How nice is Nice! (and Cinque Terre)

Luca and I escaped to the sea for a few days of salt air and sunshine.

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We weaved our way through windy roads built into the cliffs looming high over the sea below, dodging the crazy Italian drivers to our first stop: Monterosso, one of the 5 main towns in Cinque Terre.

Lunch was first on the agenda and we sat down to bowls of seafood pasta.

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We sat out the front of the seaside restaurant and took in the lush mountainous terrain with steep cliffs into the wave-less Mediterranean Sea, such a contrast to Australia’s coastlines.

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We walked up and around the cliffs past century old churches and religious statues perched at the highest points then down into the town where every store was selling pesto – the region’s prized product.

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In fact pesto originated in the Monterosso region.

The town had a relaxed seaside feel with shells decorating every house, paint peeling from the salt air.

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Even the churches were painted in the nautical blue and white stripes.

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We headed inland for the night to stay at a gorgeous B&B hidden on the outskirts of a town just half an hour from the Cinque Terre.

For dinner we headed to Pontremoli a nearby village, to a restaurant recommended by the friendly B&B staff and were pleasantly surprised.

Pontremoli was a quiet but sweet little village with a beautiful old clock tower seen high above the rooftops from the main piazza.

We found the restaurant down a quiet and almost deserted cobble stone street.

It was the only restaurant on this street.

We found out why it was recommended so highly!

Luca gorged on a generous plate of shredded horse meat before we were served main course of mushrooms three ways for me (grilled, fried with a light coating of polenta and stir fried with truffle) and Luca enjoyed a vegetable ravioli with truffles.

We shared a delicious Tuscany red and finished off with homemade sorbets – lemon and sage for me and strawberry and port for Luca.

We stumbled back to the piazza for a sambuca, where a group were sitting in the bar playing the guitar and singing classic italian songs.

I didn’t know the songs for the life of me, but couldn’t help to sway and tap my feet along with the music… maybe it was the bottle of red.

We cured our pounding heads the next day with a drive to the picturesque Porto Venere.

En route we passed the impressive naval base at La Spezia with huge warships sitting in it’s moorings.

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Porto Venere was a beautiful contrast a bay enclosed by lush green hills and behind them the sharp angles of the Apenini stretched even higher.

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Apartments of different colours, each brighter than the next, lined the shore and yet another church sat high on the cliff at the end of the bay.

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After a swim in the clear water, we found a restaurant for lunch where we could sit and see out to the bay.

With a bottle of bubbles, I had a generous plate of grilled mixed seafood and Luca finished off a large bowl of pasta with clams and mussels.

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With our stomachs full and heads light, we decided we could not go back to Asti just yet and needed to stay by the coast another night!

We treated ourselves to gelato that melted faster than we could eat it in the sunshine and warm air.

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We cooled off once again in the water before we set off for Luca’s uncle’s holiday home in Nice France, a 4 hour drive along the coast.

After passing through tunnel after tunnel built into the mountains and taking in the breathtaking views of the Italian and French coastline from the passenger seat, we arrived in Nice that evening.

With mountains thick in vegetation, home to little seaside villages on one side and and an expanse of flat blue sea speckled with yachts, ships and sailboats on the other, it was not a dull road trip!

Our day in Nice started with an obligatory French breakfast of croissants and coffee.

It was a perfect sunny day for walking along the Promenade des Anglais, looking out over the bright blue bay.

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There was no part of the pebbled shore untouched by bodies lying in the sun.

Out to sea, sailboats dodged each other, the occasional cruise ship passed by and a speedboat dragged people attached to parachutes through the air.

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We eyed off the impressive yachts docked in the harbour, mooring next to a warship open for display.

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Strolled through the town center and enjoyed a platter of fresh seafood near the flower markets.

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We were in heaven sucking down fresh oysters, mussels, clams, sea snails, prawns, crayfish and crab!

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We spent the rest of our afternoon swimming in the refreshing salt water and lying under the sun and blue sky, that you don’t see too often in Asti.

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