Living in Italy, I have many wonderful colleagues and friends. However, nothing can replace my best friends at home, friends who have become like family. In May, I was super lucky that two of those friends visited at the same time, ladies I’ve known for about 19 years. When Jen and Anna arrived, we called it “Waldwick Girls in Italy.” And that entire time, I felt at home and was filled with pure joy as I had the best of both worlds.
They arrived on Friday May 10th and flew back early morning on Tuesday May 14th for a quick Girls’ Getaway. I know Jen and Anna from the track team in high school, and since then we have had many, many adventures from road trips to meets at Princeton and Brown University to visiting Jen in California to traveling in Belgium and Switzerland with Anna. Now it was time for us to kick back, chillax’, catch up, eat up, and soak up some sun. Would the weather finally cooperate?
Upon their arrival, I escorted the girls to my apartment for a nap while I finished the workday. Afterwards, I went down to change for the volleyball tournament against the German School. They were our #1 fans, as we played.
After a quick tour of the school, we met in the staff room for pizza, focaccia, salami, and of course prosecco. We had the opportunity to chat with the staff of the German School, all intimidating in their matching uniforms, then headed to the apartment to freshen up for dinner. The girls surprised me with many gifts. Anna brought a selection of tastes from home, including cheddar cheese! and ingredients for Thai and Tacos. Among other goodies I requested from home, Jen surprised me with a mortar and pestle so I wouldn’t have to make my guacamole with a bowl and shot glass.
After the goodies, we walked down to one of my favorite restaurants by the sea, facing the beach where I love to swim. This upscale place is a bit expensive yet worth it for the delicious quality.
After a super delicious dinner and delectable desserts, we walked towards Nervi, enjoying the fresh sea air and views, then back up to my apartment where we tucked ourselves in for a relaxing night.
On Saturday morning, we lazily awoke and convened in the kitchen for coffee and cheerful chatter. We didn’t preplan our train to Vernazza because there were many options, and we just wanted to rest. I put out a little breakfast spread for the ladies, then we were on our way to Nervi where we caught the train to the Cinque Terre.
After a beautiful hour and 20 minutes, we arrived in the Cinque Terre. The Five Lands — 5 small villages nestled in the mountains along the rocky coast, villages that have preserved their own unique culture due to their isolated location for many years. It is possible to hike between all five villages, although after the devastating flood of October 2011 there are still parts of the trail that are not yet open. It took more than six months to clear the earth that swamped the villages– destroying homes and businesses, bridges and the landscape. Yet with careful determination, 5 Terre was open for business last summer and was looking absolutely great for our visit this May. On his site, my travel idol Rick Steves explains the disaster and recovery efforts. He also provides much amazing information about the region. He may be the reason why the predominantly heard language in the 5 Terre is English, and most of those folks are toting his guidebooks. But these are my favorite type of traveler, so I don’t mind.
Vernazza before the flood:
The floodwaters rush through the charming town:
Rick Steves takes us to Vernazza 6 months after the flood:
When we arrived in town, we were happy to see that Vernazza was almost back to her old self, vibrant and restored. But it’s impossible to forget the floods, as a giant photo reminds visitors as they exit the train.
We walked up the main street to our charming B&B, where we checked into our quaint room, then proceeded to walk around, explore town, and enjoy a great lunch.
After a delicious meal, we hiked through town and then decided to stroll to enjoy the gorgeous views on the trail to Monterosso, where I stayed with my mother in April.
The following slideshow features highlights of our journey.
Next, we completed the trail then to Monterosso.
Once in Monterosso, we took some photos
then I took the girls straight to Cantina di Miky where a fellow Waldwick Girl works, as mentioned in my previous Cinque Terre post. We enjoyed a delicious meal, then posed for a picture with Christine.
We had delicious food, and anna especially loved the fried stracchino and vowed to recreate it when she returned home. She even found a distributor for stracchino in the US. At the conclusion of our meal, we were happily buzzed and boarded a train for a quick ride back to Vernazza and our cozy hotel room.
I fell asleep before I even touched my book. Unfortunately, the girls had a bit of jet lag and were up a while. But we woke up happy the next morning and enjoyed breakfast at the restaurant downstairs run by twin brothers from Sicily. Sicilian breakfasts are very, very sweet. The guys entertained us, and I got another business card as I made more friends once they realized I lived locally. “Come back and visit soon. Watch TV, you will learn Italian,” they said as I left.
We had just enough time to hike the hills right in town for some gorgeous photos. Finally, the Cinque Terre under stunning blue skies. Splendid.
After a Siren photoshoot, we boarded the train for Genoa, where it was finally swimming weather. We enjoyed a couple of hours on my local beach before dinner.
Next, we explored Genoa’s Medieval Center, where I gave the girls some tips for tomorrow’s exploration as I would sadly be at work. Then we enjoyed a nice meal at the Porto Antico.
On Monday, Anna and Jen explored the Medieval Center on their own after a lazy start and a yummy breakfast at their hotel. (They stayed at a hotel the last two nights since I would be working and so they’d be more comfortable). I met up with them for some shopping at the COOP Supermarket, then chilled in the room a bit before boarding a bus to Nervi where we walked on the passegiata for more stunning views. We had an aperitivo on the passegiatta,
then concluded the evening with a meal at Halloween, a pizza place in the little port of Nervi.
Back to the hotel for vino and Girl Talk before I headed to my apartment for sweet dreams. The girls left very early the next morning, and I missed them right away. I was so grateful for such a wonderful and joyous mini-break! Thanks Jen and Anna!