Ciao from Parma! And Cinque Terre Highlights.

I’m the worst blogger! Would you believe me if I told you that my lack of posts is due to lack of time? Seriously! Whenever I have WiFi and a desk to sit at, I’m usually planning the next stage of my trip. And then the days pile on so quickly, and I want to share so much, but want to do so in chronological order, which then creates more lag, because what I want to say isn’t immediately on the top of my head. Excuses aside–here’s a blog post!

I’m sitting in the creepiest hotel room. Italians have a beautiful knack for creating the smallest hotel rooms for single guests, and this one takes the prize for saddest and smelliest. My first hotel room here at the Astoria Residence Hotel smelled like old mayo packets. My latest room smells more like old beef, which, for whatever reason, is better than old mayo packets. I can’t explain this exactly.

But I’m only here for a night, so it’s not the end of the world. I left Vernazza in Cinque Terre this morning for Parma to begin the next leg of my journey: Puglia! Tomorrow, Trenitalia will whisk me away on a nearly 8-hour train ride down to the heel of Italy’s boot. Puglia isn’t a popular tourist destination. It isn’t even mentioned in my Rick Steves’ Italy 2014 guidebook. But I know it’ll be great. I’ll be staying in Lecce, which is sometimes called the Florence of the South and is known for its baroque architecture. I’ve also read about how incredibly hospitable southern Italians are, too. Plus, the Adriatic coastline is nearby! I’ll be there for six nights.

But before I embark on this next journey, let me mention Cinque Terre. It was a big highlight of my trip so far. What a magical place! These teeny tiny towns positioned just off the sea (Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore) are built on top of the ravines that originally carved out the space each town now sits on. While walking through town, you can hear the gentle and steady “whoosh” of the stream running underneath the main street. And each town has its own charm and vibe. 

And each town’s buildings are pastel-colored, and are set off by the complementary blues and greens of the Ligurian Sea. I visited all towns but Corniglia (pronounced “Cornelia”). Check out my Instagram (widget to the right) for pictures of each town (including selfies). A quick roundup of highlights for each town:

  • Monterosso: Climbing to the top of the hill, peering off the cliff side cemetery just in time to see the rain clouds move west and the sun light up all of Cinque Terre. 
  • Vernazza: Sitting on the “New Beach” (formed after a landslide and flood in 2011), watching the waves chase children up the beach. And I had some great meals there, and even spotted Rick Steves shooting a segment for his PBS show.
  • Manarola: Walking along the hillside vineyard terraces and lemon groves, and looking back on Manarola’s harbor from Via dell’Amore. 
  • Riomaggiore: Joining the Italians in line at Il Pescato Cucinato to buy a small cone of fritto misto, which included whole anchovies (fresh from Monterosso) and another local, whole fish. While I’m a bit grossed out by anchovies in a can, I’ll happily eat fresh anchovies any day.

Do take a few minutes to check out my Instagram feed to see the visuals that complement these highlights. 

And before I wrap this up, I want to give a shout-out to Ristorante San Barnaba here in Parma. I just had dinner there, and my primi was out of this world. It was tagliolini served in a fresh tomato cream sauce with strips of prosciutto di Parma on top (because it’s Parma!), and a healthy sprinkle of Parmigiano Reggiano (because it’s Parma!). Easily one of the top three pastas I’ve had so far in Italy. 

With that, ciao for now! 

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