Life in the Clouds – Italy (Part V – Magical Manarola)


After spending endless hours and miles exploring Rome, we were ready for our final Italian destination – Cinque Terre. While saying goodbye to Rome was definitely bittersweet, the promise of a few lazy days in the coastal sun made it a tiny bit easier.

traveling from Rome to Manarola

Goodbye Rome…. Hellooo Manarola!

Manarola is part of the Cinque Terre (which translates to five towns), and is a super tiny town. *Cue the excitement of our overly exhausted feet*. I don’t think we could’ve handled another 10 mile day!

After a mild train mix up, which included us dashing off a train before it departed and being completely lost for a solid half hour, we walked though the Manarola train tunnel.

It was absolutely surreal. We were greeted by the bright sun, surrounded by colorful, stacked buildings, and could smell just about EVERY delicious nom in the world just begging to be eaten.

Manarola Cinque Terre

There were only two directions we could go after we got out of the tunnel, so of course, we chose the wrong one. A few turns back, some serious uphill trekking, a couple flights of stairs, and we finally found our airbnb. It was a perfect, bright, beautiful little apartment only 5 minutes from the ocean. We couldn’t have asked for more.

Since we’d be train traveling for a solid 5 hours we were starving, and we wanted to be reunited with the ocean badly. So we walked our oh so strenuous 5 minutes (*kidding*), and stopped at a small cafe that had a display window loaded with pizettes, focaccia, and sweet filled pastries. We got pizza and sweets, and headed down to catch the sunset.

Manarola might be small, but they have an absolutely perfect coastal ledge that makes for some epic sunset watching. Pizza, sunsets, and the ocean breeze, what more could you ask for?

Ben and Susie in Manarola Cinque Terre

On day two, we literally had NO plans. Well, that’s not true. We had plans to do a whole lot of nothing. Manarola doesn’t actually have a beach. They’ve got a dock that people line their towels on and lay out. It’s both crowded and hilarious. You seriously have no personal space, which makes for some entertaining conversations (filled with lots of hand gestures and searching for words you both know in one language).

Ben found his calling as a professional cliff diver, and of course, had to jump from the highest and sketchiest ledge available. It was literally so terrifying that a crowd would gather to see who was actually brave (crazy) enough to try it. Ben kept them thoroughly entertained.

There’s no shortage of delicious spots to eat in this tiny town, and we spent the day filling up on gelato, smoothies, fresh fruit, watermelon granita, and of course, pizza. Oh and Ben had a bottle of wine on hand at all times. It was like an Italian security blanket.

We also fit in part two of the vegetarian vacation with fish and chips. There was a line up the street for this place, and the smell was incredible. Sadly, we were less than blown away, and didn’t even finish it Β :(.

Ben Manarola sunset Cinque Terre

Doing a whole lot of nothing is surprisingly exhausting when it’s done in the sun, but we definitely couldn’t miss a Manarola sunset. We stocked up on picnic eats, and headed down after showering.

Manarola Cinque Terre sunset picnic

How epic is this picnic?? Dreaming about that pesto to this day. We ate 3 tubs of it. That’s not an exaggeration.

Day three we decided to breakfast it up and tackle the infamous Cinque Terre hike. This was the first Americanized breakfast we had in Italy, and figured a pre-hike protein fix was the time to do it.

The most well known hike is the coastal one that takes you through the 5 towns, and this was our planned hike for the day. SAD news: the trail is closed because it needs repairs. So plan B? Take the DEATH version of this hike, which includes a 1.5 mile incline in the blazing sun.

This trail is MUCH harder than the coastal one, and also way less clearly marked. We were cruising through (and by cruising, I mean breathing heavily and sweating profusely), when we reached a dead end. There was no obvious way to go. Up? Down? Right? Left? Through someones yard? When we say we were lost for an hour, we mean we were LOST for an HOUR (are we seeing a trend in our navigational skills yet?).

We literally tried EVERY possible way, and none of them seemed to take us back onto the trail. We were literally turning around to head back when we ran into a couple who pointed us in the right direction (it was indeed through someone’s yard). After looking for so long, we felt obligated to keep going.

FINALLY we found some real signage, pointing us down to the next town. SUCCESS! Well, almost, since we’d wanted to make it through a couple towns and only made it to the next one over after 4 hours haha.

When we got into Vernazza, we found the first cafe, and ordered gelato and lemon slushies. And then got on the train back to Manarola. You couldn’t have paid us enough to trek back up to the trail.

Home sweet home. A solid 2 hour nap later, and we were ready for dinner. Since being in Tuscany, we’d been craving the trofie al pesto, and saw it on a menu on the first day. We knew we NEEDED to have this again, so we made reservations at a cute restaurant near the coast.

At the end of the meal, we were telling the waiter how amazing it was, and he says “my grandmother makes the pesto” and gestures towards the kitchen (which was in a different building). We look over, and… OUT POPS HIS GRANDMA FROM THE WINDOW. Smiling and waving. It was too much.

Italy, you are so good to us.

For our last Manarola sunset, we decided we were going to unplug. Sometimes we get so caught up in trying to snap the perfect picture, that we forget to live in the moment. We wanted to enjoy something that only WE would remember. And it was perfection. The best way to say goodbye to this beautiful little town.

The next day, we headed back to Milan. Nick met up with us, and we had our last Italian meal in a very non Italian way… Tizzy’s Bar and Grill :). After all of the nights of pasta and pizza, we were so excited for some good old American cuisine. Tizzy’s did not disappointed. Cheese fries, veggie burgers, wine… So much YES. Tizzy was back in New York for holiday, so she wasn’t there to celebrate with us. But she did receive the 600 food pics we snapped.

Our journey home was nothing short of a shit show – including 1 delayed flight that turned into a missed flight, 1 extra night in London, 1 serious head cold, 12 hours and 2 break downs in the Chicago airport, 1 more delayed flight, and 24 straight hours without sleep.

BUT, what we really left with (aside from the head cold) was an incredible appreciate and fondness of a culture we thought we knew. A feeling of being so very small in a very big world, but in a way that empowered us and filled out hearts. It gave us a sense of wonder about all of the places we hadn’t seen yet, the people we have yet to meet, and a million memories that will not soon be forgotten.

Italy, you were a dream. You were everything we imagined and so much more. Thank you for showing us more than we’d ever hoped for. Thank you for teaching us to appreciate something so much bigger than ourselves. Thank you for your beauty, your simplicity, and for the gift of curiosity.

Until next time, Ciao.



  • Orsi

    September 26, 2017 at 11:06 am

    Hiii! I am so sorry to hear about all the trouble getting home, but the last part of the trip sounded amazing! I was laughing so hard at the: “we had two directions from the tunnel to go to, of course we chose the wrong one” haha that would be me!!! Manarola looks amazing! I have been to Italy twice but really want to go back and check out small towns and not just the touristy/most popular places.
    So CUTE that the grandma was making the pesto and her head popped out the window! hahaha I love the last Manarola sunset picture of you two! Glad to hear you had a great time, and I hope you are feeling better by now! πŸ™‚

    1. Mile High Dreamers

      September 27, 2017 at 12:40 am

      Haha it’s easier to laugh at our coming home misfortunes now that they’re in the past! It was exhausting to say the least. But completely worth it! And if there’s one thing we’ve learned from this trip, it’s how incredibly directionally challenged we are! But it was still so much fun, and we’ve really gained an appreciation for the smaller towns in Italy. It’s nice to have a balance between the two! Thanks for your kind words Orsi!

  • Deborah

    September 26, 2017 at 1:32 pm

    Looks like you had a great time in Italy and all the foods pics made me drool a little bit! Too bad the return home journey was terrible. Such a bummer! Thanks for sharing your adventures!

    1. Mile High Dreamers

      September 27, 2017 at 12:52 am

      We miss the food so much! It was such an incredible experience. Totally worth the disaster trip home :).

  • Mary

    September 26, 2017 at 4:04 pm

    I visited Cinque Terre a few years ago and it was breathtaking. I would love to return, the food was delicious, the people were friendly and the beach was peaceful. LOL, we went the wrong direction out of the tunnel also. I visited Manarola but we didn’t stay there, when we went there was some horrible damage to the houses and businesses by the coastline. That is an epic picnic. Oh no, 2 breakdowns in the Chicago airport πŸ™ that’s never fun.

    1. Mile High Dreamers

      September 27, 2017 at 12:52 am

      It’s definitely on our ‘must return to’ list now! So much beauty and SO much yummy food. We might have to explore some of the other towns though!

  • Nevena Krstic

    September 26, 2017 at 4:05 pm

    Lovely photos! It looks like you had a great time! πŸ™‚ xx

    1. Mile High Dreamers

      September 27, 2017 at 12:54 am

      Thanks Nevena! It was a blast!

  • Eena

    September 26, 2017 at 6:48 pm

    These are such lovely photos, guys! I’ve seen that little spot in Italy in so many places – in fact I did a puzzle of the little colored houses and the dock a few years back, haha. I’m sorry your flight back to the motherland was a shit show, but hey, it’ll be a good story to share in the future!

    ☼ cabin twenty-four

    1. Mile High Dreamers

      September 27, 2017 at 12:55 am

      Thanks Eena! It was so beautiful, they make it hard to take a bad photo there! That shot is such a famous one, we’re definitely framing it for our living room!
      Haha it’s definitely a story for the books, that’s for sure!

  • Andrea

    September 27, 2017 at 4:53 am

    That is the strangest looking veggie burger!

    1. Mile High Dreamers

      September 27, 2017 at 11:41 pm

      Hehe… veggie vacation!

  • Gabrielle

    September 27, 2017 at 2:40 pm

    Haha, love your point about enjoying American cuisine on your last night in Italy – I always find myself looking for burgers eventually when travelling too, haha! Your trip sounds incredible; as sad as it must have been leaving Rome, Cinque Terre looks SO dreamy….

    1. Mile High Dreamers

      September 27, 2017 at 11:42 pm

      Haha it was a nice little break from the pasta and bread! Although… let’s be honest, you can never actually have too many carbs. Cinque Terre WAS a dream. We want to spend a week there next time!

  • Brandy

    September 27, 2017 at 6:39 pm

    I’m so glad you had a great time. I loved looking at your photos. πŸ™‚ I can’t get over how blue and clear the water looks! It must have been amazing.

    1. Mile High Dreamers

      September 27, 2017 at 11:44 pm

      We were completely blown away by how incredible and blue the Mediterranean waters were! The only downside… quite a few jelly fish! That clearly didn’t deter Ben though haha. It was beyond amazing!

  • Beatrice

    September 28, 2017 at 3:44 am

    Ah every time you post about Italy I know I will get hungry! The pesto, the pasta, the pizza, everything looks incredible! That hike sounds like quite an adventure, haha, but I bet it was so satisfying to finish and have some gelato πŸ™‚ Sorry to hear about the crazy trip back but hopefully the amazing time you had in Italy more than made up for it. I truly feel like I NEED to go to Italy now, your stories have given me a real itch to travel! πŸ™‚

    1. Mile High Dreamers

      September 28, 2017 at 11:42 pm

      Haha every time we do these re-cap posts, we get hungry all over again! It WAS all incredible, you definitely need to go! This country is a bucket list destination for a reason. We can’t wait to get back there again. Always looking at flights… πŸ™‚

  • Miriam –

    September 28, 2017 at 11:23 am

    Italy is one of my favourite destinations in Europe – love the food and beautiful towns. It looks like you had a fantastic time in Cinque Terre, been there a few years ago and loved it!

    Miriam x

    1. Mile High Dreamers

      September 28, 2017 at 11:43 pm

      SO much delicious food and the best little towns to explore! We’ll have to do some more traveling in Europe to get a real comparison, but I think Italy will have a top spot forever!

  • Deborah

    September 28, 2017 at 4:49 pm

    Awww such adorable pictures, you guys look like a dream couple living a dreamy life <3 I heard Cinque Terre is gorgeous, now seeing these photos I see why, it seems to have a bit of everything: history, super yummy food, stunning ocean views, sun and colors. It's crazy they don't have a beach though, but I'm 100% positive that all the other factors mentioned above make up for it. <3

    1. Mile High Dreamers

      September 28, 2017 at 11:44 pm

      Haha that’s the magic of the internet! Don’t worry, our usual life is more like sweat pants and kitty cuddles :), still pretty dreamy though if you ask us! This was 100% a magical experience. And the largest town actually does have a beautiful beach! We hope to stay there next time!

  • Marta

    September 28, 2017 at 6:16 pm

    Ugh I’m so jealous, all of this looks beautiful! Especially now that summer is over, it looks like you’re simply continuing it πŸ™‚ Genius!


    1. Mile High Dreamers

      September 28, 2017 at 11:46 pm

      Ahhh we can’t believe summer has come to an end! There’s no better way to prevent the sadness from that by just being in denial haha. Guess we’re going to need to find something more tropical in the coming months!

  • Ankita Bardhan

    September 30, 2017 at 2:53 pm

    Wow looks like your plans of doing nothing did turn out to be something more eventful! Ahh Italy looks so beautiful in the pictures and of course you guys are looking just amazing! You have no clue how much I envy you both right now!


    1. Mile High Dreamers

      October 1, 2017 at 8:07 pm

      Haha they definitely turned out more eventful than we’d originally planned. You should absolutely get out there! Everything about it is perfection!

  • Khloe

    September 30, 2017 at 4:43 pm

    Lovely pictures! Italy seems like a dream


    1. Mile High Dreamers

      October 1, 2017 at 8:06 pm

      Thanks Khloe! It was an absolute dream. Italy is amazing!

  • the adventurer

    October 1, 2017 at 12:33 am

    Thankfully you guys are fit that the hike wasn’t a real killer haha. I love that you treated yourselves with such good food, each meal looks heavenly. It was so fun reading through your italy adventure. I can’t wait to see where you go next =o)

    1. Mile High Dreamers

      October 1, 2017 at 8:05 pm

      Each meal was SO heavenly! We crave that pesto daily haha, there’s just nothing like it here! Already planning the next adventure!

  • Nancy

    October 1, 2017 at 5:11 pm

    Cinque Terre looks beautiful! I like how you can travel by foot and see a lot around town. Though, I am not a fan of crowded places @__@. How can you get a solo picture in? XD. The food looks tasty too! Glad you two had a ton of fun out in Italy :).

    1. Mile High Dreamers

      October 1, 2017 at 8:04 pm

      It was so beautiful! And it’s awesome to be able to get around and explore it all by foot. Although the trains are super helpful when you don’t want to hike back haha. Thanks Nancy!

  • Zhanna

    October 7, 2017 at 5:28 am

    Haha, I would definitely be one of those people gathered to see who was that brave (crazy) person to jump from the cliff. It looks incredible on the pictures, but it’s kind of scary.
    Guys, it looks like you explored not only Italy, but Italian cuisine as well, which looks so good here. Thanks for sharing! Very enjoyable post!

    1. Mile High Dreamers

      October 9, 2017 at 3:59 am

      Ah haha yes, that crazy person was Ben, EVERY time. It was so scary! Not to mention all of the jelly fish in the water below! Insanity. We feel like cuisine is one of the BEST ways to explore another culture. So much to taste! Thanks Zhanna!

  • Elise

    October 11, 2017 at 3:44 am

    Your trip sounds purely amazing even with all the troubles. I love the pictures too, it really looked like your fully enjoyed yourself.
    Elise |

    1. Mile High Dreamers

      October 12, 2017 at 12:26 am

      Thanks Elise! It was so incredible, we’re already itching to go back!

  • Agness of a Tuk Tuk

    October 30, 2017 at 3:29 pm

    The pictures you took are so stunning and breathtaking, Susie! That trail seems so challenging!

    1. Mile High Dreamers

      October 30, 2017 at 11:57 pm

      Thanks Agness! The trail was SO hard, and so confusing! Hopefully next time we can do the coastal one!

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