Riomaggiore and the First Farewell

I hate goodbyes. I’m pretty sure everyone does, and if you don’t then I’ll assume your heart is two sizes too small like the Grinch.

Anyhow, my new friend Melanie–we met when our host families set us up together on a blind pizza date, so we’d have English speaking friends here–is heading back to Scotland!

To prepare for our parting, we spent the last day, take a guess. Can you guess by now? Eating and at the sea.

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We rented kayaks in Manarola and paddled around the shores towards Corniglia, which was a refreshing and active start to the day. There’s been a bit of a heat wave here in Italy, but the day stayed mostly cloudy so thankfully we weren’t burning on top of sweating from the humidity.

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I hadn’t been to Riomaggiore, the first little village, so we decided to visit there for lunch. I still haven’t been to Corniglia, which is the third village, but the only one away from the sea. And when it’s this hot, you want to be near the sea.

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I’m not sure why, but Manarola and Riomaggiore have a little tiff/rivalry/my town is better than your town thing going on. Manarola is beautiful and one of my favorites, but I’m also a little bias since I spent most of my summer there.

Riomaggiore seems more residential, and the streets are a bit wider and lined with flats, shops, and restaurants. There is a place to swim, but it’s where the boats come, AND the ramp is blocked off, so you can’t lounge there in the sun.

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We took some touristy snaps and then went to lunch. I actually photographed all of my food for the day, so you can see exactly what I ate. Exciting, right?

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I’m a huge fan of all things seafood, so I went with the seafood pasta complete with squid, prawns, clams, and mussels. It never gets old.

We walked around some of the shops looking for little gifts to bring back home and then went to back to Manarola for a quick swim. Since the sea has been hot, it’s brought swarms of jellyfish where we would typically swim. Thankfully, there was not a purple or white blob in sight, so we cooled off in peace.

My favorite gelato place in Manarola is 5 Terre Gelateria. If you’re in Manarola, then please go there and try their granita. My favorites are anguria (watermelon) spritz (yes, they have alcoholic ones too), and mentha (fresh mint). SADLY, it was closed, so I couldn’t enjoy one last granita before I left.

After our 100th shower of the day, we decided to have some drinks before heading to our reservation at Il Porticciolo. If you plan on eating dinner anywhere in Cinque Terre, especially on the weekends, then you should make a reservation well in advance. We made ours in the morning, and there were only two times left for dinner.

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Il Porticciolo opened up a mini cafe right across from its main location, so we had some spritz’ there and played some drinking game with the locals. Melanie lost a couple of rounds and had to take shots of vodka as punishment. We beelined it to dinner in hopes that the food would soak up the alcohol, haha.

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Dinner was incredible. Melanie went with a speck and mascarpone pizza, which is always a good idea. I had the chef surprise me with the catch of the day. It turned out to be a delicious sea bass with roasted potatoes. With more spritz’ (for me) and a couple of blueberry digestives bought by a traveler we met at a nearby table, I was feeling all warm and fuzzy inside.

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But of course we were celebrating/saying farewell, so we had to get a dessert sampler of tiramisu. I mean, it was a necessity. After trying the chocolate, strawberry, and Nutella spreads of tiramisu; I could barely breathe. Also, I was cutting it close for the last train back home. We rushed to see the sunset and said goodbye at the station.

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It’s wonderful meeting and making friends with people from all over the world, but it’s always sad when you have to say goodbye. They become such a comfortable part of your life abroad so quickly that you can’t imagine not having them around. You also can’t just call them up like your hometown friends to come over for a movie or get a drink. It’s always up in the air when you’ll see each other next.

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Well, I’m glad that I met Melanie and had someone else to share this stunning country and chronically late trains with. I also now have an excuse to visit her beautiful home in Scotland.

Pizza and Panigacci

And just like that my last weekend in Ameglia is over. I still have until Friday before I actually leave, so it hasn’t quite hit me yet. I stayed with the family both Friday and Saturday, which was full of lovely memories, laughs, and of course, food.

On Friday evening we headed to the beach. Now, I’m a huge fan of the sea around Italy and Spain. Not only is it beautiful, but no crazy sharks to think about like when I’m splashing around in Florida. We paddled around for an hour and played volleyball in the water. The sun started to set, and the girls wanted a cool shot with it behind them in a handstand.

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For dinner, we went to a nice outdoor pizza place. I’m not a huge fan of tomato sauce on my pizza (I know it’s strange), so I ordered a four cheese white sauce with onions, mushrooms, asparagus, and speck (this delicious Italian ham). It was a bit tricky ordering something not on the menu, but thankfully Claudia took over for me.

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They also forgot my order and didn’t realize it until everyone else had their food, haha. I was too absorbed with the IAAF World Championships in London on the TV screen to notice. The pizza, no heavenly creation, came out smelling like a dream. They also talked about possibly putting it on the menu as ‘The Kayla,’ you know after the Franco, Mario, other super Italian names.

Of course, no night would be complete without a trip to Rosselini’s for gelato. I stuck with a creamy tiramisu (see: Macklemore’s ‘Downtown’) and thought about how I’d cut myself out of my clothes later for bed. I was stuffed.

Saturday was a bit lazy. There was some Sons of Anarchy/work, some pool time, and some reading was done. Claudia and Ricardo also made MORE homemade tomato sauce. You know, the delicious sauce that I get to enjoy on my pasta for lunch every day? Yes, that precious paste.

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But let me tell you about dinner. The family brought me to this lovely restaurant in the mountains that specializes in making panigacci. What is panigacci you may ask? Well, it’s a delicious piece of round bread cooked in a clay dish. I tried it with tomato and mushroom sauce, cheese and oil, more cheese, pesto, and an array of meats. Between courses, we crooned over the sweetest little puppy sleeping under a nearby table. For dessert, Nutella tiramisu. YUM!!!!

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After dinner was over, Claudia took me to the kitchen to see first hand how panigacci is made. Those clay dishes above are fired in the over, then tested to see if they’re hot enough. After, the man above pours a mixture of flour, water, and salt into the dishes and stacks them on top of one another. The heat from the dishes cooks the mixture without needed to stick it back in the oven. The clay dishes are also made from materials local to the nearby river.

Sunday was a food day in itself that I’ll write more about tomorrow.

Pisa My Heart

They say all good things must come to an end, and that’s what happened on Monday morning. Sadly, Kurtis couldn’t stay forever and had to return to England (see: evil place).

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I took the trip with him to Pisa so that we could squeeze in a few extra hours together, Plus, I’d never been to Pisa before!

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It was early enough that we could walk around without being trampled by tourists, and I could get some Leaning Tower shots in!

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We had breakfast together before Kurtis abandoned me to go home, and left me to talk the cold, barren streets of Pisa alone. But seriously, it was 95 degrees out, and by the time I went back to the Leaning Tower of Pisa, there was a swarm of at least a 1,000 people walking around with their selfie sticks.

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I managed to do a little shopping, ya know to ease my wounded heart, and then returned to Sarzana a bit early because it was hot as hell in the sun. I spent the rest of the evening shoving more pasta in my mouth and watching the new episodes of Game of Thrones to drowned my sorrows away.

The good news is this time next week we will be reunited in Spain! 😀 I only have one week left in this bellisima country, which is sad, but I’m also looking forward to being back in Spain!

Italy With You Again

Happy Friday, everyone! I can’t believe another week has gone by so quickly. Somehow I’m managing to get less work done, but also get less sleep in the process? I’m not sure what I’m doing with my time besides reading, going in the pool, and hanging out with the girls. Oh well.

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So last weekend Kurtis came to visit me in little Ameglia. It had been a month since we’d last seen each other, so I was pretty excited to see him and show him around more of Italy! Last summer, we explored Venice, Florence, and Rome together. It was right around the same time too–the end of July/right after my birthday.

On Friday, I helped Claudia prepare dinner for Kurtis’ arrival! We were in the kitchen for a couple of hours. I’ve never met anyone so dedicated to cooking delicious food, who didn’t do it for a living. I chopped garlic, parsley, and tomatoes, while probably chatting her ear off. And oh my god was dinner delicious.

We had pasta with mussels in garlic, tomato, and parsley sauce, followed by more steamed mussels in a garlicky wine sauce. Right when I thought I couldn’t eat anymore, she brought out the leftovers of my birthday cake. And wow. Just wow. It was all fantastic.

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Sorry, I’ve been terrible about taking pictures of what I’ve been eating here. I’m too busy shoving it in my mouth to snap a photo. But trust me, it was good!

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This pretty much sums up our relationship.

Of course, I had to show Kurtis the beautiful Cinque Terre, so with a late start, we headed to Monterosso Beach for the afternoon. All of the sun beds were full, so we had to lay in the sand like peasants. Just kidding, it was still nice.

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We spent the day frolicking in the sea and the sun with some beers, coconut, and focaccia. I took him to Manarola to see the beautiful views and my favorite spot. We had another quick dip and some gelato before heading to Vernazza to finish off the perfect day.

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We celebrated my birthday dinner at a delicious little restaurant by the sea. There was even a band playing right next to our table! We had a huge pile of clams and MORE mussels accompanied with an excellent white wine. For dinner, I had the cuttlefish pasta, and he had gnocchi with prawns. Both were fantastic, and I wish I were eating them right now for breakfast.

We grabbed a couple of mojitos and settled down to watch the sunset before heading home.

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Oh, Vernazza. You are truly magnificent, especially at night.

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Please do yourself a favor and watch a sunset here. Find someone who you love or just want to enjoy this spectacular sight with. It’s pretty romantic, so I’d suggest your significant other. Or maybe this guy who is always paddling around the port.

Sunday was a relaxing day full of more food and sun. Kurtis and I went in the pool with the girls, had another lunch of Italian goodness, and went into a food coma right after.

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We also went to the sea near me, Bocca di Magra, and then headed to Marina di Carrara for Rossellini’s mouth watering gelato. We explored Sazana, including a vegetarian festival in a castle, where I dropped my birthday bracelet from the girls in a toilet and enjoyed the blues from the local musicians.

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It was the perfect Sunday to wrap up a perfect weekend.

 

24 af

So, Wednesday was my birthday! Woo, I’m officially old! Sorry to those older than 24 who may be offended by that statement.

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A few years back, I made a vow that I would always try to spend my birthday in a different country or at least on a trip somewhere. I’m currently streaking at three birthdays out of the country! My 22nd was spent in Rome, 23 was greeted during the fires of the Les Santes Festival in Spain, and now I am 24 in Italy again, but this time under the Tuscan sun.

As far as birthdays go, I can’t complain. I headed to the beach with the girls for a morning of sea time and sun. We biked back home and stuffed our faces with lasagna and watermelon.

In the guest house there is a pair of old speakers, so we took a few minutes to rewire them, and blasted some music while swimming the afternoon away!

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After getting dolled up, the whole family took me to Nicola or Luni–a little town not too far from here. We ate at Fiorella’s, which was a sweet Italian restaurant nestled on top of the mountain. It had a panoramic view of the surrounding cities and the sea!

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Before we ordered anything, the server came out and took the wine glasses away from the younger girls, including me. Mind you, the drinking age here is 18. It was pretty funny when Claudia had to explain that I am in fact 24, and I did plan on drinking.

In true Italian fashion, the celebration was dedicated mostly to eating. I had lunettes (which are a kind of ravioli) stuffed with gorgonzola, radishes, and topped with walnuts. My secondi platti was grilled squid with some fried zucchini flowers, eggplant, and zucchini. It was no surprise that everything was delicious.

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I was genuinely surprised though when they brought out a big birthday cake for me at the end of dinner. It tasted even better than I could imagine and thankfully there are leftovers to eat for lunch.

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The girls also gave me a sweet bracelet that I thought they were buying for someone at the market last week. I helped them pick it out! Very sneaky.

It’s truly an incredible feeling to become a part of someone else’s family. They have shown me nothing but love since I’ve been here and I am grateful that I could spend another summer with a family, who opened their homes and arms to me.

Kurtis is coming to spend the weekend here, and I can’t wait to show him around. I’m not sure how his poor skin will do here after being deprived of the sunlight in England, but I guess we’ll find out!

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23 was an incredible year for me, and I can’t wait to see what the next year of my life will bring.

Another American in Ameglia

My time in Italy has gone by like a whirlwind. Not that it’s over–I still have a couple of weeks left! I can’t complain though. The girls I’m with, and family is fantastic. We spend most of our time eating, playing games, swimming, Netflixing, or just saying “What do you want to do? I don’t know. What do you want to do?” to each other.

Celia–the only other au pair I met in Mataró last summer–came to visit me this past weekend. It was nice to see a friendly (and American) face in this little village. The weekend was pretty low key. Both Friday and Saturday evening we had dinner in Sarzana–the small city nearby–and walked around.

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We also got in some pool time, and I watched my host parents make homemade tomato sauce!

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Sunday was dedicated to Cinque Terre. We woke up and took a train to Monterosso Beach, which despite the tourists held stunning blue waters. I plan to take Kurtis there this weekend so that we can relax by the sea.

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Our hike started in Monterosso and should’ve only been about an hour long. Well…..I have to admit something. I haven’t run since April. This is a new record for me. So I might be a little….okay very…out of shape. I was dying up the first portion of stairs and immediately soaked everything I was wearing in sweat.

Once the hard part was over, I also went shopping. Yes. I went shopping on a hike on a little Italian mountain. This is who I am.

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To be fair, the first stop was for work! I was writing a piece on local entrepreneurs and couldn’t help buying a cup of fresh squeezed orange juice from a local farmer. I mean, he grew the oranges right there!

Not even five minutes later there was another booth where a man was selling jewelry. Again, yes on a hike on a mountain. He had a table full or bracelets, necklaces, rings, and earrings that were all handmade AND silver! My favorite! After 15 minutes of indecision, I finally picked a cute little bracelet, and we headed on our way to Vernazza.

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The rest of the hike was pretty smooth, and there were a lot of lovely views of the seas and terraces with grape vines.

By the way, if you’re doing this little trek, then I’d recommend bringing a big bottle of water because it’s super hot during the summer. Also, please for the love of God don’t wear sandals, dress, or any other cutesy stuff. While the photos you can take up there are incredible, it’s not practical. If anything, pack it away in your backpack or take the $7 cheat trail that’s only 5 minutes and will avoid any significant activity.

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The views heading into Vernazza were welcoming and colorful like the rest of Cinque Terre, and I was eager to get down and dive into that blue, blue sea.

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We spent the rest of the afternoon sunbathing and swimming around before heading to Manarola. At this point, I’ve been to Manarola a handful of times, so I beelined straight to the gelato shop to get a watermelon granita (watermelon, crushed ice, sugar). Delicious. We went to my favorite overlook of the little village and just sat enjoying the views. Also snapping pics because hello! Look at that sight!

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I was dead and a little grumpy (Sorry Celia), so we came back to Ameglia. I made pasta carbonara and we polished a bottle of rose off to end the night.

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It was a lot of fun having Celia here and lucky for her she got to experience my au pair life on Monday. Her flight didn’t leave until Tuesday afternoon, so this group of gals ate pasta, watched a movie, and hid from the heat inside.

Can’t Wine While You’re Cheesin’

We woke up Sunday morning for our 10:00 a.m. check out. While we were packing up, I noticed that my phone wasn’t charging anymore. Neither was Melanie’s. We tried flicking the light switch on before we realized that they shut the power off in our room. That’s one way to get people to check out!

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Since we had a long day ahead of us, we returned back to the San Lorenzo Market for a breakfast/lunch of veggie burgers, which were delicious. After poking around the leather market for some goodies, we caught our bus for the Chianti Wine Tour.

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So this tour started at 1:15 p.m. and was supposed to arrive back in Florence at 7:30 p.m. True to Italy’s late fashion this did not happen. What was supposed to be a half-day wine tour was actually a full day.

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Our first stop was Greve, where we had a short amount of time to head around this little town. I picked up some presents for my Mom and then we were already on our away to the next place.

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The next two stops on the list were both wineries. We drank our way through a selection of Chianti wines paired with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, bread, and cheese.

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Finally we had a bit of time to explore Castellina before heading back to Florence. At this point we hadn’t eaten a meal since our breakfast burgers. You know, aside from the little pieces of bread and cheese that accompanied the wine. There was a little pizza place where we grabbed a slice smaller than my hand for nourishment. Originally we had planned to eat in Florence before our 9:27 p.m. train. This did not happen.

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Our tour bus didn’t get back into Florence until 9 o’clock. We sprinted to the station and found our first delayed train of the night. The rest of the night was madness. We were so sure that our connecting train in Pisa would be gone before we made it there and had no clue how we’d eventually get back home. Just a tip, in case you ever think you’re late for something in Italy, you’re probably like two hours early. Nothing runs on time.

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I know I’m a week late with this post, but you’ll just have to bear with me. I’m running on Italian time. 😉