Europe 2013 – Venice, Cinque Terre, Barcelona

Our Vacation in Italy and Spain

Steven and I’s travel plans tend to be very spontaneous and this trip was no different!  We had planned to go to Europe the following Fall and on a whim, decided that was too long to wait! We left Richmond Sunday morning, May 12th and came back Tuesday night, May 21st (we had a little break in between weddings). We stayed 2 nights in Venice and 3 nights in both Cinque Terre (Manarola specifically) and Barcelona.  Here are some of our most memorable moments caught on camera, less a few unprofessional food pictures 🙂

All of the photos below are available for print purchase (without watermark)  HERE


We arrived in Venice early and despite the jet lag we decided we just couldn’t take a nap. There was too much to see. Steven’s map skills led us to our hotel in Margherita Square/Dorsoduro district. The CUTEST little square with tons of activity all hours of the day. We ate at the Pizza place across the square from our room. It was AWESOME and we LOVED the waiter. Being the cheese lover that I am, I had the Quattro Formaggi and Steven got the Funghi; Pork, mushrooms etc. Really thin crust, hardly any sauce… it was enormous! With a half liter of the house Merlot. Best pizza we’ve ever had, we’ve been ruined. For two days we explored!!


Eating, eating, eating, drinking… I miss this place. We quickly realized that none of the ‘streets’ are very straight so it’s very easy to get turned around and wander for hours. Definitely not a grid, and lots of the alleys are very narrow. We went everywhere and felt safe in every neighborhood. The next 4 or 5 photos are all from our square.


We took this photo from our window! Talk about making it easy to get fresh fruits and veggies!


Venice has no roads, so even the trash goes out by boat.


We had dinner reservations for our anniversary at Impronta Cafe at 7:30.  Our waitress spoke English to us, and Italian and French to two other tables nearby!  Afterwards we walked towards home, checking out the happenings in our square on the way. We sat on a bench for a while, got some gelato and did some walking around the canals before deciding we were beat and needed to go to bed. Apparently we were staying in the party square of Venice, Campo Santa Margherita. The party went on until 2am! The students from the University of Venezia gather here so it was pretty loud outside. We enjoyed listening to it for a while but eventually closed our windows and had complete silence. We had no problem sleeping for 11 hours! We would stay in the same square again, if we ever go back!


We got up early, by 6:30 Wednesday morning. Showered, packed and headed out. We just BARELY made it to the bus stop to catch the bus to the airport by 7:20!! Glad we made it, once at the airport (just to get our rental car) we checked in and picked up our diesel engine, Audi SUV! We decided I would drive and Steven would navigate. I’m terrible at navigating and we didn’t have a GPS or pay for the navigation system to work. There’s one word for travelling through a foreign country with directions saved on a laptop with very little battery- STRESSFUL!! Right out of the rental car place the SUV died on me; I couldn’t figure out how to restart it and the cars behind us started beeping and swerving around us… did I already say stressful? We made a few wrong turns at first but somehow, wound up on a road we were supposed to be on and made it all the way to Lucca. Lucca is a walled city we heard many fun reviews about… 3 hrs from Venice, 1 hr from Cinque Terre. We figured it would be a good stop on our way. Upon first arriving we were very impressed as we watched all the people on bikes go by. We people watched in this great fun square with restaurants all around as we ate sandwiches. After walking the perimeter and up on the wall we were less impressed.  Maybe it’s because we just left Venice, but for us it didn’t compare! I felt like it was a war time town… kind of dirty and dull with cars that seemed to drive way too fast. We didn’t stay long and headed the rest of the way to Cinque Terre!


Our little apartment was in Manarola and it was perfect. You can actually see the little red building in some of the pictures below! Manarola is steep with big inclines, lots of winding roads leading to it and serious drop offs. Cinque Terre is made of five little cliff-side towns all connected by rail and walking trails!


We did a little hiking in Manarola getting some great shots of our colorful town from the hillside across from it! From there we caught a 4 minute train to Riomaggoire (one town over). We explored around there and did a little snacking and some hiking and picture taking for an hour and a half before catching a 7 minute train to Vernazza! We really liked this spot, more crowded but lots of life here… we could tell it was the busiest of the towns.  Again, a little more shopping and some hiking. After dinner, once the sun had set Steven went back up the trail for a night-time shot of Vernazza! Friday morning we woke up to sun around 10:30am (even though the weather said 60% chance of rain)… Our plan that day was to take the train over to Corniglia then hike from there to Venezza and then on to Montorosso.


This is the town of Vernazza. It was absolutely amazing.


We saw this rock up ahead and Steven said, “Lily! You should go sit out there.” You can’t quite see the railing I had to climb over to get out there. Once Steven got up to where I was he immediately decided that probably wasn’t a great idea!


This is probably our favorite photo from the trip. We knew we wanted to take a photo of the setting sun hitting the town of Manarola, but Steven almost underestimated how fast the sun was going down! He ran down the winding street and literally got off one shot before the glowing light that was shining on the town disappeared. This was it, and it was the perfect Manarola sunset.


Then he turned around and took this shot from the same spot. Can you believe this place exists???


The next day we had dinner in Vernazza (a few towns over from our town of Manarola). Once it got dark Steven went up the cliff to get this shot of Vernazza at night. I’m sitting under one of those lampposts by the water with a glass of wine 🙂


After three wonderful nights in Cinque Terre it was off to our final destination, Barcelona, Spain! We heard some wonderful reviews about our little B&B; La Casa Gran, and they were spot on! We chose another AWESOME place to stay. I think there are only 3 guest rooms and a large suite in the coolest old building. Inside our B&B is a little dining area that always has fresh fruit, drinks and music playing. There is art all on the walls with some neat contemporary furniture. The owner and her 3 large dogs could not have been any sweeter. We got in with just enough time to drop our bags off, grab a delicious meal and head over to a Flamenco show at the Palau de la Musica. The 2nd photo below is of the ceiling during the show!


The next day we set off on foot for Montjuic to take a tram ride to the top and catch some great views of this vast, expansive city! We had dinner in Barceloneta beach, a popular spot at a restaurant recommended by a friend of ours; Restaurante Salamaca, known for their Paella! It was a great night despite the downpour we went running through to get back to the metro. Our plan on our last day: Eat at a bakery, a tapas restaurant, do some shopping, walk La Rambla, see the Gothic District and touch the Mediterranean! We accomplished almost all of that, except for the shopping! We didn’t really love La Rambla (too many people!) we did find a great little bakery.  This is one thing I think the US is missing. These gourmet bakeries with all kinds of fancy desserts and a long list of coffee and espresso options. Just like in Italy, people would walk up to these places like it was a bar, slam a shot of espresso, pay and be on their way… interesting! We ate at the BEST lunch spot right on the street. Each item on the menu was served on a little piece of French bread and they were AWESOME!!!  I took a picture… in hopes of one day recreating some of these. From lunch we checked out the Gothic district and loved it. Not only were the buildings and architecture amazing but we listened to some very talented musicians and saw some great street performers.


Some thoughts looking back in case this post can help someone else plan a memorable trip to any of these towns. We have never eaten as well as we ate in Barcelona. The food was incredible! On a return trip to Spain I think we’d choose a smaller town in a more rural area to get a better feel of the culture. Barcelona is a huge city and for us, not too unlike many other large cities. Cinque Terre was beyond unique and Steven’s favorite spot because of the amazing scenery and all the hiking trails. I would return to Venice in a heartbeat.  It was friendly, relaxing, walkable and car-less. Finn would love it there!