As a now-seasoned(ish) world traveler, I think I’ve reached the point where I can compare and contrast the places I’ve been and opine about each one. I hope it’s not too premature for that.
Last week, I returned to Cinque Terre, Italy, and while I was there, the phrase “La Dolce Vita,” or “the sweet life” was constantly on my mind. Why? Because Italy is unique from anywhere else I’ve ever been. They not only live a less stressful, “hakuna matata” (I’ll always love the Lion King) lifestyle—they embody it. I think it’s foundational to the very core of who the Italians in this region are. “Sweet” is the perfect way to describe their lifestyle. It’s simple. It’s friendly. It’s open. It’s beautiful. It’s fun. It’s relaxed... It’s sweet.
“La Vida Loca,” or “the crazy life,” which is more descriptive of the Mexican/Central/South American lifestyle, is a whole different world. It’s a fun world too—trust me, my weeks in Cancun, Mexico have been anything but dull! But if I had to choose between La Dolce Vita and La Vida Loca, there’s no contest—I’m going with sweet over crazy every time. (Note to self: I should also keep this in mind when it comes to dating decisions.)
Mom arrived in Switzerland last Thursday morning, and we left for Italy that same night (looking back, I realize a day to relax and get settled in probably would’ve been nice. I’m still working on living la dolce vita. Sorry, mom!). We arrived just outside of Lake Como, in a quaint village called Bellagio, after midnight.
Our hotel there, Borgo Le Terrazze, was sweet. And I don’t mean sweet solely in the way I was using it above. I also mean it in the, “Dude, this place is SWEET!” way. The room was decorated in traditional Mediterranean coastal style with a bit of a rustic, breezy feel, and the view was … well, why don’t I just show you.
It’s obvious to me now why George Clooney loves Lake Como so much. Not that I ever doubted his impeccable taste … well, except for the fact that he still hasn’t proposed to me. But we’ll chalk that one up to the lack of an introduction.
Now here’s a winning combination.
We spent part of the day exploring the Bellagio/Lake Como area, had lunch on the lake, window shopped and people watched. Mom kept saying, “this place is so beautiful—I wish we could stay!” and while I agreed that it was beautiful there, I also knew where we were headed. I told her to just trust me, because as impossible as it was to imagine, we were about to step into an entirely different world in Cinque Terre that she’d never want to leave.
As a side note, though, I would love to spend more time in Lake Como. In addition to the scenery, hiking, swimming, boating and other fun lake activities, I’d really like to give Clooney the opportunity to meet me. Maybe next year …
We left Lake Como in the afternoon and drove three hours to Cinque Terre, where we were staying in the most northwest village, Monterosso al Mare. The place I booked for us to stay was actually a Bed & Breakfast, La Serra sul Mare, and I couldn’t wait to see it based on all the reviews I’d read. And we weren’t disappointed! “A room with a view” doesn’t do it justice. See for yourself.
We spent the next three days soaking up every ounce of sun, sand and Mediterranean Sea we could, basking in the perfection of livin’ La Dolce Vita. We hiked, we boated, we swam, we laid in the sun, we shopped, we ate gelato, we were serenaded by an old, Italian man with his guitar (in eight languages no less), we mingled with locals and tourists alike as we strolled up and down the streets of the Cinque Terre villages each evening after another gourmet meal, we met and talked to people from all over the world ... it was everything a vacation should be, except not nearly long enough.
I won’t go into too much detail about all we did, saw, and the people we met along the way—you really need to experience it for yourself. But I will share pictures below, and tell you about one activity we did, which we still can’t stop talking about because mom and I both agree it was the best day either of us has had in ages—so much fun!
The tour was with a company called “Angelo’s Boat Tours” and I discovered it by chance when I googled “boat tours Cinque Terre.” I thought it’d be nice to go out on a boat one day. Fellow travelers on the Tripadvisor.com forum (my travel Bible) had only good things to say about the tour, so I signed us up.
Best. Day. EVER!
The boat’s captain is a guy name Angelo, and his family has lived in Cinque Terre for generations. He’s about as local as they come. Every stereotype of an Italian man that you can imagine fits Angelo—all in one incredibly fun, charming and hilarious package.
Angelo’s wife Paula (an American who met him during a vacation to Italy years ago) is a talented chef who prepares all the food for the day on the boat. Linda, Paula’s cousin, was Angelo’s “co-captain” and our hostess for the day on the boat. She had the perfect personality for the job.
There were twelve of us total on the boat, representing all different corners of the world (Brazil, Ireland, Italy and the U.S.)—ranging in age from 20 to 80. After just a few minutes and as a definite testament to Linda’s perfect hostessing (totally a word), everyone was interacting and having a great time.
The tour itself was great—we learned some of the history of the region while seeing the most beautiful scenery—cliffs that jut out into the clearest, bluest water I’ve ever seen. Mom and I tried to figure out a way to describe the color of the water, and the best we could come up with was “it looks like a liquid sapphire—but prettier!”
Besides the awesome captain, hostess, new friends and AMAZING food, the best part of the tour was getting to stop and swim at different coves. Angelo had rafts on board for those who wanted to float in the sun, snorkeling equipment for anyone who wanted to be more active and plenty of adult beverages for those wanting to stay on board. (Those of us swimming in the water enjoyed a few beverages of our own too---don’t you worry.)
I can’t imagine a better day—we are still talking about it as one of the best days we’ve had in a long time.
P.S. I’m still waiting on Angelo’s son to call me (in 2011 lingo: facebook friend request me). While we were on the tour, mom and I had a conversation that went something like this:
Carly: I don’t want to leave here. Ever. Tell Dad, Nick and Pete I love them, but if they ever want to see me again, they’ll need to buy a plane ticket to Italy.
Mom: You need to do what Paula did—find an Italian guy while you’re here, fall in love and get married! Oh! I have an idea!
Mom: Hey Angelo—do you know any single guys you could introduce my daughter to??
Carly: Oh dear God, make it stop.
Angelo: Oooh, I wish I could introduce you to my son, but he’s too old for you. He’s 28.
Carly: Bless your Italian heart, Angelo. But 28 is not too old for me.
Angelo: I thought you were 20!
Carly: I’d like to marry YOU!
Angelo: I’ll be right back.
He leaves, and I’m left looking at mom, wondering what Angelo is up to. A few minutes later I’d nearly forgotten about the whole, random conversation when Angelo is next to me, thrusting a cell phone into my hands.
Angelo: Here, say hello to my son.
Carly: WHAT?? ::skeptically takes the phone, because you can’t argue with Angelo; trust me on that one:: Ummm, hello?
Strange boy on the phone who I don’t know: Hey! Soooo, this is kinda awkward.
Carly: ::nervous laughter:: yeah … just a little
We went on to have a short, yet fairly normal conversation despite the total abnormality of the situation. My mom sat there mouthing “I’M SO SORRY” the whole time. And Angelo was just grinning from ear to ear. From what Angelo tells me, though, his son David is quite the hottie. If he hadn’t been in London, I would’ve loved to meet him. So, David, if you’re out there somewhere reading this, feel free to track me down on facebook. ;)
Ciao bellas!! Enjoy the pics. I'm sure you'll be able to tell just by looking that mom and I are having an amazing time. I just wish she could stay longer and we could visit some other places ... or, let's be honest, just go back to Cinque Terre and never leave.
More pictures to follow soon on facebook!
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