Cinque Terre at Last!
In April, Don and I spent 2 glorious nights in Vernazza.
It's considered by many, to be the most picturesque of the 5 villages. I've dreamed of visiting Cinque Terre, Italy forever!
That's a Lie
Not really forever. I didn't even know Cinque Terre existed until a friend showed me photos, over a decade ago. That's when I started dreaming of visiting the pastel village.
Rick Steves' travel books, made the area a much more popular tourist destination in recent decades. That means there are more guest accommodations than there used to be. But choosing one, still seemed like a daunting task.
La Mala Guesthouse
Even with the internet, finding a hotel in Vernazza seemed confusing. So many of the tiny guesthouses and apartments were rented out by individuals, with bad websites... vague info... There were no photos of exteriors.
That's because Vernazza hotels focus on location and view. The inns are mostly squeezed into buildings, on narrow alleys. I stood as far back as possible to take this photo of the entrance to La Mala. (that's our clothesline above the door!) This exterior wouldn't exactly convince anyone to stay, but my friend Lorrie did, with her photos and descriptions.
View of La Mala, from the Water
The other side of La Mala could only be viewed from the water. I took this from a ferry! It's the small white building, with shutters.
The photo makes our sweet 4-room guesthouse look like part of a sandwich! Layers of rock below and stacked terraces of farming above. And right between 2 castle towers! Look hard to find the tower on the right.
Luckily we had good communication with our host, Gian Battista. He said he would pick us up at the train station.
Since most travelers (besides hikers) use trains between the villages, we knew to expect crowds at the station. But I didn't expect this many people!
I told Gian to look for a couple in their sixties. Don was tall and would be wearing a cap. I was short and would be wearing a grin. He spotted us and welcomed us and grabbed our bags. We were off!
Don and I dodged tourists as we hurried to keep up. Then, just as we caught a glimpse of the Marconi Piazza, Gian lifted our rolling bags and took a left. Up we went, climbing the narrow stairway between buildings.
I wish we had a video of Don and me, stumbling along with our heavy-enough backpacks. We looked comical, I'm sure! The maze of stone steps seemed endless.
As I look back on photos, I can't even remember the route! We traveled right then left...
There was no such thing as a straight line or an even step. The walls varied, the steps varied.... stucco, stone, pale pink, then yellow...
I'm as confused looking at these photos as I was that afternoon when we followed Gian. Which passages did we walk by? Which did we enter?
Gian paused now and then to let us catch up. I paused to take note of the sign on the walkway. "Via Giov. Battista" Hmm? The street had Gian's last name. I learned later that Gian's grandfather once owned the old Ligurian House, that is now La Mala.
After passing through a short tunnel (with part of our hotel building above) we came to a dead end. I was glad we didn't have to climb those additional stairs to the red/pink building. Ours was the white building to the right. There was actually more stair climbing awaiting us.
Gian showed us how to punch in the code and we stepped into an entry space, with fresh white walls and lovely black and white photos, featuring local scenery.
After stepping inside, there was one more set of stairs to reach a tiny common area.
We paused in the sitting area, just below our room and Gian shared lots of info about the hotel and Vernazza... while Don and I caught our breath.
A few more steps up and Gian opened the door to our room. My eyes went straight to the windows!
A brief rain had stopped and I could see the green water starting to catch some sunlight. I felt like our room was floating out over the sea.
My friend Lorrie said Room #31 was her favorite. There are only 4 rooms, so we were lucky to get the upper room, with 2 windows overlooking the Mediterranean. (the artwork made me feel like we had 3 views of the sea!)
Actually luck had nothing to do with it. Finding 2 consecutive nights, (when #31 was available) took a lot of searching. April 15 & 16! We booked our entire 2-week (and 7-hotel) Italy trip, around our La Mala reservation.
The whitewashed walls, natural oak floors and minimalist furnishings, made our room look new and modern.
The painted white ceiling beams hinted at the building's age. I wish I knew more of its history.
Our little set up with table & chairs, got lots of use. The tray held a pitcher of water, wine glasses, coffee and espresso cups!
A closet near the bed held a few things. We made use of the fridge and coffee maker.
The bathroom with white Italian marble, felt bright and fresh!
The shower was extra roomy, with a large window... which needed no covering. If there had been a window in the stone building across the way, that would have been a different story.
I thought about washing out some clothes and using the clothesline outside the window. But I'm a little out of practice with clothespins. I was worried about fumbling and dropping...
When the skies cleared, the color of the water became brighter.
There was more to see out the windows, besides the sea. We could keep an eye on the terrace below and a rocky cliff and wall... wind blowing the palms, boats on the water, birds...
After getting settled in, Don and I headed down some stairs to take a peek at the stone terrace, which was available for all guests.
The wooden seating didn't look too comfortable for lingering, but we headed down to have a look.
In April we still needed jackets, but the sun felt good. Behind Don you can see our 2 windows above. The lower windows belonged to another room. Again, I was grateful for our upper room, with more privacy.
Left, Right and...
The views were lovely in both directions.
Directly below, we could watch the water swirling and crashing into the rocks.
When we later opened the windows, the sound was heavenly!
Table with a View
I loved the way the wooden chairs were set up, to invite us to sit a spell and enjoy the view.
We did that many times. One time, we picked up "toasts" and focaccia for a little snack.
In the morning, we made coffee and enjoyed sweets from the bakery, for breakfast.
We picked up little bottles of Aperol Spritz at the market and toasted, as the camera timer clicked!
This is the only photo I have that shows the couch and TV. We didn't need the TV at all, but the couch was very much appreciated!
Outside of our Oasis
Our hotel truly was an oasis, away from the day tourists. who filled the streets of Vernazza during peak hours.
But when we left our quiet, cozy space, we were just steps away from the harbor and restaurants and hiking paths.
Here & There in Vernazza
My favorite times in Vernazza, were in the early morning hours, when the village was cool and quiet. But the crowded hours were also fun for people watching. The slideshow below shares photos from the village and our hikes just above the village.
A few times I regretted leaving my Nikon at home. But it was mostly a relief, to carry only my cellphone up and down all the steps and hills.
Usually Don and I wing it a little when we pick hotels. We go with the flow if we choose a hotel that turns out to be flawed. But I was so excited about Vernazza, I didn't want to risk choosing a place that took away from our magical stay. La Mala ended up being the perfect fit!
This photo is our only selfie from the trip. (I hate selfies) That's how happy we were when we stood on the terrace at La Mala. I texted this photo to Lorrie to tell her the hotel was even better than we'd expected!
Our comfy and bright hotel room with the glorious view, was an absolute piece of heaven, after walks and hikes and meals. Gian was a lovely host. (he kept our bags after check-out) And the location, in the heart of the village was beyond perfect!
My New Year's Resolution for 2014 was to start documenting some of the memorable overnights I've had in some very odd and curious motels and hotels. Like the adventures in my Dining Blog, I have learned to enjoy the surprises that happen when you step out of the comfort zone, far away from the well-known chains.
I began with a few entries recalling my very first home away from home memories from my youth. Then, I started sharing about some of the quirky and unforgettable motels, hotels and inns that my husband and I have discovered in recent years.
The best part about this challenge was making some lists with Don and getting on the road in search of new overnight adventures. I gave myself a 2-year goal to write up 90 stories and the goal was met. Now we just keep on adding!