Italy.  Can you guys which car is mine...

So, with that being said, we decided NOT to try and drive into Cinque Terre.  Instead, we drove to the port town of La Spezia, just outside of CT and took the train in.  The train tickets were super cheap, the trains weren't crowded, and it was a short trip.  For around 30€ for all of us, we were able to buy an all day train ticket that would get us back and forth between all of the towns and we could hop on and off as many times as we wanted.  It was a steal.  The first town on the route was Riomaggiore.  It was amazing. We were starving, so we hit the first pizzeria we came to and I went inside to do some wheeling and dealing (Plus Steve's Italian sucks). I came out with a giant, deep dish pizza (unheard of in our region of Italy), two Coke Lights, a beer, a water, and a big piece of focaccia with pesto--which was invented in CT. 

Our deep dish GIANT pizza.  It is still the biggest pizza I've ever seen.  Our hungry family of six still left one piece uneaten but it was DELICIOUS!!

After lunch, we headed up the hill into "town".  It was really a tiny little place with adorable building lined streets.  It was also one of the cities that was almost destroyed the year before in the mudslides. Because so many people love the CT, the city had been completely renovated through donation money and no sign of the destruction was even visible.  The walk up to the top of the town was steep but the view was worth it. There is a section of trails that connect the five cities.  The trails are paved in some locations but some are very narrow and treacherous.  Because of the mudslides that had killed 2 people the week before, most of the trails connecting the cities were closed.  The only portion that was still open was called “Via dell’ Amore”, or Street of Love.  This walkway is one of the better ones and connects towns one and two, Riomaggiore and Manarola.  We decided to walk to Manarola and by the time we got there, we were exhausted but the views were saw on our walk were breathtaking and totally made the walk worth it. 

Riomaggiore streets--a narrow, uphill climb where only residents can drive

Narrow stairways

View from the top of the city
Another view from the top of the city

View looking back on the city

Steve and I at the top

Via Dell' Amore
View from the Via Dell'Amore

Trey walking down the Via Dell' Amore to Manarola

When we arrive in Manarola, we decided to save this city for the next day and so we hopped back on the train and headed to the last town of the Cinque Terre, Monterosso al MareMonterosso is the largest of the cities of the Cinque Terre and is also the most touristy.  It has a small beach and the entire town sits in a cove right on the water.  From Monterosso, you can see all the cities of the Cinque Terre. The weather was perfect and the water color was beautiful! I have never seen anything like it. We spent a good hour on the beach and the kids were dying to get in the water so we took Delilah's dress of and in they went! 

Steve on the beach
Awesome view of the beach

Beach at Monterosso
Trey on the beach.  You can see the boat we took the next day in the background

View of the five cities

She LOVED it!

Vernazza from Monterosso

Girl on the move!

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Top Ten Things I Miss About the USA (ok, it turned into more than 20)

Some of these need no explanation.... 1. Starbucks 2. Cheeseburgers--They just don't have them here. 3. Mexican Food--Ok, they do have the "Italian" version of Mexican food. I ordered a crunchy taco and what I got was a soft shell filled with beef, hunks of potatoes, sliced carrots, and bean salsa. It was gross. And 10 EURO.. 4. Tampons--Once again, they just don't have them here (other than on post) 5. AC--Now let's discuss the "Italian" version of air most cases, it's called a window. Luckily, we have a form of AC. Just imagine the worst AC you have ever had...this is worse. And ten times more expensive to run. 6. Weed Killer--They just don't have it here...who knew??? 7. The Garbage Disposal--I miss this the most, I think. 8. Normal Roads--Italian roads=half the size of US roads, drivers are crazy, we have a Suburban...enough said. 9. Casual Conversation--I don't speak Italian well. Yet. And I'm from the South. We talk to everyone. 10. Pumping Gas/Filling up the Tank--the Italian men DIE if you try to do it here!  I'll post the next 10+ soon.

Fruit from a truck

One of the first truly "Italian" things we did when we first moved to Italy was to buy fresh fruit from a truck. We were headed out to look out a house to rent (the one we would actually end up taking) when we happened upon a truck pulled off to the side of the road. The truck had soft canvas sides which were rolled up and secured with a belt on either side of the roll at the top of the truck. Inside of the truck were literally thousands of oranges, lemons, and clementines. The fruit was nestled inside crude little wooden crates which held anywhere from 20-30 pieces of fruit. The fruit was so fresh that many had bright green leaves still attached. Stefania explained that the trucks were owned by men who would drive down to southern Italy where they would pick the oranges. She explain that the cost of running such a large fruit plantation became to high when the economy in Italy went bad and many of the owners just up and left the plantations before they went bankrupt. The truck owners drive to southern Italy where the weather is warmer and pick the fruit, or pay someone to pick it, and then they drive up north to sell the fruit at a hefty profit. 10 kilos of oranges (about 22 pounds) sell for under 10 Euro. In the spring, we see trucks with strawberries and cherries too--although we have a cherry tree in our backyard that produces a hefty bounty of cherries. It's one of the habits that I love most about Italy, and one that I will miss when we move back home.

Steve bargaining with the fruit vendor.  This should have been interesting since Steve knows about 20 words in Italiano.  This guy was nice.  We got a big box of Clementines for under 10 Euro.  He even threw in a few lemons. 
Clementines fresh from the tree.