July 17, 2017

The Ultimate Guide to Cinque Terre

Cinque Terre, you have a piece of my heart. The Cinque Terre is a group of five small towns on the western coast of Italy. You can take day trips here, but I highly recommend staying and hiking and exploring! It was really and truly one of my favorite places in Italy.

Part of the charm of Cinque Terre is that there are not a lot of people. This is partly because of its inaccessibility. Local trains or some group travels are really your only way to get in. However, in the same breath, Rick Steves, UNESCO, and a bunch of other people are making this a very popular place to go. I always struggle with telling people about beautiful parts of nature. You don't want to overrun it with people, but you want to see and take in the beauty. So take the train to Monterosso, Corniglia, Vernazza, Manarola, or Riomaggiore and begin to enjoy the magic that is the Cinque Terre!

Getting There
First off, getting there! We took a train from Florence to Riomaggiore. Well technically Florence to La Spezia. La Spezia is a town close to Cinque Terre that can provide you with regional trains to the Cinque Terre cities.

Getting to all of the other cities involved us hiking. I highly recommend doing that and visiting this post here for all that good info.

Riomaggiore
We stayed in a really great Airbnb in Riomaggiore. The host was extremely nice, the place was clean and private, and it was very close to the train station. That becomes important when you have luggage and will spend a lot of time walking around. We wanted to hike through all the towns so it was important for me to stay in either Riomaggiore or Monterosso. Riomaggiore was less crowded, and I like that!
Riomaggiore is the southernmost town. At the top of the town, you can explore a church with some awesome panoramic views.
 

We also enjoyed grabbing a pizza and bottle of wine and heading to the trailhead of The Lover's Lane (Check out this post about hiking through the Cinque Terre Cities) and just eating watching the sunset over the water. Having a bottle of wine out in a public place is totally acceptable in Italy btw...
Yeah that is fresh swordfish on that pizza and it was amazing. I took a picture and miss that pizza!

Manarola
We then made it to the next town Manarola. We visited the Chiesa di San Lorenzo which was a beautiful church and looked at the beautiful views! Despite the clouds and some drizzling rain through here and Corniglia, it was beautifully colorful.


Corniglia
All of the towns were small, but Corniglia is the smallest. It is not directly on the water (the only of the five towns) and instead up on the cliffs with some great views. The town is postcard perfect with colorful homes lining the streets and providing a striking contrast against the jagged cliffs and ocean.


Vernazza
Vernazza is very picturesque. There are so many colorful buildings and a rocky beach. Prepare for lots of stairs down and up to a beautiful little city. Totally worth it though! The sun came out for us in this town and I just loved seeing the vibrant town alive.


Monterosso
We ended in Monterosso. We ended up having some amazing dinner at Trattoria Via Dell'amore. We got to Monterosso just time time as the sun was setting. It was beautiful. We were tired and hungry and enjoyed our time eating there. Of the five cities, it is the biggest and so there are many places to shop and eat here. We then took the train home to Riomaggiore, tired and happy from a good long day.
 


Have you been to the Cinque Terre?
If not, when are you planning on going?

July 14, 2017

Buffalo Chicken Cauliflower Bowl

I love buffalo sauce. It is so yummy and low carb! Eating buffalo chicken is a common occurrence for me, but of course trying it with the vegetable of the moment, Cauliflower was a must!

Just to show how popular riced cauliflower is, Trader Joe's is limiting customers to two bags of their riced cauliflower. But making your own in a food processor is so easy! People say the cons to using the food processor is cleaning it, but I think it is very easy to clean in my dishwasher. I like to buy a head of cauliflower and rice it all at one time. Before storing, I squeeze the rice through a cheese cloth. Sometimes I will do it again when I am ready to use it. I store it in my fridge for up to 5 days. I bet you could freeze it airtight for 3-6 months as well.

So instead while I am at Trader Joe's, I will just grab some wine and pass the riced cauliflower. I can make my own thank you very much!



Ingredients:

1 chicken breast
1/4 cup Frank's Red Sauce
1 cup of riced cauliflower
1 tablespoon of olive oil
2 teaspoons of garlic powder
Shredded fiesta blend cheese

Directions:

Trim chicken breast and cut up into chunks. Place into pot of boiling water and cook through (about 5 minutes).

With two forks, shred chicken. Add Frank's and mix together. Set aside.

In a skillet add olive oil and garlic powder. Mix in riced cauliflower and cook for 4-5 minutes.

Add riced cauliflower to bowls and top with chicken.

Top with shredded cheddar cheese and stir in. If it doesn't melt enough for your liking, you can zap it in the microwave. A sin I am sure to most, but I love me some easy microwaving and melted cheese.


What is your favorite way to eat riced cauliflower?

July 10, 2017

Guide To Hiking The Cinque Terre (In One Day!)

If I can encourage you to do anything in Italy, it would be to hike Cinque Terre.

We were very excited to hike because it was rewarding to see Italy in that way and we got to burn off some calories from some of those decadent meals. My husband and I consider ourselves to be at a medium level of fitness. For what it is worth...

Vineyards and olive trees line the terraces as you pass by other hikers. The higher and harder trails are not for the weak, but have less people and you are rewarded with stellar views. When you get to the trails in the National Park, a day pass is required and you can buy it at the trail head.

And here is a well rested picture of us as we head onto the first trail!


Riomaggiore to Manarola | Difficulty: Moderate | Length: 1 mile
We started our hike in Riomaggiore one day in October. The weather was all sorts of everything that day. Rainy and cool, to overcast and fair, to sunny and hot. Guess it couldn't make up it's mind and that is why layers hiking are my best friend!

Floods in 2011 were destructive to the region. Some sections of the main coastal trail are still closed. The Lover's Lane (Via dell'Amore) was a popular coastal trail from Riomaggiore to Manarola. It is one that has been closed since the floods. So we started our hike out on path 531. It climbs sharply. Like over 600 feet sharp in only 0.83 miles long. But after this steep uphill, we were rewarded with outstanding views.
Looking forward from Riomaggiore after an initial steep incline.


506 Manarola to Volastra | Difficulty: Moderate | Length: 2 miles
Volastra is a beautiful little surprise in the Cinque Terre region. A true example of people living off the land. The nice thing about Volastra is that you don't have to walk down into the town, it is right off the trail. There are not many flat stretches in Cinque Terre but Volastra is one of the few.
Looking to Volastra
Passed through Volastra in the rain.

586 to 587 Volastra to Corniglia | Difficulty: Easy | Length: 2.8 miles
586 will merge with 587 to lead you down to Corniglia. This stretch of hike is absolutely beautiful. You keep going through all the vineyards. It is amazing the systems they have put in place to bring up and down grapes/supplies.
This is how they send down their grapes. Pretty much the only machine done job. Truly so much hard work goes into the making of the Cinque Terre wine (which of course we had and was excellent! Great white!)


Blue Path Corniglia to Vernazza  | Difficulty: Easy | Length: 2 miles
This is where you pay to hike (you need a parco pass), but oh is it worth it! You start to see forestry and glades that just provides a sharp contrast to the coastal views. It is truly spectacular!  I highly recommend going down into all of the cities, but Corniglia for sure! It is a cute little town. Read all about my info on the five Cinque Terre cities here!
Not the best pic, but you can see how forest-y (I make up words) it got. And a bit rainy as well!
Looking to Vernazza

Blue Path Vernazza to Monterosso | Difficulty: Easy | Length: 2 miles
If you were going from Monterosso to Vernazza I would up the difficulty to moderate. The path does get steep as you come into Monterosso. There are considerably more people on this part of the trail than any other. Many people hike out and back from Monterosso.
Vernazza in the background.
Loved seeing all the bougainvillea among the path!
Be careful not to trip seeing beauty in front, behind you, and to the side of you!


Total hike through all the five cities: 9.8 miles. Of pure amazingness.
It takes you all day because you cannot stop taking pictures. Don't rush, it was one of my favorite experiences in all of Italy.

I'm already dreaming of going back...

July 7, 2017

How To Travel While Working Full Time

If you are like me, you have a fair few places you would like to vacation to. As much as I would love to travel, I have a full time job and limited vacation days. I also have a husband to travel with who works a different full time job and different vacation days. We also have a life--full of family, friends, budgets, etc... How can we maximize our travel with schedules like this?
For a while we didn't travel. We prioritized. We got married, we got a home, and now that we are travelling, we had to optimize and learn how to plan. A plan for planning...so to speak. We plan our annual trips in three categories into what we can do annually over some wine. This is both to see new stuff and to see family. This helps us plan schedules and days.

I divided my travel into three categories: weekend trips, week long trips and over one week trips.

Here are a few examples:
Weekend trips: Las Cruces, Albuquerque, Napa, Sedona
Week long trips: Canada, Colorado, Utah
Longer trips: England

So simply put, the beginning of my plans is underway! With this, the more intensive travel planning then begins. Stay tuned for all the details on my trips!


How do you decide when and where to travel?

July 3, 2017

Caprese Bruschetta

Everyone is going to thank me for this recipe. It is crafted with basic ingredients and a quick and easy appetizer that goes really well with some lasagna! And wine. It goes well with wine.

Oh and tomorrow...my first Fourth of July that will not be spent in the United States. This was a good idea when I was planning my amazing trip (more to come) but I really love America and celebrating her. So it is kind of sad that I won't be here.

Anyway, back to the recipe. Not the fanciest of pictures, but it is really a yummy and great staple in my house!

Ingredients:

1 loaf of french bread, halved
1/2 container of pesto
1 eight ounce ball of fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced
2 tomatoes, sliced

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 375.
Spread pesto on halves of french bread.

Layer with sliced mozzarella cheese and top with sliced tomatoes.

Place on baking sheet and place in oven for 8-10 minutes depending on how crispy you would like the bread. Enjoy with your lasagna...and a glass of wine. Absolutely with the wine!


Who else loves themselves some Caprese?
Happy Fourth of July to everyone!

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