Houston to Detroit (3 hour flight)
1.5 hour layover
Detroit to Rome (9 hour flight)
Amanda distributed the Benadryl and Melatonin as soon as we boarded the flight, the idea was to sleep through the whole flight and arrive in Rome at 9AM ready for the day. Good strategy in theory, we both slept about half of the flight with a bit of reading and movie watching mixed in, we were cranky zombies when we arrived to Rome.
Arrived in Rome at 9 AM – after a decent amount of confusion on where to go we took the train from FCO airport to Roma Termini train station (~30 min). Roma Termini was craziness, people everywhere going in all directions and 1 Euro entry fee to use the restrooms. Amanda was in the restroom and an older Italian man was going crazy and shouting – he walked up to the door to the women’s room and slammed it shut, then tore off the handle. I thought Amanda was locked in the bathroom at the train station after 30 minutes in Italy, but the attendant unlocked the door from the inside. Amanda was about done with Rome after this train station stop, we would return for a more complete Rome experience at the end of the trip though.
Roma Termini to Vernazza (4 hour train)
Ocean views on West, eventually mountains on East (Apuan Alps) with tons of marble cut out and marble farms along the tracks. We had a 55ish year old Italian woman at our booth named Livia from southeast of Rome who loved speaking with us in English and showing us the various historical significance of sights along the tracks. We switched trains in La Spezia and took the short trip (15 min) over to Vernazza, where we were staying in Cinque Terre.
We booked AriBnB accommodations in advance for all of the stops on our trip. Gianni Franzi was a true bed and breakfast with an excellent terrace right outside of our apartment where a selection of croissants, rolls, jams, cereal, yogurt, cold cuts, cheeses and different coffee options from an espresso machine were served for breakfast included in our stay. The terrace had spectacular ocean views and I could’ve spent the whole day lounging here. We had a top floor room with its own little balcony, great views of both the town and the ocean, we slept with the doors open both nights so we could hear the ocean. We had a shared bathroom amongst 3-4 rooms, but luckily we never encountered anyone on a bathroom trip. No real amenities in the room but it was a better stay than anticipated. They had a WiFi room on the floor below ours which was convenient to use though we could not get a signal from our bedroom.
5 PM wine tasting at Gianni Franzi
The hotel has an amazing balcony patio where they host wine tastings and breakfast. Awesome views from high up the Cliffside (the best patio view we experienced in Cinque Terre). Alessandro the sommelier from Vernazza seemed extremely knowledgeable/passionate about wine. They started us with olives and little round cracker biscuits, and we got the charcuterie board for 10 Euro. For another 10 Euro apiece we tasted three wines – a Prosecco, a white, and a red. The Prosecco was a brut that was fantastic… not sweet at all. The white was local to Cinque Terre as the area is known for its white wines, also very good. He had us try two different reds, one with intense floral nose that blew Amanda’s mind, and then her favorite wine so far was the extremely bold ~16% ABV red to finish. Service was slow but I think we just had bad luck as others that came later were served sooner – Alessandro was serving ~15 tables by himself and including very detailed information about each wine served to customers. Even if you don’t stay at Gianni Franzi, it is worth the trek up the stairs to enjoy the afternoon wine tasting and the views.
Dinner at Gianni Franzi
We tried to have dinner down the street at the Belfort which had been recommended to us but they were fully booked for the evening so we decided to try Gianni Franzi’s Ristorante. We had a great meal outside in the piazza by the water – main square of Vernazza. We ate right around sundown and had beautiful views out over the water. We had a trenette pasta with pesto as well as a mixed seafood spaghetti. The mixed seafood spaghetti had a light garlic butter style sauce that was pretty good. The pesto though was incredible… Cinque Terre is apparently the birthplace of pesto and is still the pesto capital of the world, it definitely did not disappoint. The trenette pasta is a flat type of spaghetti that also came from Cinque Terre – they originally made it like that to better allow pesto to cling to the pasta. We had a large group of Americans sitting at the table next to us and had some good conversations with the two older men at our end. They were spending a whole month cruising around Italy and had some good advice for Florence as they had just been there. We enjoyed the house white wine and skipped dessert as we had intentions of scoring some gelato later in the evening.
Drinks at Annanasso Bar
After dinner we crossed the piazza to grab drinks at Annanasso Bar. The young bartender very helpful and happy to make classic Italian after dinner drinks. Amanda requested limoncino and he told her “not after dinner”. He ended up making her a limoncino spritz… spritz is basically where they add prosecco to a liqueur so that it is acceptable for after dinner. I had a Campari spritz which was great. This was also in the main piazza of Vernazza, we sat by the water at night and had a great time.
Gelato at Gelato StalinAfter drinks Amanda was ready for gelato, the only gelato shop open at the time (~10:30) was Stalin and it was a bit forgettable. We had coffee and double dark chocolate flavors, comparable to gelato we’ve had in Houston but still tasted great on our first night in Italy. We finished the gelato on the way back to our room to end day 1.
Gelato at Gelato Stalin
After drinks Amanda was ready to test out the gelato, the only one open at the time (~10:30) was Stalin and it was pretty forgettable. We had coffee and double dark chocolate flavors, we agreed that it was comparable to gelato we’d had in Houston, but were happy to be enjoying on our first night in Italy. We finished the gelato on the way back to the room to finish out day 1.