Annie Bananie en Europe

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Tag Archives: italy

La vita è bella in Italia – Part 3, La Spezia and Turin

During the Cinque Terre segment of my trip to Italy, my colleagues and I stayed in La Spezia for two nights. La Spezia is a city slightly to the east of Riomaggiore, the southernmost town in Cinque Terre. It is easy to access any of the towns in Cinque Terre by train, making it an ideal location for us to set as our home base.

In case you’re not up to date, you can read the first part about Bologna and the second part about hiking in Cinque Terre.

In the two previous entries, I didn’t mention much about food, but the things I’ve heard about real Italian food in Italy, saying stuff like “pasta is just different and BETTER in Italy”, got me really excited to try some good ol’ pasta and pizza. Pictured above are the spaghetti alla cuccarese and “Balmy” pizza (with stracchino cheese and balsamic vinegar, among other ingredients) that Kana and I had on our first night in La Spezia. OK, the spaghetti was delicious, but what really caught me off guard was the pizza, which I had to honestly say was the best pizza I’ve had in my entire life. NOT KIDDING. I think it was the first time I tried stracchino cheese and that feeling of melt-in-your-mouth goodness is to be cherished forever. And the crust – perfect thickness, warm and crispy. Ahh. How could I ever eat a pizza outside of Italy ever again?

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La vita è bella in Italia – Part 2, Cinque Terre

This is going to be a long post because well, it is about Cinque Terre. In fact, it is about the hike of my dreams, in Cinque Terre.

It all started when I first saw the photo of Riomaggiore on The Cool Hunter a while back. I remember thinking, “WOW, what is this place? It is so gorgeous!” Then I made a mental note that I HAD to visit this place, eventually. Flash forward to July this year, when I stumbled upon this wonderful blog entry on hiking in Cinque Terre. That, for me, was the motivation to get this done before I leave Europe at the beginning of next year.

So I started planning. I needed a time where I would be able to go, which wasn’t quite easy because I was occupied with my thesis and defense for the entire summer. Then it occurred to me…Toussaint weekend in November! I would have already finished with my private defense in Belgium, so I could potentially fly from Brussels to somewhere in Italy and make the trip to Cinque Terre for my dream hike! And November shouldn’t be TOO cold yet, right?

And so, the plan was devised and carried out with two colleagues from my Bordeaux lab, who decided to tag along. Pretty much, I went to Cinque Terre with unreasonably high expectations. Chances of rain and clouds were taken into consideration before the hike. Well, clouds were fine, no rain please! It would have ruined the day, not to mention that we’d probably screwed if we got stuck on a mountain in the rain…

Brief introduction of Cinque Terre – it is a set of five villages in the Liguria region of Italy known for its amazing landscapes and seaside views. The five villages of Cinque Terre, from north to south, are Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore. Slightly east of Riomaggiore is La Spezia, our home base. It is normally possible to hike between each village along a coastal path, typically taking around 5 hours in total, as I was told. On Saturday morning we headed from La Spezia by train to Monterosso (pictured above), where our hike began. Unfortunately, only the coastal trails between Monterosso and Vernazza were open to visitors and the rest of the route was closed due to recent landslides. Boo 😦 Well, we figured we’d walk at least the Monterosso-Vernazza leg, and improvise the rest, perhaps do the vineyard trail between Corniglia and Manarola. And alas, we began following the signs leading us to Trail #2…

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La vita è bella in Italia – Part 1, Bologna

Italy, the one European country that everyone seems to rave about. It’s time to see if it lives up to its image. 3+ years in Europe, and my first trip to Italy was a week ago. Absolutely overdue.

For this Italian adventure, Cinque Terre was the main destination for me. Ever since I saw the photo of Riomaggiore, I had wanted to step foot in this seemingly heavenly piece of land and hike between the villages. Of course, more on that leg of the trip will be posted in part 2.

First up was Bologna, simply because it was easy to fly in from Brussels Charleroi. It may not be as popular of a tourist destination as say, Rome, Venice, and Florence (and I will get to all three in December), but boy, what a surprise…! Let’s just say, it’s been a while since a city has wowed me, and unexpectedly, Bologna did it. City of arches, city of stairs…city of pure beauty.

Buon giorno, Bologna! I arrived at Bologna late at night and was due to catch the train to La Spezia in the afternoon on the following day, so I only had about 7 hours to spend in the city. My first impression of Bologna was one word: elegance. Amusingly it is the same word that I use to describe Bordeaux, over and over.

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