One of my favorite things about Italy is that it has so many different types of scenery and landscapes-- you can hop on a train in any major city and an hour later find yourself in the chilly mountains, on the coast of the Adriatic or Mediterranean, or in the quaint Italian countryside. I'll admit that it's been tough for me to discover a lot of Italy, as I am always working and only have so much left over money to spend on travel... but it makes me appreciate spontaneous trips that I DO get to sometimes take that much more.
The bar crawl that I run in Florence on the weekends is a pretty great gig because I meet some pretty cool people on it from all over the world. On one particular crawl a couple of weeks ago, I met two guys from LA who were traveling through Europe for the month. We hit it off right away, and when they agreed to let me take them to my favorite, non-touristy, authentic Tuscan restaurant the next night, I knew they were pretty cool.
So when they told me that their next destination was Cinque Terre, I decided to skip work and hop an early train and meet them in one of my favorite spots in Italy.
I arrived around 10am and met the guys in the last town, Monterosso, where they were staying. We grabbed breakfast and rented a couple of kayaks. We asked to rent them for half of the day, and the old Italian hippie who owned the rental spot raised his eyebrows at us. We weren't quite sure why, since we were all ready for a day of being out on the water (it was a perfect 75 degrees, by the way) and discovering cool spots along the coast between the five towns.
But after an hour of paddling, we understood-- our arms were tired and we were ready for limoncello and mojitos on the beach.
We grabbed some lounge chairs and umbrellas and got our sun on, occasionally hopping in the water to cool off. There were some HUGE jellyfish this time around... eek.
After a lovely day of sunning and relaxing on the beach, we headed back to their apartment, cleaned up, and hopped the train to Riomaggiore, the first of the "cinque terre". I had stayed there on my first trip to Cinque Terre last year and remembered that there were a few good seafood restaurants there, so we went to the one where I had had some great pesto and good Italian conversation with the old man who owned it. I can't remember the name of the restaurant, but after going through the tunnel in Riomaggiore and taking a left, it's the first restaurant on the left!
The three of us were starving and ready for some good seafood, and we definitely got some. My dish was on the menu of the day-- pasta with zucchini and shrimp.
The nightlife is pretty minimal in Cinque Terre, but we went to a cool little bar back in Monterosso and had some sambuca, limoncello, and cocktails before calling it a night.
Unfortunately, the next morning was back to reality for me, and also a big travel day for the guys, as they were heading to Venice. It was SO nice to just shut my Blackberry off for the day and night and just relax-- I definitely will be taking more of these spontaneous trips...