Destination: Cinque Terre
Mode of Transport: Wanderly Tours
In partnership with The Italian Fix.
She was very pretty, sitting behind the marble desk, hair tied back and at the ready for any questions that may come her way. I stood a few feet away, waiting for my turn to ask her a slew of questions. The queue had grown, but the man with the blue fitted polo took his time and made sure the pretty concierge was precise in showing him where he needed to go. She kept a constant smile, impervious to the constant repetition that came from the man. A few more minutes passed when he finally deemed himself satisfied.
Excited, I found myself jogging over to the desk.
“Buenos Dias”, she greets me.
I went directly into English, knowing that her English is perfect, having overheard the previous conversation. I know that my Castilian Spanish is idiomatic at best, and I try to avoid that inevitable interplay in which I speak the foreign language, only to be spoken back to in English. With that said, I do try to speak the local language best I can, out of respect. In this case, the “Buenos Dias” was just enough.
“Would you happen to be Paz”, I asked.
“Andrew”, extending my hand.
I knew to ask for Paz, because when we checked in, the bellman, whom I bombarded with questions while showing us our room, didn’t have many answers and quickly referred me to her.
It was not my first time in Spain, but my first time in Valencia and she gathered that information during our talk. She circled one or two highlights on the foldable map that she felt was worth seeing, and left out just about everything else I read about. “This is my town, and you should experience it like a local”, she exclaimed in a sotto voce way.
Every once in a while, when she wasn’t on her shift, we’d bump into her and she’d follow up to see if we went into that pintxos bar, or that lovely side of the park. She would sometimes point us into a different direction, when something comes to her head. We stayed 11 days and by the third day, we were already part of Paz’s Valencian community.
Jesse Walters wrote a fantastic fictional novel called, “Beautiful Ruins”. The setting was Italy’s Ligurian Sea and the Cinque Terre. Both Brenda and I loved the novel so much that in the Summer of 2014, we booked two weeks at the Cinque Terre.
The platform was crowded at the La Spezia station and the line at the cafe counter grew as there was a plethora of cafe fredo orders. I tried to sneak one in myself, but the train, fortunately, pulled up. So I ran over and helped Brenda and Bailey up with their luggage. We were fortunate to get seats, but while, on the train, I had given my seat up to an older lady.
“Grazie, Grazie”, as she smiled at me and gave me a warm squeeze on my arm before taking the seat I offered her.
I was relegated to sitting on my green trolley for the trip. The train was packed, but everyone seemed to take it in stride. Which made for a pleasant ride. The air conditioning didn’t hurt either.
The train hugged the beautiful rocky and blue sea coastline. When the train made a stop, people started to pile out, I was unsure but picked up our bags anyway and readied myself to un-board.
Having felt my uncertainty, the old lady, with urgency in her voice yelled, “dovai?”
“Monterosso al Mare”.
“Non Ancora”, and waved me to sit down again.
The train continued to hug the coast and finally it was our stop. Brenda, Bailey and I were excited. We started to get off. I looked over one last time toward the lady’s direction. I caught her eye, we smiled at each other, and she waved me off.
The train station was just yards from the promenade. We were quickly enveloped in its beauty. The water was blue, blue, blue and the hills, green, green, green. Bailey was already planning her beach day, but that had to wait until the next day as it was already getting late in the day. It was aperitivo time and we wanted to join the fanfare, so we looked for our hotel.
With the help of a few ladies sitting by the beach, we were pointed toward the old town, where our hotel would be. It was a family run establishment which befitted the location. The owner, showed us to our room and told us to return to the desk after we washed up. When we got downstairs, she started frying up some pasta for us. She didn’t want us to go out to aperitivo without something in our stomachs. Bailey was in heaven. She loves pasta and felt instantly at home.
Marina was her name, and she pointed us toward the direction to where to have a good “Aperol Spritz” to start. She then gave us an itinerary of things, she felt we should be doing. For example, she told us to stay on the “old town” part of the beach as the energy is best there and it’s where the locals go. She was also looking out for our expenses and offered up beach chairs and umbrellas to set up ourselves.
One day, I did not heed her warning and ended up getting gouged for the use of an umbrella and lounge chairs at the beach in the newer part of town. Which was not nearly as much fun. I never strayed again.
We had farinata where she told us to. We continued to do aperitivo at her recommended bar (so much so that by the end of our stay, we were hardly paying for drinks). We stayed in the “old town” part of the beach.
The Cinque Terre are five seaside villages, along the Italian Riviera. A past time in these necks is hiking from village to village. Marina guided us as to how to do our hike best. At times, the hike was challenging, but the views from the steep terraces overlooking the sea and the colorful villages is reward enough.
We visited all the other towns during our stay there. All having their unique flavor. There is Vernazza with it’s lovely harbor, Corniglia perched high up in the hills, Manarola with its hill topping wine vineyard, and the quintessentially charming, Riomaggiore.
It was one of the most memorable family vacations we ever took, and it would not have been nearly as wonderful if not for the local knowledge that Marina imparted to us.
Get lost in our travel tales
When Brenda and I started this website, we wanted our readers to get lost in our stories. Moreover, we want our readers to experience the world first hand by inspiring them, but also be able to give them some guidance. Due to our wonderful experiences made better by knowledge imparted to us by a local, we endeavor to bring the same experiences to our readers by connecting them with locals all over the world.
Who better than a local, to curate a trip or vacation for you. The task is daunting and fun. Recently we were fortunate to have made a connection with a specialty tour company run by a lovely woman named Bianca, who lives at the Cinque Terre for part of the year with her husband and kids and offers bespoke tours of Italy. A Perfect match as far as we were concerned. This is exactly what we were looking for. An opportunity to connect our readers to locals.
She epitomizes “local knowledge”, and we are so happy to be working in tangent with her company named, “Italian Fix”. I bring her and her company up because she has a limited tour of the Cinque Terre starting July 5th. Experience the beauty I speak of above and have a local guide you. I promise it will be an experience that is unique to you and different that the run-of-the-mill everyone else experiences. Here’s the itinerary:
Marina, dressed like a pirate was ready for the festival. She was busy overlooking her hotel, her restaurant, her kids but had the time to say hello to us, while we were sitting at our favorite aperitivo place. Paz, came from around the desk when we checked out to give us a proper hug and goodbye. It’s nice to have a local as friend. At least for a little bit. My only wish is that we had them to ourselves all the time.
Share this Wanderly Tour with a friend and have the best summer this year at The Cinque Terre.