Part V | Monterosso

"We slept in and slowly packed up. After breakfast, we walked around for a bit, trying to find a red-tiled dome tower I had glimpsed in the cab last night. It was elusive for its size - the Capelle de Medici - and once we found her and admired her we went back to gather our belongings and flew down the tracks from Florence to Pisa to Cinque Terre. 

We arrived in Monterosso - our base in the five lands - at a busy station and took in the sights: tourists, streets laden with palms, and orange and blue umbrellas littering the beach as we dodged the fierce midday sun. Waves crash. The green hills and cliffs stand as sentient guards over the sun worshipers. The atmosphere is warmer, quieter and "mas tranquilo" than the city. 

We wound our way to a back road where our hotel was nestled among the others and checked in to change and drop our bags. The owners were welcoming and enthusiastic, which mostly made up for the gentlemen's rather pungent body odor. Our rooms were dated but more than sufficient and we set out to journey to the farthest town for lunch, Riomaggiore. The trains were quick, and soon we were strolling a tunnel and hiking a street for a cone filled with fried seafood from Il Toscani Pescatori. Curled octopus tentacles and sardine heads poked out at odd angles, but skewered with a stick and splashed with lemon juice, they were tasty enough for these hungry travelers, especially with a coke in hand. We then made our way to the marina to see the boats and colorful towers of houses.

Next was a train to Manarola, another of the 5 cities, similar to Riomaggiore but bigger. We joined the throngs of foreigners milling around and made our way slowly to the marina. We sat in the cover of an umbrella on a balcony but service was nonexistent so I ventured down to order a gelato (crema & amaretto) and an espresso for JD.

After some refreshments we maneuvered back to our hotel in Monterosso for a nap and then readied to go out for dinner. We wandered down to the beach to visit Il Gigante - the great man carved of stone - and then continued on to a bar with tables and striped umbrellas on the sidewalk where we enjoyed a lemon margarita with cointreau and a couple of shaken coffee cocktails with Bailey's - the final word on coffee cocktails. We'll be going back...and might not wait til 5 p.m. Might on the list of Best Things I've Ever Tasted.

We strolled along through the sleepy downtown, restaurants quiet but open for business. The places I had made a note of to try were booked up, so we sat down at the first place I saw french fries (which I promptly ordered). Dinner was salad, pesto linguine, lasagna, wine, profiteroles, espresso and cappuccino. It was quite slow at first and then 30 or 40 locals descended on it making it quite the party scene. It was not exquisite cuisine, but nice enough, and we left for a moonlit walk back for a night of sweet slumber."

Heather Hall