After our night in Livorno, I noticed a tickle in my throat. I drank a pot of tea, took vitamin D and oregano oil and steadfastly refused to be sick.
We were headed next to the Cinque Terre, a cluster of five towns on the Italian cost that are famous for being remote and adorably charming. They have recently gotten a lot more touristy so we decided to stay a few towns north, in the "modern fishing villiage" of Bonassola.
The hotel concierge told us to catch the local bus to get to the train station, which would take us to Bonassola. The bus was supposed to cost 1.70 euros so we had our coins ready. When we got on the bus, however, we couldn't figure out how to pay! There was no money box, no tickets, no anything. We waited until we reached the station and then tried to hand our money to the driver. He laughed, waved us off and told us not to worry about it. Italians seemed to be even more relaxed and unconcerned than I'd imagined!
The trains were another matter. Italian trains are notoriously chaotic. The guy at the ticket booth spent about 5 minutes slowly scribbling down connections in almost unintelligible handwriting. We ran for connection after connection and nearly got on the wrong train more than once, but finally we made it to Bonassola!
My mom had printed out a giant stack of papers for every place we had reservations, and she pulled out a map of how to get to our accommodation. It had a few lines that were supposed to be roads, but no labels for which street was which. We just kind of picked a direction and walked, hoping the town was small enough for us to find it.
We saw a few signs and walked our way up into the hills, passing through teeny alleys and streets that seemed more like private walkways. My throat was getting worse and so my mom took the lead in tracking down our room.
We decided to stay at an agritourisma, which is basically a farm with a guest house. Agritourismas are part of a program to help keep small family farms alive and we were happy to help this winery/ lemon farm/ everything garden.
The family was super friendly and helpful and took my mom up for a tour of the vineyard. I slept in instead, as my sore throat was getting worse.
After settling into our little room (with wifi, yay!) we headed back down into the town and grabbed our first Italian pizza. It was AMAZING. We're talking 2 euros for a slice of pesto-covered heaven with pasta and cheese backed onto the top in a layer of gooey deliciousness. With a bottle of lemonade and some gelato, we were ready for our first Italian picnic. And you couldn't beat the view.
As I am continually reminding my mom, I am a starving art student and therefore I can't afford to eat out. So we made good use of the little outdoor kitchen. We bought a package of fresh pasta, a sprig of basil and some spreads and called it dinner!
If you look back up at the picture of the outdoor table, you will notice beautiful candle sticks and a ceiling of lush grape vines. All of this adds to the romantic beauty of the setting, and I ended up Skyping my boyfriend into dinner!
We were sitting there, eating our meal, and then all of the sudden an ant appeared. And then another. They seemed to crawl out of nowhere faster than we could pinch them away. My mom was on cooking duty and took over ant patrol, protecting our food from the little bugs. I tried clearing the food to the center of the plate so I'd notice when they crawled across the white border. I tried stacking plates on top of cups so they couldn't crawl up. Nothing made any difference.
After about the second dinner, I finally had a breakthrough. That beautiful grapevine that lent a romantic ambiance to our little dinner table was also dropping ants into our food. After that we ate inside the room.
With Bonassola set as our base camp, and with me getting sicker by the minute, we began our exploration of the Cinque Terre.