A Day in Cinque Terre

A rainy Sunday was the start to our second full day in Tuscany, and it wasn’t any less delightful!

I’ve seen photo after photo of these 5 coastal villages-and yet I still wasn’t prepared for how amazing they are!

When planning this adventure, I actually opted to book this Day Tour through Viator (new customers get $10 off their order when you use my link!), because it eased a lot of the transportation concerns for us. We left at 7:30 in the morning from the Santa Maria Novella Train Station on a bus and drove just short of 2 hours to La Spezia, an industrial city just at the base of the mountains leading to 5 tiny coastal villages ranging from populations of 300-3000 people.

On this trip, we visited 4 villages: Riomaggiore, Manarola, Monterosso, and Vernazza.

The weather made for some overcast photos, but I like to think they still captured the beauty of the villages and the fascination that surrounds the brightly colored buildings and blue waters.

IMG_0847

My favorite thing about taking tours like these, is that there is someone to guide you to the best photos and history in the area, but you also get the opportunity to explore independently and find your own gems. Plus, you’re sure to meet some interesting people-and even make some new friends!

Some of my favorite shots from this trip (PS, all of these photos were taken by Zainab and I on our iPhones!):

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

When it comes to shopping, none of these villages really tickled my fancy. There are lots of small, rather pricey shops-which I’m sure ties into the whole “Population: 300” thing.

We did have an amazing blackberry tart at a small cafe in front of the ocean in Vernazza, some super strong caffe correto (espresso+grappa) in Monterosso, where I think we also found the small place that made fresh lemon slushes….and had an option to add vodka.

We added vodka, obviously.

I think moreso than anything, I was too busy taking in how beautiful and well-preserved these little villages were to get too preoccupied with the wares they offered. I saw a lot of the same kitschy and touristy trinkets and small bottles of liquor and oils that you can find most anywhere in Italy…so I stopped worrying about where to shop and what to buy and just enjoyed the ocean instead.

It’s worth noting that there is a train that goes from La Spezia into the villages. It’s very fast, and rather efficient! At the end of the day, there were at least 400 of us piled on the platform waiting for a train that was delayed over 30 minutes…and things got real. People were pushing and arguing and being rude! And it took FOREVER to get off of the train and to the meeting point with our bus because of the crowding and lack of manners!

But I had expected way more tourists and crowding, especially on a Sunday. I was pleasantly surprised at how we had a lot of room to breathe as we made our way through Cinque Terre, moreso during the first half of the day!

This trip really made me want to focus more on the Italian coast on my next trip (although I just have such a love for Florence, and will probably start/end there always), because it really is one of the most beautiful, natural wonders. Sprinkled with history and character, it really draws you into its charms!

Have you been to Cinque Terre? What were your favorite things to see and do?

Happy Travels!

See Sondra Sign-off-stacked

 

 

 

A Tuscan Adventure

I got back from Italy about a week ago, and I’ve had a little trouble adjusting back to that pesky thing we call reality.

My love affair with Italy started before I can remember, largely due to my heritage being partially credited to the country. I love authentic Italian cuisine, music, and culture.

This year, I took what I learned from my trip in Fall 2015 to try to make an even better experience possible, and I’m pretty pleased with how it all worked out!

For this adventure, I scored a $668 RT flight out of LAX and right into Florence, Italy where I planned to stay. I booked this flight last October, but I was tracking the flights using Skyscanner, my favorite flight tracker/predictor site, since May!

Once my flight was locked in, I hit AirBnB to find the perfect apartment to use as my Florence launchpad for my Tuscany plans.

When I originally started planning, I didn’t even have a travel companion. But I had dates, tickets, and reservations….and faith that everything would work itself out accordingly. But of course, my amazing friend Zainab once again came through and was my travel companion!

IMG_1478.JPG

Zainab and I outside the Cieto Chiarli Winery in Bologna

There is truly something to be said of friends who travel together. I look forward to more adventures with her…and we will succeed in stealing Alex away with us next time!

Once all of the most important arrangements were made, I had plenty of time to “map out” an itinerary of sorts, to make the most of Florence and the surrounding areas. Last time, we spent 4 days in Rome and 3 in Florence, and I regretted not having more time in the heart of Tuscany!

Ideally, I wanted a few free days to roam the city and re-visit some of our favorite things from the last visit (which actually weren’t places, but more along the lines of specific types of potato chips and candy bars, lol), and also a few days outside of the main city exploring-there will be more involved posts for each day trip, soon!

My favorite way to book Day Tours and experiences is using Viator, a site/app that books for you via the various companies across the world to get you amazing deals on even more amazing adventures. Get $10 off anything you book when you use this link.

Some of the highlights:

Day 1: Piazzale Michelangelo…and a GELATO FESTIVAL

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Day 2: Cinque Terre

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Day 3: Exploring Firenze: Profumo Santa Maria Novella and the best dessert espresso drink!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Day 4: Pisa, San Gimignano, Chianti Classico, and Siena

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Day 5: Bologna-The Food Tour to End All Food Tours

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Day 6: More Romaing Firenze…Really Making Our Last Day Count! The Leather School, The Central Market, and more!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Again, this is a mere taste of all we did! There will be smaller posts later with tips for all of these amazing places to see if you head to Firenze/Toscana!

Want to follow me on the adventures to come (only 53 days until I head to Greece)?

Instagram

Facebook

Twitter

Snapchat: SeeSondraSlim

I love to post my favorite shots on social media, and I always have behind the scenes fun on Snapchat! I’d love to take you along on my adventures! I still have Phoenix, Greece, New Orleans, Palm Springs, maaaaybe New York City, and San Francisco planned for this year!

Happy Travels!

See Sondra Sign-off-stacked