The Trip That Took My Breath Away

Nestled within the coastal hills of Liguria, Italy, you will find five little colourful villages that took my breath away. Sorry, didn’t mean to insert myself into this story, but to be honest, I have to say that my trip to Cinque Terre was one of the best trips I have ever taken in my life.

When I moved to Italy, I knew that there would be cities in this amazing country that I knew I had to see, whatever the cost. Cinque Terre was one of those spots. I’m now back to living on an au pair budget. I haven’t been this tight with money since I first started university 5 years ago. When I had moved to France, I had gone with savings and blasted through them, thinking I would be headed back home by the end of 2015. Then I decided to stay and study in Paris, so I had to find jobs to make rent. I didn’t have that financial cushion. In moving to Italy, I don’t want to make sense… especially knowing that staying here for the time being is my end game.

Cinque Terre though deserved to be a trip that I didn’t look at my bank account too often. Thank goodness I didn’t, because if not I would have never experienced one of the best trips of my lifetime, and a sunset that would take literally my breath away.

Back when I decided to move to Florence, one of the first people I had to call after telling my parents about this big decision in my life was my American cousin, who had planned to come see me in Paris during my favorite season, autumn.

“So, I have news about your trip to Paris,” I told her when she answered the phone. “Anyway you can change those tickets to Italy? I’m moving.”

When we started looking at things we wanted to do during her two week stay, I told her about the little coastal towns I had dreamed of going since I had heard of them. When we saw that they were about a two hour drive away from Florence, we told ourselves we would go. We decided on going by car because we wanted to do a pit stop in Pisa on the way back. In my honest opinion, I would tell anyone who was planning a trip from Florence to Cinque Terre to do so by train from the train station Firenze Santa Maria Novella. Just take it to La Spezia, where she and I left the car at the station for the two days that we were exploring the towns. Parking is practically impossible otherwise, especially for someone who hasn’t really driven in more than three years (please don’t ask me to park in these small spots in Italy, I beg of you).

Our Airbnb was in the first town from La Spezia, in Riomaggiore. Prices have varied for where we stayed, but I highly recommend going in September/October, because there are less people and it is not tourist season, so prices are not as expensive. Important information that would have been nice to know as we climbed our way up with our heavy suitcases through the main road in Riomaggiore: not far from the station, there is an elevator that takes you up to the high point of the town (which is where our Airbnb was located). At least we got our leg workout for the month in that day! The apartment was big enough for both of us, with a nice terrace to wake up early in the mornings (thanks to the church bells at 7 a.m.) and watch the sunrise, or sit out in the evenings and have a little aperitivo as we watched the sunset.

The first night, we had dinner at a restaurant called Fuori Rotta. The quality and the price were exceptional, but this is definitely a spot for people that like seafood. The presentation was very nice, and though we were in the middle of October, it was warm enough to sit outside and enjoy the view. The next day, we wandered around to different cities and had lunch in touristy spots with a more tourist budget.

The best part of the trip in my opinion was the sunset tour that my cousin and I took. We had actually booked another boat ride for midday that was less expensive, but he cancelled on us the day before stating that the weather wouldn’t be correct for a tour. We decided to see if any others were available, seeing that we saw the weather looked like it would be nice. We found this amazing guide on Airbnb, and I am so grateful that I decided to do it, even though the cost was a bit out of my price range. Normally, the tour is done with Matteo and Federica, but Federica couldn’t do it that day, so Matteo did a great job of hosting us on their boat by himself. He had prepared a small aperitivo, with snacks and drinks of our choosing (prosecco, beer, soda, etc.). He was a great storyteller, and was good at explaining the history of the cities giving us antidotes of growing up there and seeing the evolution of tourism in that region.

Cinque Terre was definitely a once in a lifetime trip. I would go again, but I don’t know if I want to. I want that magic that it had, that power it took to take my breath away, to last in my memories. I don’t want to go back with such high expectations to be bummed because something has changed, or I can’t find a certain spot that I liked… I want Cinque Terre to stay nestled within my memories, that special place that showed me that leaving a place and situation that no longer suited me can be scary, but there will be some magic and strength within that decision.

Baci, Bisous, Besos, XOXO

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