“I’m saving the Amalfi Coast for something special,” I remember saying to a friend in London, years ago. I had just returned from Cinque Terre for the third time, another part of Italy that is raved about for its beauty. The Amalfi Coast, a 50-kilometre stretch of coastline along the Mediterranean, kept eluding me despite being so high on my dream travel list. Saying I was saving if for something special made me feel slightly better about not seeing it yet.
The truth is, I didn’t know what that “something special” was going to be. “I’m saving the Amalfi Coast for something special,” became my mantra, the Amalfi Coast becoming that destination that was always in the back of my mind, that place I so desperately wanted to visit but didn’t know how.
To me, Italy is a country full of colour, full of life. It is a country of beautiful chaos, of the hustle and bustle of busy squares, of Vespas zipping through traffic, of restaurants carrying a cacophony of sounds through the night, people laughing and plates clanking and corks popping. Perhaps this is why I see the colour red everywhere in Italy: the crumbling walls of buildings, the sweet ripe cherries in the hot sun, the swirls of pasta on the plate, the dark oxblood of a perfect glass of wine, the splashes of colour against a rainy sky or a crowded beach. To me, red represents that Italian energy, that vivacity, that beauty.
If you’ve been following my Facebook or my Instagram accounts, you’d know that I’m not hiding the fact that I fell absolutely, head over heels in love with Cinque Terre, Italy. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know – I can be quite promiscuous with my travel love. But how can you NOT fall in love with a place that looks like this, especially when the sun is shining and you have a glass of wine in your hand?
I’m still going through all of the hundreds of photos I took from my four days there last month, so I’ll be posting a photo essay soon, but I wanted to write a post about some of the logistics of getting around Cinque Terre, especially for those who are on a bit of a budget (like I was…er… always am). I had quite a few people write to me to say that they plan on visiting the region this summer, and so hopefully this guide can help, or perhaps it can help inspire you to plan your own trip there. It is one of the most beautiful places in Italy, if not the world, and I truly believe that Cinque Terre can be visited on a budget. Here’s how.
One of the reasons I love travelling so much is because of towns like Lovere. Before visiting Bergamo, I didn’t even know it existed; to my knowledge, I had never read about it or seen photos of it. And yet, when I arrived on that rainy day, it immediately spoke to me: the green and blue shutters on the houses, the cool air coming down from the mountains across the lake, the small coffeeshops in the centre of town serving afternoon espresso. It was the kind of place that made you want to stay longer, made you want to explore its streets through every twist and turn. It was the epitome of why I’ve grown to love Italy so much in the first place.
As I sat in the main square myself – I ordered my first glass of wine at 11 a.m., because when in Italy, you do as the Italians do – I was reminded of my first trip to Italy. It was 2006, nearly ten years ago. I was newly twenty-two years old. I had short, dark hair I had cut myself with my mother’s sewing scissors the night before I left my hometown in Canada. Italy was my sixth country on a huge, whirlwind backpacking trip through Europe: I had already been to the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland, and Germany. I was completely on my own, bouncing from one major city to the next, staying in hostels for a few days before strapping my backpack on and clutching my Eurorail pass to my chest to find another train to another city. When I think of that trip, I think of the click-clack of the destination board in the train station as it updates; I think of arriving in dark cities late at night, searching for a taxi; I think of staring out the window as the world whizzed past, watching green hills unfold in the distance, fairy-tale castles perched atop a few of them. I think of movement. And then, I think of Italy.
I am starting a new series on the blog, which, if you haven’t already figured out, is called “Why I Love ______”. And today, because it’s cold in London and I’m craving pasta (both of those things can be said for nearly every day of the year, to be fair), I’m writing about Basilicata.
I had never heard of Basilicata before I was invited by their tourism board to visit. Not many others I’ve talked to have heard of it, either. But from the moment I arrived in Bari (which is in southern Italy, and only a short and cheap flight away from London) and then drove an hour to Matera, I knew I was going to like it.