George

We are very grateful to several friends who urged us to visit Cinque Terre, Italy. We fell in love with Tuscany years ago, and haven’t visited anyplace new in Italy in a long time. But the moment we stepped onto the rooftop deck above our room at Elisabetta Rooms in Vernazza, we were astonished by the stunning beauty as we looked down on the town and out over the ocean.

Cinque Terre consists of five towns, all within hiking distance or just minutes from one to another by train. Cars are not allowed here, so we took the train from Lavanto to Vernazza.

Elisabetta and her dad, Joseph, are friendly, helpful hosts. Joseph greeted us when we first arrived and showed us all we needed to know about our room and deck. The room was tiny, but had a full bathroom and a window looking out over the ocean. We spent a lot of time on the deck, imbibing in glasses of wine as we enjoyed the sunsets before walking down to dinner at one of the shorefront restaurants with options for outside and inside seating.

We stayed for three nights and tried three different restaurants: Gianni Franzi (my favorite, with a beautiful inside dining room), Trattoria Del Capitano, and Gambero Rosso. All specialized — as do most places at these oceanside towns — in seafood dishes. I loved all three dinners of pasta with different combinations of seafood, from clams and mussels to red mullet — a great experience eating fresh seafood while sitting at a table overlooking the ocean. And we always order the inexpensive and good house rosso wine. Prices of everything here are reasonable, especially considering this is a tourist town.

My favorite day was our hike from Vernazza to Corniglia, strenuous but rewarding, with a cold beer and delicious pesto focaccia pizza in Corniglia, followed by a short train ride back to Vernazza. Each of the five towns in Cinque Terre is unique and wonderful, but without doubt, we’d recommend Vernazza as the place to stay.

Maybe we loved it here so much because of the crashing waves of the ocean, the many small shops (lots offering delicious breads and pizza), the gorgeous church, the history and historic buildings, the amazing vineyards dropping down along every hillside, and the wine and food and for sure — it was our deck. I’ll be out there often, in my dreams, until we can return.

Linda

Back in December, George asked me to research a place to stay in Cinque Terre. Using Rick Steeve’s book, I looked at several places online and fell in love with one: Elizabetta Rooms in Vernazza. Their rooms on travel websites were reserved, but George was able to reach Elizabetta through email and we secured a room with a view.

The qualities that mattered to us — clean, in a quiet area, with a beautiful view — were all here. We were charmed by both Elisabetta and her father, both of whom spoke English well. The view of the Mediterranean from our room was impressive, until we climbed the tight spiral staircase to our rooftop terrace with a table, two chairs, a chaise lounge and a 360-degree view of the city and the ocean that took our breath away. And I had no guilt about how much pasta and gelato I ate when I discovered that it was 112 steps up to our room.

We discovered that pesto focaccia pizza slices made an amazing lunch. Enjoying our pizza while sitting on one of the benches overlooking the water in the harbor and up into the steep terraced hills of grapevines, we were mesmerized by the beauty.

For dinner I zeroed in on pasta dishes. Bolognese sauce over fresh pasta always makes me happy and is different in each restaurant. The Pansotti with Salsadi Noci (ravioli in a walnut sauce) was good too.

Many people come to Cinque Terre to hike from town to town, so this was high on my list of things to do. George was not wild about this idea. The sun was hot, the trail very steep. But we settled on a one way hike from Vernazza to Corniglia and would take the train back.

It was a good compromise. It is only about two and a half miles, but they were the longest ones I’ve ever walked. Steep steps up, up, up and then down, down, down. My knees and calves were burning from the effort but it was worth every step. The varying shades of blue as the sun hit the water will stay as my most precious keepsake of the area.

Visit George’s website — georgesmithmaine.com — for book reviews, outdoor news and all Travelin’ Maine(rs) columns, found listed by town in the “Best of Maine” section.


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