Not long ago, Bryan Dunn, an engineering student from Houston, won a travel giveaway that Acanela was hosting. The grand prize? One of our classic Italy expeditions! Together, Bryan and his sister Celeste took cooking classes, swam in the Mediterranean, went cliff-jumping, and got to know a beautiful part of the world. The two siblings loved exploring Cinque Terre with Acanela, and Bryan told us that he would go back to Italy in a heartbeat.
Here are a few of Bryan’s favorite memories from the trip, along with his best practical advice for Italy-bound travelers.
Even though I visited Cinque Terre not too long ago, I already really, really wanna go back to Italy!
Every day was an adventure and cultural experience in and of itself, with figuring out train rides, exploring the towns, shopping, or talking with store owners and operators. It’s difficult to pick a favorite because everything was such a new and different experience that we enjoyed it all.
But a few specific memories really stand out. The cooking class arranged for us was an awesome way to experience Italian cuisine and culture authentically. We were able to go to the town market and buy all the fresh ingredients we needed for the food we were going to cook. Silvia, the restaurant owner who coordinated everything, was wonderful, and so were the chefs and servers. We made so much food that Celeste and I didn’t know if we could eat all the courses.
My favorite food experience, aside from the planned cooking class, was a little restaurant in Manarola called Il Porticciolo, where Celeste and I had wine and pesto from the local area. The food was great, and the restaurant atmosphere was neat and modern with a seaside feel.
Speaking of the seaside, the water and beaches from Levanto to Portovenere are incredible — they’re the best beaches I have ever visited. I loved every chance we had to lay on the pebbled beaches and swim in the beautiful, clear, blue water. Portovenere was probably our favorite spot for swimming, taking photos, and catching views of the Mediterranean. And for the thrill-seekers out there, Vernazza was one of my other favorite places because we were able to cliff-jump into the water over 20 feet below.
Other highlights included shopping in La Spezia, which combined some of the more well-known brands and mom-and-pop shops in a smaller town with great sights. I learned that you should always bargain in any store that isn’t a major store chain. You can get great deals if you ask for a cheaper price and bargain with the little shop owners. It’s also a fun part of the cultural experience.
One slight warning I would give to everyone who goes on this trip later on — we were warned that the hike from Levanto to Monterosso was long, but let me tell you: it’s long. Like three or four hours long. It was pretty exhausting (and we’re young!), so if you do this hike, make sure that you bring the right shoes, stay hydrated, and take breaks when you need them.
If your phone doesn’t have an international plan, I would recommend having a plan for getting a SIM card ahead of time. I would advise against getting a SIM in the airport as they are way more expensive and offer less data. We went to a TIM store and got like five times more data than what the airport kiosks were offering (and we saved a ton of money on that plan).
I would also say that the “Cinque Terre Card” is a must-have for the area. The card grants you access to all the train rides in between the towns you want and access to restrooms and Wi-Fi at the train stations. They have different options for however many days you want the ticket valid. And you only need to validate the ticket once at any station.
Grazie, Bryan — what an amazing trip to Cinque Terre! We’re so happy to hear that you had such a great time.
If Bryan’s review has you dreaming of getting away to Europe, you’re in luck! We offer several trips in beautiful Italia. Book your own Cinque Terre adventure, or plan a trip to explore the Amalfi Coast, Bologna, Umbria, or all the top sights between Venice and the Vatican. If you’re a young traveler interested in taking an extremely budget-friendly trip through Italy, check out our Rome to Venice trip!
We’ll see you in Italy. Until then, ciao!