The final days of my Italy trip…
We divided the last leg of our trip between Tuscany, Florence, and a day trip to Cinque Terre.
Tuscany — In Tuscany, we stayed at The Renaissance Il Ciacco, which was near Barga. Our hotel was very secluded from everything. I would NOT recommend staying at that particular hotel. It was beautiful, but too difficult to get around without a car and definitely not walking distance to anything. The closest cities nearby were Lucca and Barga. Of the two, Lucca was my favorite and worth visiting should you ever end up in that part of Italy. Lucca is a charming little city where you can rent bikes, walk, and find a cute cafe. There are plenty of modern shops and things to see. You can get to Lucca by train, bus or car.
Cinque Terre (CT) – While we were in Tuscany, we took a day trip to Cinque Terre! We drove our rental car to a nearby train station and purchased train tickets from Barga to La Spezia Centrale to Monterusso for 5,40 Euros each. The automated ticket machines accept major credit cards and ATM cards (VISA, MC). Once you arrive in Cinque Terre, you will be blown away by the city’s natural beauty. Everywhere you look, every corner you turn, is like a picture from a magazine – or perhaps a dream!
Tip: If you are planning a day trip CT, be sure to pay attention to the clock because the train stops dropping off people at certain stations at certain times. Also, get to the train station about 30 minutes before to purchase your tickets in case you have trouble with the machine (like we did).
What to bring: Bring comfortable shoes, sunblock, sunglasses, hat (optional), a light sweater or scarf, and a fully charged phone/camera to take photos.
Things to do: Hiking! We hiked from Monterusso to Vernazza. It was about a 3 mile hike. It had its challenging points at times, but worth every step. Because of the prior season’s weather conditions, they closed off the trails between the 3 other cities– but it would have been nice to hike all 5 of the villages! I saw people of all ages and sizes on this hike. It is not easy, but try it! Trust me, you will love it ^_^ Also — we paid 15 Euros together to hike the trail, so there is a fee.
Where we ate: Calvin and I found the cutest charcuterie shop for lunch. It was called Ristorante da Eraldo in Monterusso. The restaurant is very small with limited seating both inside and outside. We shared a board of meats, cheeses and veggies…and of course, a glass of wine! We demolished everything on that board. Also, the board of goodness came with a side of freshly baked bread. Everything tasted fresh, with all-natural flavors. I am so happy we wandered into this restaurant! Like they say: “not all who wander are lost” — so it was destiny for us to eat here ^_^
Florence — We cut our Tuscany trip short to shifted a night to Florence. We spent 36 hours in Florence. It’s such a clean (compared to Rome) and classic city.
Where we ate: Our first and only night in Florence, we had dinner at Tamero Pasta Bar. The restaurant was cool because you can watch the chefs cook as you walk in. The pasta was both legit and fresh. Also, there is free wifi :) We ordered the cacio pepe, and a pasta dish that actually tasted like chow mein (in a good way!) We were too stuffed to get dessert.
Using Yelp, we found this incredibly popular sandwich shop called All’ Antico Vinaio. The sandwiches were so good that we picked up a sandwich to-go before we left for the airport the next day. Not only were the sandwiches unbelievably delicious, you can pay 2 Euros for unlimited red wine to pair with your sandwich. The sandwiches are huge! Calvin and I shared the priuscuto, chopped basil, and mushroom cream sandwich. In the photo, the sandwich may look small because I ate 80% of it before taking the photo! Sorry ;P
Tip: The lines can be very long since it is very popular! Many people do not know, but there are two sandwich shops facing each other and they are completely the same! Calvin and I went to both shops. The original shop usually has the longer line. You can see the workers bringing supplies from one shop to the other.
We also found the best gelato spot in Florence! Again, it was so good that we had to come by to pick up some gelato before we left for the airport. The gelato spot is called Le Botteghe di Leonardo. Their gelato was especially fresh and you could really taste the natural fruits (their fig flavor was our favorite).
Things to do: There are many museums to check out. Calvin and I saw the Statue of David at the Gallerie dell’ Accademia. We also walked to the river to check out that famous architectural building that is on the edge of the bridge. There are plenty of shops and buildings to see while you are in Florence. Unfortunately, we did not have time to do more. So I guess we’ll just have to come back someday :)
Tip: Be sure to make reservations online for the museums as that time slots fill up quickly.
Italy is a beautiful country to visit. The people are kind, the food is fresh, and the culture is great if you get a chance to immerse yourself. We are glad we rented a car and drove around Italy. We got lost of few times, but ended up finding beautiful cities that we might have skipped over otherwise (like Lucca and Barga). Of all the Italian sites we visited, Positano, Cinque Terre, and Florence are my favorite. Next time, I will make sure to add more days in Florence. Overall, we both had a great time and I guess we will have to visit Italy more often to celebrate our anniversary since Calvin did propose to me on this trip, right? ;) I hope my post on Italy will be helpful for your future trip to Italy! Thanks.