In amore con l’Italia!

 

Italy.

One word that is guaranteed to make me smile from ear to ear.

Ever since my last holiday on the Mediterranean coastline of Amalfi, I fell deeply in love with its picturesque landscapes, humble people and traditional succulent food that it is well known for.

Two years on and I was itching to get myself back there again. This time around I wanted to check out the north western coast of Cinque terre. Made up of a number of fishing and coastal villages, it has been high on my list of places to visit. Lake Como, situated at the very top of Italy and a short distance from Switzerland, was also on my ever growing wish list.

I asked my best friend Grace to come along with me and since she is learning Italian, I knew she would be keen to brush up on her language skills as well as being able to spend some quality time with her, which rarely happens in London. This holiday was also about winding down, which is definitely something I needed. 

IMG_4164

We caught the earliest EasyJet flight out of Gatwick Saturday morning (6.50am) to Pisa and although this is an absolute killer getting out of bed at 3am, is totally worth it to get the most out of the day plus those Swiss Alps views to admire along the way aren’t too shabby. You can always take a nap when you arrive at your destination if your body has had enough,  after all you are on holiday so you can catch up on some z’s whenever you feel the need too. 

IMG_4255

IMG_4256

IMG_7086

We all know that Pisa is famous for one thing and that is the leaning tower. We hadn’t planned to stay in the city for too long as I wanted to get on that train to Vernazza before late afternoon so we didn’t have to worry about lugging a suitcase around! The Tower itself is certainly leaning and im glad we were there at a reasonably early time, before the crowds of tourists started flooding in. I had to laugh at the amount of people with their selfie sticks in action and getting creative with all sorts of poses. Of course we had to create a few for ourselves which had us in stitches for a brief moment and until I noticed the gelato van. Italy is well known for its creamy ice-cream and its something you must try when you’re out here. Daily is recommended 🙂

IMG_7095

We boarded our train to Vernazza just before midday and one thing I must warn you about the stations is the slow and very relaxed customer service they provide. Expect to be waiting up to 40 minutes in line if you are wanting to purchase your tickets this way. You an avoid it and use the ticket machine if you know where your going but as a tourist I prefer to ask a local. 

The trains are clean, nothing too flashy but as long as you are taken for A to B then I have no qualms about travelling cattle class. Trentitalia are the main train services to use and fairly reasonable in price. I believe it only cost us about 15 euro for an hour & a half ride.

IMG_7341

IMG_4279

We arrived in Vernazza and checked into a boutique hotel called Arosadeiventi which is a short walk up the hill but only a 5 minute stroll from the central district, so location wise, is perfecto. Giuliana greeted us with open arms and provided us with all the finer details of this quaint seaside village. Although it was lunchtime I couldn’t resist and make a small detour towards the gelato shop for some fig and ricotta cheese delight in a cup. There is no such thing in eating light when you are in Italy so forget the diet completely.

IMG_4460

IMG_4374

September is most definitely an ideal time to venture to a place such as this, with temperatures around 25-28 degrees you may even be lucky enough to go for a dip in the ocean. After a light stroll around the pretty town and checking out the castle views, we had some time to kill by watching the boats coming in and out of the port and catching the last bit of the sun for the day. 

IMG_7059

IMG_4281

IMG_4324

IMG_7094

That evening I had booked us into Ristorante Belforte which is located on a bold tower over looking some incredible ocean views. I was feeling famished from the day and was ready to tuck into some hearty italian food. We had the best seat in the house on a covered verandah with extraordinary glimpses of the sun setting and a bubbly waiter called Andrea to serve as with some crisp rose wine.

I got chatting to the couple next to us, who would you believe it are from Christchurch – my birth town. They have been coming to the restaurant for years and tell me it is the best in Cinque Terre. Undoubtable our first choice was the traditional caprese salad, followed by fresh seafood and a dessert which was beyond dreamy.

Andrea was ever so kind to sing to us as he was pouring the caramelised strawberries over the ice-cream. Where in london can you get service quite like this?! Towards the end of the evening we were introduced to the owner, Michela Basso who was kind enough to thank us for eating at her restaurant, so very humble and appreciative. Refreshing to see this! 

IMG_4343

IMG_4368

IMG_4344

IMG_7088

IMG_7085

The following morning we had made it our mission to treak across to Monterrosso – another cheerful bright coloured village just north of Vernazza. I had been warned that it was a steep climb so setting off reasonable early was not such a silly idea. I would class myself a semi fit person, so I had no worries about climbing on an angle for a few hours…just make sure you carry a bottle of water, you will need the hydration in the heat.

There were many people who had the same idea and in some areas the paths are very narrow but the breathtaking views are well worth every leg pain and sweatiness that may be endured. We even managed to make a friend along the way that decided to go to sleep on my bag while we had a quick stop! Along the way I purchased a pair of frangipani earrings at a cute little stall and im still mind boggled as to how this person actually managed to carry a table up the hill but it did happen. I swear!

IMG_4397

IMG_7087

IMG_4417

Monterosso is a slightly larger village, with a vast shoreline for swimming and sun baking, sprawled with those gorgeous multicoloured umbrellas and plenty of alfresco cafes to ear or sip on some lemon cello. It wasn’t quite warm enough for me to get my body in the clear blue waters but any excuse to lie on a beach and I am a happy woman.

IMG_7089

IMG_4455

To end the day on a high note, I had been recommended a wine tasting bar situated on top of the south of the cliff. It is called Vernazza Wine tasting experience and hosted by Alessandro who shares an enthusiastic and passionate attitude for wine and teaching others about it. I cant even describe to you just how breathtaking the views of the balcony were. We had prime views of the sunset and tasted some of the best wines I have ever had in my life – no word of a lie! A stand out for me was the red from La Crima Di Morro. Have you ever had a wine that smelt of rose flowers?! Absolutely incredible.

IMG_4815

IMG_4517

IMG_7090

IMG_4520

IMG_4518

IMG_7092

Monday morning we found ourselves up a little before mid morning so we could check out, grab some sustenance and make our way to the train station for our 3 and half hour journey to Como.

IMG_7342

Now this was a complete eye opener for me. Firstly, we had to get on the train to Monterosso which doesn’t sound complicated but as I previously mentioned Italy is a little relaxed with its systems and trains don’t always appear to be on time. Then we had about a zillion people get off, trying to cram onto the platform while everyone else is crawling to get on. For a moment there, I really didn’t think we would get on and their was a brief bit of panic but after dealing with London tubes I am well used to these kind of situations and just decided to push my way on. I know, how terrible but sometimes you just have no choice in the matter. If we had of missed this train then it would have made the rest of the journey a little unpleasant. 

The joys of travelling abroad 🙂

Luckily I had the bottle of prosecco on hand and trusty train snacks to get us through the ordeal. It was a lifesaver.

As always I managed to make some friends, a couple from New York who were on their honeymoon. Don’t you find this makes the journey go so much quicker, while also getting the chance to meet some fascinating people along the way?! Now this is what makes travelling a positive experience. Im sorry what train was I speaking about a moment ago 🙂 

IMG_4563

IMG_4569

Before we knew it we were on a train from Milan heading to beautiful Como and I was ready to do some more exploring of this good-looking part of the world.

Our apartment in Como was situated in Piazza volta, a central and convenient location. Although it is a small area in proximity, it is accessible by foot and very easy to get around with a 5 minute walk from the main train station (Giovanni). I had booked this trendy 1 bedder through booking.com and as soon as I walked through the door I knew I had picked a winner. Draped in black and white with diamante lights, Marilyn pictures and quotes, it couldn’t have been any more suitable. 

IMG_4567

Getting back to the location side of things. Our accommodation was a stones through from the local supermarket and it was a pretty decent on at that. Staying in a apartment with a kitchen meant we could have the freedom of cooking our own meals as I know it can get a little OTT eating out 3 times a day (says the girl who loves food) and expensive. Luckily Italy is inexpensive! 

The sparse cobble lined streets are filled with restaurants, the best smelling bakeries you can imagine and no annoying large crowds of people.  Rather calming when you don’t have to be thinking about rushing to a tube station.

IMG_7093

IMG_4607

IMG_4592

For dinner we decided to just wing it and take another stroll around town in search for a little gem to wow us yet again. We stumbled across one place that had the most adorable outdoor garden area called Number 9. This place was just what the doctor ordered after travelling for most of the day and I was hanging out for some beaut Italian vino. Surrounded by the tranquility of low lighting, green shrubbery and candles, you could say that is would be the perfect place for a romantic date.

IMG_7096

Greeted by our friendly waiter to take our order, we started off with the caprese salad & a sparkling glass of prosecco before being introduced to the owner (yet again!) He gladly went on to tell us that we would be looked after for the evening which made me giggle. Gotta love the Italian hospitality – like no other!

IMG_4589

For my main dish the steak and duck foie gras was a game changer. This was a succulent dish like no other and lets face it, we know how much of a fuss pot I can be when it comes to eating red meat. Five stars for that one.  Followed by the all important dessert which was shared for fear of tummy explosion – chocolate ganache, pistachio and caramel decadence and the thought of not being able to finish such a work of art was rather upsetting. 

After guzzling a hundred wines courtesy and lemon cello courtesy of the owners dear friends, we left the restaurant only realising that we had been in there for a minut 4 hours. Bed was certainly calling our name in preparation for a big day ahead out on the water.

IMG_4623

IMG_4625

                                                                          “The big brunch!”

The 50 km deep blue lake is a highly regarded destination, famously known for its picture perfect views, upscale hotels and surrounded by the forested foothills of the alps. It is also a playground for the rich and famous, in particular Mr George Clooney and Richard Branson, who both owner property out here. 

IMG_4754

We took a boat over to our first stop of the day which was lunch at Ristorante Crotto dei Platani. I had done hours of research to find a restaurant that had the best of both worlds – breathtaking panoramic views of the lake and excellent reviews on Trip Advisor. We were seated in the garden verandah and greeted by our waiter who bought us a glass of prosecco while we sat and admired the gorgeous views. At that point I really started to realise just how lucky I am to be able to live the life I do and cherish valuable experience such as these.

IMG_7097

IMG_4683

IMG_4684

IMG_4689

IMG_4694

The menu and choice itself was outstanding. For the duration of the trip we had been searching for spaghetti and seafood but had failed to come across it until now. As soon as I saw the white fish tartare and black truffle there was no stopping me. It just had to be done. Spaghetti with the clams and octopus followed soon after and boy was it worth the wait. A decent enough portion meant we were completely stuffed with no room for dessert. I know, such poor effort on my part but I still had some space for the petit fours and an espresso. Oh and don’t forget about the half bottle of rose; which I may have had to myself 🙂

IMG_4758

After all that gobbling we were in desperate need of some exercise, so while we had some time to kill, we decided to have a wander around the cute little town of Argegno. The exploring wasn’t over just yet as we had to hop onto another boat over to beautiful Bellagio.

No, I’m not taking about the lustrous resort in Vegas.

I am speaking about the resort known as ‘Pearl of the Lake’

IMG_4752

IMG_4755

I can really see why everyone wants to pay a visit here. The village itself oozes old hollywood glamour, filled with century old building, cobbled stairways, plush cafes and loads of shops. This place showcases Italy at its finest and it really is just magnificent. Sadly, we didn’t have a lot of time to spend here and didn’t want to miss our last boat back to Como which was also the speedy service.

IMG_4757

IMG_4756

The day ended with an assortment of cheeses, hams and bread as we said good bye to one of the most stunning places I had ever had the pleasure of visiting.

On our very last day of the trip we had to catch a flight from Milan Linate airport in the late afternoon so thought it would be a great opportunity to briefly catch up with my italian mate (including Jack the dog) for lunch and see a bit of Milan before heading back to London.

IMG_4807

We meet up at an urban farmers market called Mercato Metropolitano which is situated just outside of Milan in Navigli. 

IMG_7099

IMG_4813

IMG_4771

Lined with rows of stalls featuring local produce of fruit, veggies, breads and additional spots to purchase pizza, pasta, cheese and even wine tasting machines if you’re into that. I liked how it had that ‘local’ feel to it and would definitely recommend to anyone travelling to Milan who wanted a more down to earth eating experience.

IMG_4809

IMG_4798

Another remarkable Italian vacation, feeling a few kilos heavier but never the less taking away many happy memories that this alluring country is so good at providing.

Amore Italy!!

IMG_7084

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Speak Your Mind

*