I sincerely apologize for leaving you hanging in Roma for so long! That is definitely not a place to be stranded in for long. Since returning home I have become amazed that I ever found time to blog in my pre-europe-holiday life. I am still searching for that time and hope to find it, because I really do miss this crazy, blogging world.
Anyway, after our Catholic pilgrimage we took a late train out of Rome and arrived in the sleepy town of Manarola past its bedtime. Manarola is the second of five towns on the coast of Italy that make up Cinque Terra. We had reserved a room at the home of Giovanni which was situated at the very top of this steep town. There is nothing like the sound plastic roller wheels banging on cobblestones to announce: the Americans are here! The Americans Are Here! THE AMERICANS ARE HERE!!!!! We didn’t even have to ring Giovanni’s buzzer, we only had to bring the suitcase marching band to a crashing halt outside her door–she was pleased as punch to have us as her guests.
After helping ourselves to all the hot water in Manarola, we successfully washed away the Roman queues, buses, and trains and were ready to settle into our room. I threw open our shutters and this is what I saw.
The picture completely fails to capture the starry sea at the end of the town, or the salty breeze, or quiet hush of a sleeping village or anything it was supposed to, including the spooky, plastic tarantula hanging in the upper right side of the photo. Suffice it to say the view was a double helping of tranquilizers; I think I was sleeping before I got in the bed.
And this is what we woke up to:
I call this a sea view, see the lovely patch of ocean nestled between the pastel town and the wine groves. Nate insists that it was a town view with a bit of sea at the end. You can cast your vote here (be fair warned that only one sort of vote gets you in the optimism camp).
We set off from the hilltop for a three day crash course on Italian beach life and coastal cuisine. First stop, smoothie shop.
Since the beach in Manarola is a bit rocky…
You can zoom, but you will not find a swim shot of us on the internet. It’s just not wise folks, it’s just not wise. If you must zoom, you will find that bikinis bottoms are the preferred swim wear for every member of the Italian family: mamas & papas, girls & boys, even grandma & grandpa. Thankfully most mamas and grandmas wear the optional bikini top.
The Lingurian Sea was so warm and so clear, we could not get enough swimming in each day. On the last day we swam way out to the rock ridge (it was quite far, don’t believe the picture).
And by swim, I mean hug a water mattress for dear life and kick with all you got, while your husband swims alongside of you and laughs. And really it’s much wiser to swim with a water mattress than to laugh while swimming in saltwater. For the former keeps your head clearly above the water line, while the other gets you a nose full of salt. Once again, you can cast your vote here.
And the reward for making the trek from soft, sandy beach to rocky rocks–dozens of little crabs scurrying over to greet us like a welcome committee on spiny legs. Personally, I prefer my crabs stuffed with mushrooms and served with a buttery, wine sauce.
As for the food, everything tastes better in Italy–even their fries are better, it’s true. There was this little french fry stand stationed between the beach and the train. The first time Nate got in line for the patate fritte, I gently reminded him that he had already consumed a smoothie, a panini, two slices of pizza, and gelato–and we were on our way to eat dinner. Nate, however, has a serious weakness for fries (or food, especially hot food for that matter), so he remained unwavering in his pursuit of the two Euro basket of fries with a stick. Oh, oh, oh they were so good. You can be certain that we were back in that line each time we boarded the train.
Back to sweet home Manarola for the fresh catch of the day: Sea Bass and Mussels, and another helping of their claim to cuisine fame: pesto. See the little blue umbrellas at the base of the town, that’s where we enjoyed the next several courses of our Cinque Terra feast. It’s a wonder that we didn’t have to be wheeled away like our bags.
No, the woman on my right is not my new friend whom I met on the beach and invited to have a romantic dinner with my husband and me, she is actually at her own table, just like the woman on my left. It’s quite cozy, actually. And thankfully, it’s not considered eavesdropping when you can’t understand the language.
Two things that Italians have absolutely perfected other than arranging tables so close that the wait staff has a weight limit are gelato and cappuccino–and this cafe had the genius to put these together–it was heavenly. Of course, this discovery was made on the last day and at the last hour for that matter.