When the plane landed in Milan I heard a musical “Buon giorno!” as the doors opened. If you have never been to Italy, you might have a very romantic image of it. And I will tell you right now that it is all true. But, the fine print of that is chaos. It is frustratingly disorganized in its customer service, and the lack of social order can break hearts. But I knew this already and embraced it as I called out the two ladies cutting line in front of us, thanks to my Italian phrase book and what little I remember from my college classes. After a long and frustrating travel day (we missed a connecting train because our carriage’s door did not open at our stop in Parma!), we arrived in La Spezia, where we crashed in bed without rushing the next day’s sun.
The next morning, we woke up with new light in our hearts, rested shoulders, messy hair, and pimple-less faces. It really was a brand new day, not just for Sarah & I, but for Italy too. La Spezia is an affordable way to visit Cinque Terre. We stayed near the train station, where we got a day-pass train ticket to go back and forth between villages. Cinque Terre is made up of five beautiful, cliff-hanging villages facing the Ligurian Sea. In order to tackle five towns in one day, we decided to take an early train to the most northern village and work our way south back to La Spezia.
Cinque Terre, Italy has been the most stunning destination I have ever been to. Though crammed with tourists as many popular European sites are, exploring the 5 cliff villages and swimming in the deep blue Ligurian sea have been one of my top travel experiences. Not to mention, very possibly so, the best day of my life.
Here are the highlights from all five towns; each is very worth an entire day on its own for the sake of truly soaking up the views.
MONTEROSSO AL MARE
I loved the tree-lined street with blossoming pink flowers, and the short beach with black pebbles on one side and sand on the other. I loved bathing in the sea, which got deep quickly, and was like a tamed animal on that fine morning. If you see pictures of how rough the waters get here, you would wonder how the villages are still standing.
My heart took a spin and a swirl in Vernazza. In my mind, the most quintessential vision of an Italian coast town. There were rough, crumbling buildings, a church’s reflection on the green water, and all children playing topless in the sand. The sun was burning our skin as we ate lunch with a view. The sounds were surreal, and so obviously away from the city life.
This was a trek up a hill! The highest village of them all, with no beach but views worthy of gods. Walking its narrow streets reminded me of medieval towns, and when we saw the open sea I felt BOUNDLESS. My whole existence felt like this boundless blue water that was full of peace and power.
This view was life-changing. As we climbed uphill I began to feel the beginnings of a heat stroke, and thanks to that moment of, “I need to take care of myself right now,” we ended up in a lovely restaurant where I had the best lunch of my life. That classic tomato flavor in Italian food and a dash of magic made this moment perfect. The shade and the sugary cold drink helped me gain the strength I needed. Feeling ill in the most postcard-perfect village. It made us really stop and stare. After watching people jumping in the water by the rocks, Sarah and I joined them. We couldn’t have scheduled this ourselves. We had to simply accept that sometimes you have a once in a lifetime opportunity, and all you can do is TAKE IT! Swimming in this deep sea water was not only the highlight of our day, but later that night we talked about it being a highlight in our lives. Even if I kept worrying the Cinque Terre monster was gonna swim right under me and swallow me whole. But who cares about fear when there are literal sunbeam stars reflecting off the water? It was like a Katy Perry music video.
With all the swimming, we made it just in time for sunset in our last village. By grace and luck alone, we got the perfect table to view the sunset, the table other people asked if they could take pictures from. We ordered local white wine, and we sipped it slowly. I cannot recall a more perfect sunset in my life. We were both facing a big transition in our lives, and as the sun set behind the mountain I knew with unfading certainty that thus far I have made the most of my time on this Earth. I do not mean to get somber, but I went to bed that night knowing that if I had to die soon, this day would be the bow that wrapped all the other days of my life together. It was so special. It was impossibly perfect.
Also by Vanessa: How To Grow Your Instagram & Let Your Earth-Loving Message Go Viral
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Photo: Vanessa Uzcategui