Cinque Terre, Italy

After the fierce, hectic gallery life of Florence, the Cinque Terre is just what the doctor ordered—a perfect place to have some R&R, to kick back, to take it slow.

We found our way to our accommodations at La Dolce Vita, the sweet life—and this place was appropriately named. We had an apartment, two bedroom, full bath, fully stocked kitchen, full living room, right in the heart of paradise. We wasted no time in heading down to the shore and carefully picking our way along the boulder beach.

Kristi on the boulder beach

Afterwards, we had a nice slow meal at La Grotta, a trattoria that serves up local fare. The Cinque Terre is home to several locally crafted culinary treats. We had some Cinque Tere wine, a dry white, with some pasta and pesto (the delicious green concoction was invented in the region), followed up with schiattera, a raisin-flavored dessert wine made there. We also had a sampler of some Italian cheeses with local honey, a combination I had never tried before. After such a feast, we were forced to make our way back to La Dolce Vita rather slowly.

We slept in, luxuriating in the cool of a morning that promised to burn away quickly under the bright sunlight. We had a nice breakfast at a little local cafe where I sipped fresh-squeezed orange juice. I had never tasted anything like it. Unfortunately, it will ruin all future Tropicana for me. Then we caught a little local milk train to the furthest village on the Cinque Terre, Monterosso where you have to handle most train bookings. We booked our final train (sadness) to Rome. We then had a light snack and a “girly boat drink,” as my friend Susan calls them, on the blue, blue waters of the coast.

Kristi in Monterosso

We took the ferry boat back to Riomaggiore. It is slower by boat, but that’s the way to experience the Cinque Terre anyway, and it affords spectacular views of the villages. A one-way fare is 8.00 Euro per person and is well worth it. You get a fantastic vantage of the almost vertical villages with their pastel flats sandwiched together sandwiched together and set against the striped vineyards that carve into the mountainsides.

Kristi on the ferry

Back at Riomaggiore we crawled through the sticky heat back to our apartment to our beach stuff. The heat sings off the large boulders on the beach. So, we were into the glassy, blue-green waters in no time. I particularly liked swimming out to this one rock, doing “the Ariel” (Disney lovers, you know what I’m talking about), then diving off into the chill, deep water. Even though the rocky ocean floor gets deep quickly, the relatively still and transparent water allows you to see clear to the bottom. This came in handy after I absent-mindedly dove off the rock with my sunglasses on and they floated *slowly* under the sea, settling in a nook between two rocks. Brett retrieved our snorkel goggles and within 20 minutes we had affected a successful rescue mission.

After washing off the salt water and beaching ourselves on some flatter configurations of rocks, we let the sun dry us off. As the shadow of the mountain drifted over us and the tide began to roll in, we packed up our stuff to head to one of the hiking trails.

We traversed the Via Dell Amore between Riomaggiore and neighboring Manorola to eat dinner there. The seafood on the Cinque Terre is fantastic. I had some crab linguine and Brett had some pasta with bell peppers and shrimp. We topped it off with Cinque Terre limoncino before slowly wandering back along the darkened Via dell Amore to Riomaggiore. At some points, the trail that wound around the cliffs was so black it seemed to blend in with the inky sky and the darkened sea, and it felt like you were just walking off into the stars. It was really breathtaking.

Kristi and Brett in Riomaggiore.

Those were really our last moments in the Cinque Terre as we had to check out early and go straight to Rome, but it was such a wonderfully memorable change of pace that our time there really ranks among our favorites of the Great Ideas Tour. And for the hard-working, go-getter types who end up as part of the Ramsey family, slowness is something we have to actively remember to pursue sometimes—and there is no better place than this little grouping of five villages tucked into the Ligourian coast of Italia.