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Italy



(or should I say, Eataly)


You will eat more carbs in your time here than you ever have in the rest of your life. The best part is that you don’t feel that groggy, sluggish (American) feeling because… it’s quality food. Everyone grows their veggies: no harmful chemicals, picked at the ripest time, and each element of your meal is hand-made to perfection. Because of this, there is a limited amount of meat. You’ll find salami and pork in the bruschetta, or you can ask for cold cuts. As for a meal including red meat or chicken, it’s rare, but it’s there. Cinque Terre is big on seafood since it’s right on the water. The fishermen go out in the morning for you to eat at night.

Restaurants are open 12-4 pm and th0 pm, and they run on ease rather than the hectic dinner rush we know in the States. They use 4-7 pm to prepare for dinner. These open/ close times are soft, meaning they might close at 9 pm if it’s dead, or not open until 7:30 if they are not ready yet. If you want food in that time frame, find a café and they should have something to hold you over.


Water is not a given, you need to order it and it comes bottled. Make sure you specify still or sparkling. Bread is almost always served when you sit down, I recommend asking for olive oil and balsamic as well.


The restaurant scene is dominated by mom-and-pop restaurants, usually with the owners themselves cooking or serving. You really can’t go wrong with whatever one you choose, however, we did find some that were just out of this world! The best we had are mentioned below.



CINQUE TERRE


We spent the majority of our time exploring the fisherman’s villages of Cinque Terre (singk teh-ruh). Four days was a perfect amount of time to explore the five towns. Monterosso is the largest and the only one with a sand beach, this is where our Airbnb was. We enjoyed our stay close to the beach so we didn’t need to schedule it into our plans. If we had some free time in the middle of the day, we’d run down for a couple of hours to swim and relax, and then head home to get ready for our afternoon adventures.



You can travel from village to village in three different ways: train, boat, or hike. There is a train station in each town, and it takes all of 3-5 minutes to travel between towns. Make sure to buy a train ticket for every ride as they are very strict with times and locations on the ticket. A violation is $50 per ticket. Traveling by boat takes much longer, but live the Italian way and enjoy the moment. There is a schedule in each town of the boat times and how long it will take. Lastly, you can hike! These hikes are not for the faint-hearted. You will traverse steep mountains going up and down hundreds of stairs. You will also never see a sunset so beautiful. Lost high in the Italian mountains, overlooking the clear turquoise water, with only the sounds of birds singing and waves crashing, do this at sunset and it will be worth every step.


We spent 2 afternoons hiking from one village to the next and finished off the evening with a well-deserved carb-loaded meal. Something about the hard work beforehand makes the meal that much better. Simply hop on the train to head home and there’s your night! We hiked:

  • Vernazza to Corniglia: one way took about an hour and a half, stopping over a dozen times for photos. You will pass the small town of Prevo in the middle of this hike, where you can grab a drink or some food if needed! We went straight through because we planned to get dinner in Corniglia. We found Enoteca Il Pirum in Corniglia and it was our favorite meal of the whole trip!! I highly recommend this hike to this restaurant. (And you can top it off with some gelato around the corner)

  • Manarola to Riomaggiore: took about an hour, 620 steps, and loads of photo opts. This hike was quieter than the first, with just as much to offer. We headed towards the train station for dinner rather than into town, and this was the only meal we were not satisfied with. Head into downtown for your dinner in Riomaggiore.


o THE VILLAGES

Monterosso: only one with a beach and nightlife. The biggest, separated into Old Town and New Town. The train station is in New Town, only a 10-minute walk from Old Town. At night, there is a man playing piano on the walk to Old Town and it may be the most romantic thing I’ve experienced. (Photo from Monterosso New Town Beach)


Vernazza: catch a boat tour leaving from Vernazza. The train station drops you off in the heart of downtown, with easy access to most restaurants and shops.


Corniglia: the only one with no water access. It is located up top of the hill, so it is also farther away from the train station. There is a shuttle that runs from the train station to town, however, it stops at night. If you are coming into town at night be ready for a ton of stairs!


Manarola: personal favorite. This is where we took the wine tour, pesto-making class, and ate at Billy’s. It’s small but it is mighty. The train station is a 5-minute walk down a tunnel that puts you right in the center of the main road.


Riomaggiore: we didn’t get much time here. It is the second largest


o FOOD


At the very top of our list is Enoteca Il Pirun in Corniglia. This was one of those restaurants we thought looked different and on a whim decided to eat here, and man we both still talk about this one meal. This is saying a lot because all the food in Italy is amazing. We ordered the bruschetta and you need to too :) It had artichoke cheese and bacon on it, I was hesitant but it’s honestly life-changing. For our main course, I ordered spaghetti with tomato sauce and pesto sauce, Chase got ravioli with a pistachio cheese sauce. Don’t mind the owner and you will love this place just as much as we did!



Billy’s in Manarola comes highly ranked and is well-deserving of the review. The locals rave about it, that’s how you know it’s good. I got some sort of beef with a side salad, and Chase got the catch of the day. This was the one and only time I did not order pasta or pizza in Italy, and wow, it was worth it!! The salad was insanely fresh, most likely picked from the garden that morning. My cut of meat was huge and rarer than I would normally eat, however, it was perfectly cooked for the taste. The glaze they put on the meat - I have no clue what it was – but it was to die for. The servers we also very friendly, which is different than the lackadaisical service you normally get. If you are in Manarola you must eat here.


Il Porticciolo in Manarola offers pizza with a romantic Italian feel. Each table has real roses and small candles to set the mood. It is also the only spot we saw with pesto and sausage as an option for pizza topping! Very different taste yet it was so good!

Lapos pizza, a classic cute pizzeria in New Town Monterosso. Great view, with a hole in the wall feel.

Our first real meal in Italy was at Moretto Lady, and it did not disappoint! They serve great bread, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar and we both loved our meals. There is no website for this small restaurant, you’ll have to check it out in person!


We stumbled upon Enoteca Internazionale because as mentioned before, we didn’t know the restaurants closed until 7 pm. We were starving from traveling all day and this was the one spot open around 5 pm with any food. We sat down, looked at the table next to us, and ordered what they had. With the first bite we took, we looked up at each other with the “holy shit this is the greatest thing I’ve ever tasted look” and relaxed into the quality of the taste. If I haven’t said it enough, try the bruschetta. (photo from Enoteca Internazionale)


The seafood in Cinque Terre is another level, however, neither one of us are huge seafood fans. We decided to give salmon pasta a go at Il Piccolo Diavolo. While the pasta was good, the pesto bruschetta was even better. Get the bruschetta.


In Cinque Terre, all of the gelato places closed before dinner time, leaving dessert up to the restaurants. One night, in our search for sweets, we stumbles upon Pizzaria La Smorfia and their Nutella calzone. If Italians are good at making pizza and great with gelato, well you can imagine how this one went. After a full meal, we were able to finish off an entire Nutella calzone.

Nessum Dorma will be mentioned later on for their pesto-making experience, however, I had to throw it in the food section simply for the bruschetta. This restaurant not only offers the best view of Manarola, without a reservation, you most likely won’t get in. Wait times can be up to five hours, and due to that, they have developed an app so you don’t have to physically wait there for your hold time.



Foods you must try at least once:

· Pesto

· Local wine from Cinque Terre

· Breakfast cream scone

· Gelato

· Cannoli w chocolate chips

· Bruschetta (of course)



o EXPERIENCES

  • Wine Making Tour

Take a tour of the wine vineyards and sample the wine afterward. This 2-hour trip will give you a glimpse into local life in Cinque Terre. Winemaking is a dying art, however, it used to take up a majority of the landscaping. It takes a great amount of manual labor to make a small amount of product, therefore, very few can climb the hills and do the manual work. If you take a tour from Arbaspaa, you will learn all of this and more!


We were paired up with winemaker Alessandro and his Bernese mountain dog, Buck. We are huge dog people, so off the bat, we knew this was going to be a fun tour. Buck was our line leader most of the time while was Alessandro doing the talking and explaining. We hiked up to one of his gardens where he grows three different types of grapes, learning about the different vegetation on the Italian coast. Alessandro speaks great English and was full of knowledge. During the entire walking portion of the tour, he was telling us facts and stories from growing up in Manarola himself. From the fields, you travel down to his personal wine cellar, where he further explains the wine-making process. From here you sip the wine and enjoy some fine bread and cheese, and before you know it the tour is done!


I know on the surface this seems like a little hike to some grapes vines and then going to a wine cellar, but it was so much more than that. We felt connected to Alessandro because this man was so open and full of heart! This man cares so much about his little town and is taking every step he personally can to restore what is left of it. I highly recommend taking this tour.


  • Pesto Experience

Another experience specific to Cinque Terre is pesto making! Pesto was first made in Liguria, the state Cinque Terre is located in. Since its roots are so close, Cinque Terre has some of the best pesto in the world and you can learn how to make it from scratch at Nessum Dorma.


In this 2 hour class, you will learn to make pesto step by step, learn the history of pesto, eat some amazing meat, cheese, and bread (to dip in your pesto), sit high above overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, and go home with a bottle of wine! This experience was more on the fun side, it’s geared towards you laughing, learning, enjoying the view, eating good food, and drinking good wine.


Another reason why you should book this experience is the restaurant of Nessum Dorma gets packed in peak season. I’m taking 5 hour wait times. If you do the experience, it starts around 11 am, so by the time you finish, it’s lunchtime and you are at the prime spot to order some food! If you only want to grab dinner here, I recommend checking out their app to reserve a table. https://apps.apple.com/it/app/nessun-dorma/id1575213357


  • Boat tour

We booked a boat tour from Nord Est Boat Tour – Vernazza and it was Chases’s favorite thing we did. Normally, this boat would have about 12 people on it and it is a 3-hour tour. Since we were there during the off-season, we had the boat to ourselves for an unplanned private tour. Since it was only us, they bumped down the tour time to 2 hours, but it was perfect just for us.


You travel to a waterfall and caves only accessible by boat. You get to jump off and swim whenever you want and let me tell you- swimming in turquoise water to a waterfall of the Italian coast is hard to beat. Our tour guide was less talkative, but it was nice for the environment.



ROMA

This city is home to massive 2000-year-old buildings that are still standing, pickpockets, great pasta, and crazy drivers. It is hard for our modern brains to comprehend how the thousands of slaves, without machinery, built these enormous structures that have become icons to the city of Rome, today. Photos do not do it justice.


The main three I recommend seeing in person are The Colosseum, the Trevi Fountain, and The Pantheon. We did not have time this trip, but when I was around 13, my family traveled to Italy and I remember thinking the Sistine Chapel and the Vatican were also incredible to see in person.


How to get around:

We rented Lime scooters and zipped through the streets, always slightly confused as to where we were going. If you have time to get lost, give this a try! It was so fun to ride on a scooter around the Colosseum and zip back home after dinner. The mix of modern world technologies and thousand-year-old buildings was a one-of-a-kind experience.


If you do not want to opt for the danger of scooters in the traffic of Rome, you can rent a cab or take public transportation. The only area I would avoid if you can is Roma Termini, it’s not horrible, but there were numerous moments I would not have felt okay walking through without Chase with me. So female solo travelers: stay away if you can.


Gym:

While you will walk miles while exploring Rome, it doesn’t hurt to squeeze in a workout if you need it! We found one gym our whole time in Italy, and it was Icon Fitness (Palestre) in Rome. They offer day passes for $15 and it is worth it!


o Food


The best meal we had in Rome was next to the Trevi fountain at Mangia e Trevi. Just a couple steps from the Trevi fountain, find wonderful ravioli, pizzas, and plates of pasta!


Across from the Colosseum is Royal Art Café. From the outside, this restaurant seems fancy and uptight, however, the prices do not reflect this! It’s fairly cheap, with an unbeatable view of the Colosseum. Visit here at night for a romantic dinner with an iconic view. (Photo from Royal Art Cafe)



o Experiences


Go explore the Colosseum, it’s magnificent and breathtaking. It is so unique because you are marveling at this structural masterpiece, yet pained a bit knowing what used to occur inside those walls many years ago. There is an area all around the Colosseum worth exploring on foot as well featuring the Arch of Constantine (built in 315AD), Basilica di Santa Francesca Romana, and more.

One structure that blew me away was the Pantheon. We were going to skip this because it didn’t seem like much from photos, but in person, I have never seen anything like it. It’s HUGE. We did not wait in the long line to go inside, it didn’t seem necessary to us. You can walk up to the front and look inside without having to wait in an hour+ line.



The Trevi Fountain was also a lot bigger than it looks in pictures. It’s a gorgeous piece of art and something you should plan on visiting.



MUST DO’S

1. Wine Tour

2. Pesto Experience

3. Enoteca Il Pirum in Corniglia

4. Eat Bruschetta

5. Billy’s in Manarola

6. Boat Tour

7. Pantheon

8. Colosseum

9. Trevi Fountain

10. Hike between villages

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