Cinque Terre + San Gimignano

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I’m currently in rainy Ireland, sleepy from my flight over and also the 2 pints I drank last night (when did alcohol start having these effects on me, I’m too young for this?).  While the cooler fall weather has been very welcome lately, I can’t help but be really jealous of 3-Months-Ago-Sara.  How come 3-Months-Ago-Sara got to lay on the beach drinking aperol spritzes, and Current-Sara is slightly damp from the rain and falls asleep after a couple of Guinnesses?  In just a few weeks, I’ve gone from Fun-Girl Mode to Hibernation-Mode.  Okay, not entirely, I have actually been super entertaining in Ireland, but that’s a story for another time.

Anyways, have you guys heard of Cinque Terre and San Gimignano?!  They were honestly my most favorite places in all of Italy, so I’m super excited to share this post!  You’ll notice by the pictures that they aren’t very similar at all – Cinque Terre is a collection of 5 towns along the Riviera coastline, and it’s filled with these amazingly colorful, boxy houses on the cliffs!  On the other hand, San Gimignano is in Tuscany, and it’s probably what most people imagine when they hear about “Italian wine country”.  Both of them were so different, but I had just the most amazing time in each!

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Cinque Terre

Story time! In Cinque Terre, I stayed in the bottom town called Riomaggiore.  I was obsessed with the rainbow buildings, and I spent a large majority of my time there hanging out on the rock beaches and taking millions of pictures.  Anyways.  One of the days while I was laying on the beach, a local man walked up to me and asked if I wanted to do a night kayaking tour he hosted after 10 p.m.  Although I’m afraid of 1. the ocean, and 2. the ocean at night especially, I decided to say “fuck it” and have an experience.  I know it’s probably a bad idea to kayak off to a secret beach with a strange man you’ve just met, but he claimed that if I were to go with him, I would see glow-in-the-dark plankton, so obvs that convinced me.  I met up with him late at night, put on a super-sexy wetsuit, and our 1 1/2 hour kayaking tour took about 3, because apparently I’m that bad at kayaking.  There was no moon that night, and it was super dark, and I was kind of freaking out, because I JUST KNOW there was a whale swimming under me the whole time, but I made it!  We went to a dark cave where I saw lots of glowy plankton that looked like millions of stars in the water!  And then we went to the secret beach where I swam (SWAM!) in the dark natural pool there.  I was so proud of myself for being brave, and I had a cool experience!  So there’s your life lesson for the day: sometimes scary things are rad, and also there are some things you don’t tell your mom you do until after the fact!

Another funny story: while I was in Manorola attempting to get a picture of myself in front of the colorful houses with my mini-tripod and self-timer, a big tour group from China walked up and started taking a bajillion pictures of me.  I’m pretty sure they got better pics of me than I ever got!  Also, I think they were under the impression that I was a celebrity – as it turns out, the #papz is not for me.

Anyways, as stated above, I stayed in Riomaggiore, which is the bottom town of Cinque Terre.  I absolutely looooved staying there!  There’s only one street in the whole town, and the beach is honestly less than a five minute walk away from anywhere!  It was so perfect, 10/10 recommend.  I spent my first full day in Riomaggiore, hanging out on the beach, eating lots of food, and doing my night kayaking tour (although you can also do a day kayaking tour if you prefer).  The next day, I took a train to the other 4 towns, walking around each, eating lemonade-vodka granita, and doing the little hikes to the pretty views in each town.  After visiting all of them, I’m still glad I stayed in Riomaggiore (it’s a little quieter and less touristy than some of the other options).  However, I loved being able to take a day trip to the other 4 towns!  It was one of my favorite places on my trip, and I really can’t get over the pictures.

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San Gimignano

After Riomaggiore and Lucca, I took a train over to San Gimignano , which was another favorite of mine – it’s nestled in the hills of Tuscany, and it looks just like the paintings you’d expect to see in a cute Italian bistro.  I spent most of my time there getting lost in vineyards, and I’m still not even sure I was allowed to be in those.  However, I did do some more legal things like pottery shopping and visiting some of its beautiful sites.  Also, a young wine sommelier befriended me and taught me how to drink wine the right way!  I was reminded of how delicious amazing wine is, and totally neglected to mention that I usually just choose a bottle with a pretty label and <$10 price tag.  Convenient!

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Good stuff in Cinque Terre (Riomaggiore unless stated otherwise):

  • Colombo Guesthouse – this is where I stayed, and it was perfect!  Really clean, nice rooms with small kitchens.  Also, it’s on the main (and only) road, so it’s really close to the beach, train station, and restaurants!
  • Vertical – a little cafe that’s good for a cup of coffee and some breakfast!
  • Night kayaking – if you can track down the guy who offers this, it’s an amazing experience!  He doesn’t really advertise, but if you ask around, I’m sure someone can point you in his direction!
  • Gelateria Centrale di Germani e Giaccio – gelato!  Enough said.
  • Mamma Mia Take Away – a little friterie that has delicious cones of fried food that you eat with sticks!  It’s the perfect lunch while looking at shops or walking along the beach.
  • Marina Piccola (Manarola) – I stopped at this restaurant on my way back to Riomaggiore, and it was a nice change from the restaurants in Riomaggiore.  I sat outside, stared at the water, and ate lots of pasta – pretty good food, beautiful view!

Places to visit in San Gimignano:

  • Pottery shops – There are tons of great pottery shops throughout San Gimignano – I picked out a couple of ceramic roosters for my mom and aunt, which was interesting – “hi, can I take pictures of your roosters?”
  • Linen – okay, it sounds boring, but I loooved the linen stores!  So many great dish towels that would make amazing props for the blog – I had to leave before I bought one of everything (although I did indulge and buy a cute linen bread basket).
  • Palazzo Buonaccorsi – a historical home owned by a very sweet man who rents out beautiful rooms in a quiet area of town (aka – away from the super touristy areas!).  Lots of great shops and restaurants nearby.  Definitely recommend!
  • Restaurants in alleys – if you get the chance, skip all of the super touristy restaurants in the square, and make your way through alleys where you’ll find tons of small, local restaurants!  There’s lots of hidden gems on these side streets that you won’t find on Yelp or Tripadvisor!
  • Enoteca DiVinorum – a cool bar with an amazing view of the countryside!

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xo Sara Lynn

*Song of the Day: Lauren – Men I Trust

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