We spent a night on the road, and arrived in Carro, Italy on Wednesday the 19th of July. As we drove into Carro, we were charmed by the winding roads and colourful houses leaning against each other, with the balconies jumbled up everywhere. This place is a builder’s nightmare. Fruit trees lined the paths, and tiny little three wheeled trucks and scooters lined the roads. We had arrived in Italy! Staying in Carro was such a unique experience for us – it really felt like a quintessential Italian village. We really loved our first week in Italy – pizza and pasta every day, stumbling over conversations in Italian with nonnas who adored our children (bella bambini was something we heard a lot) and wandering through the streets picking grapes from wild vines.
Our first stop in the week was a visit to the town of Levanto, right on the Mediterranean. It was a fun, beachy, touristy place, and we really liked it. We had amazing pizza in the playground then a swim in the rocky beach. The water temperature was amazing – the kind of water you just want to stay underwater in forever. The beach was a bit rocky, and we came home with so much rock grit – I thought sand was bad, but I’ll never complain again. This stuff was pervasive.
Carro is not too far from the famous Cinque Terre, so we couldn’t let an opportunity to explore these five picturesque villages go by. There is a great train service to these towns, so we got a flexi train pass so that we could hop on and off at our leisure. Over two days we managed to visit all five:
Easily the most busy and biggest of the five, Monterosso has a beautiful walk along the coastline and plenty of beach to swim in. A large part of the beaches are marked off as private, but there are a few spots to swim for free (and one of our family mottos is, why pay for something when you can get it for free! Ha ha). We had a really nice swim here on a super hot day, and enjoyed walking through the village itself.
We had lunch here – you guessed it, pizza! A walk through the town was lovely, and they had a really nice little harbour that you could swim in. Pete and Elena had a swim while I gave Kili a little sleep in his ergo.
We hopped off the train at this town and were awed at how high up on the cliffs it sat (and a little intimidated once we got to the many steps up – with our pram…). We took the road up instead and enjoyed the winding alleys and beautiful view from the lookout. We had promised ourselves some gelato at this place so we enjoyed some delicious Italian gelato sitting on some steps in the street.
Manarola had the most pristine waters out of all the villages we saw. The swimming area was a bit of a boat ramp into a little cove, with large rocks and caves all around. It was definitely the least kid friendly place to swim, but also the most tempting. Pete had a quick dip while I got Elena some ice cream as an incentive to keep walking around (no pram on this day). The village was pretty, in the same way they were all pretty, with their colourful facades and shutters, washing hung out the windows and boats pulled up in artsy ways on the shore.
This was my favourite of all the Cinque Terre villages. It was definitely the quietest, so it was a bit of a respite from all the tourists. It was filled with the same types of touristy stores, relaxed restaurants, and had a very pretty harbour for boats to dock out from. We saw some people swimming but soon after noticed a “No swimming” sign put up.
Overall – we really like the Cinque Terre. It is a very beautiful place to visit, and has a fun atmosphere. It is maybe not the most baby/young children friendly place, but we all still enjoyed it a lot. One of the funniest moments from when we were playing at the beach was Kili crawling up to some topless ladies who were relaxing there. They very quickly clad themselves, and then enjoyed Kilian for quite a while. Watch out ladies, Kili is on the loose over here!
We spent a couple of days in the village of Carro – there is not a lot going on there, but they had a decent playground right near our house, and we just didn’t feel like driving anywhere. We had lunch in the local bar both times – huge, delicious bowls of pasta and a bit of fun trying to communicate. We’ve had fun “chatting” to some of the locals who hang around the village being social – we think it’s great how they have lengthy conversations with us, despite our blank looks and concentration faces as we try to figure out what the word for eggs has to do with the brick wall by the road.
Another day we visited another beach – Bonassola, which was a lovely little bay next to the mountains. We couldn’t swim, as the sea was too rough, but we had a nice time splashing in the shallows and playing with the rocks that cover the beaches there. As we were heading back to our car, we found some pretty cool fountains that Elena decided to have another dip in. It was super hot, why not hey?
We loved our first week in Italy. It was great to be able to soak up some Italian culture and food in the tiny village, and see the beautiful Cinque Terre for a few days. Next stop was further down into Italy – Pompeii and the Amalfi Coast.