Our bella weekend

Armed with Gabe, friends, and a four day weekend, the Crawfords traveled from the boot's ankle all the way to the upper-knee (assuming Italy is a thigh-high boot, which I think is a safe assumption).
From light blue Campania to olive green Liguria
First stop was Lucca.  Oh, Lucca, how I love thee.  As in, debated aloud abandoning all of our worldly possessions and just never leaving.  We spent the morning walking around the wall (designed by Leondardo Da Vinci) surrounding the city.  It is wide enough that it has become a promenade where lucky locals and tourists can jog/ bike/ walk their dogs/ bask in the glory that is being alive.
Lucca!  You built a playground on top of a wall!  You beautiful genius, you!
As we continued our stroll, I told the girls how this wall was initially built to keep the town safe from attackers.  In could-not-have-planned-it-better-fashion, a nice Italian popped his head out from what used to be an arrowslit to say ciao to the 'bella principesse".  Kylie was pretty excited about the idea of medieval battles and we told warrior princess stories the rest of the walk.

Mom!  We must keep walking so people will see me and say 'Oh- she must be the princess of the wall!'

Be still my heart- a tiny moat!!!  That's it, we're never leaving.
Around noon my "let's just stay here for ever and ever" was outvoted, so we had some incredible gelato at the renowned Gelateria Veneta and headed to La Spezia/ Cinque Terre.

Cinque Terre ('five lands') is made up of five little towns clustered on the shore of Liguria.  They look similar to the Amalfi coast~ colorful buildings stacked on cliffs leading down to the water~ but are more secluded.  Because they are so hard to reach, they were (and sometimes still are) considered 'a hidden treasure' of Italy.  This is no longer the case, so if you're looking for quiet exploration/ authentic Italy, go elsewhere or not during high season.  If you're looking for beautiful scenery/ lovely hiking/ great pesto and wine, Cinque Terre in the summer is still a safe bet.

Itinerary, Lindsey-style
I cannot believe I just posted that.  At any rate, if you look at day #2 you can see (maybe) that there's a shore, and 5 towns along it, and maybe if you can discern crappy penmanship you can even see their names :-)  

Monterosso: The largest and most resort-ish of the towns.  With their fitness and motivation, our friends hiked there (look at that- my silly picture is already paying off), with my pregnancy/ spinal fracture I took the train.  We really have the most amazing friends... despite hours of hiking/ driving/ cars getting turned around & vandalized/ etc. they still showed up smiling, ready for hours of playing and exploring.
"Well I've got that interview in the morning [on her book/ life/ mission to rescue an abused girl] but we wanted to squeeze in a visit with you guys.  Also, I brought bubbles for the princesses!" Seriously Kate, you're my hero.
Not pictured, but very much remembered: Alex, Brian & Warren pretending to be water monsters with the girls; MD & Laura helping Kylie with her giant rock collection; Molly, Kate, and Rebecca exploring the town and helping Kylie and Avalon determine which gelato flavor would be the very best; Laura announcing her hero-status and passing out mojitos for the grown ups and about 8 pounds of trail mix for the kids... 

Lounging on the beach next to Scott... watching our happy laughing Napoli-family... feeling baby boy squirming and kicking... I wish I could have just bottled that moment up for when life gets hard, to help me remember that sometimes, life is perfect.

Vernazza: The Crawford contingent didn't make it to the town, but it's where the rest of the group was staying.  At the very least, we can vouch for availability even when you don't make reservations until the week before your trip in the height of summer :-)

Corniglia: After getting off the train, one must hike to get to the town. As my itinerary so succinctly puts it, "no thank you, hiking".  The rest of the group agreed, so we have no tips for the curious reader.

Manarola: A nice little town with good food and a fun swimming area.  In lieu of adjectives, here are some pictures:

Take off my crown to swim?  What am I, a peasant?

 Gabe jumps off the top of the rock (fails to impress any hot locals, desperately impresses his little nieces)

Riomaggiore: The quaintest of the towns we explored.  This is where my (Grant) family stayed/ fell in love with the first time we went to Italy.  We (the Crawfords + Gabe) stopped here for a lovely dinner and tasted the famous Cinque Terre wine, which didn't disappoint.  Yes, there is a bottle waiting to be opened when baby boy & I get home from the hospital :-)
 The wee ladies were less impressed with the quaintness, and had *nearly* given up on Riomaggiore.  Then this happened:
For no apparent reason, a DJ booth and bubble cannon were set up outside of the train station.  Quickly declared the best day ever.
La Spezia: The five of us stayed in a nice apartment here.  Most of our time was spent in Cinque Terre, but we can highly recommend the focaccia & cornetti La Spezia has to offer.
I'm Avalon, and I approve of this breakfast
breakfast focaccia
dessert focaccia
Lerici: Our last stop in Liguria, we went to Lerici beach... and kind of regretted not staying there the entire weekend... I think Scott summed it up with, "So this is how the Italian riviera is supposed to be!"  Sweet Italian families everywhere building sand castles/ sculpting sand cars with their kids... wrinkled couples walking hand in hand... little old ladies slowly walking/ talking/ gesturing their way down the beach together... paddle boats with slides... a castle in the background... it was bliss.

Pisa: We rounded out the trip with the obligatory trip to the leaning tower.  Solely so Scott could authoritatively tell people that it's a waste of time.  Upside: the girls wondering aloud multiple times why that silly tower didn't know how to stand up straight, stereotyping tourists by the pictures they take (Americans push the tower over like a giant, Asians try to martial-art it over with leaping kicks, everybody else apparently just wants a picture of themselves making out in front of it), and commissioning a cheesy spray painting I've wanted for about 11 years.

These things make me inexplicably happy.  I want to buy one from every tourist trap we see :-)

Baby boy makes his first appearance in a family photo

"Momma, I like that silly-falling-over-tower of Pisa!"
Thus concludes our weekend.  This is where most of you should probably stop reading.  For the grandparents out there, I'm going to add in an embarrassing number of pictures of our kids.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~the break before wading into obnoxious parent territory~~~~~~~~~~~

"Yay, giddyup Princess Luna (what she's calling Uncle Gabe)!  Now say NEIGH!!!, Princess Luna!"

surveying the itinerary 

checking out a crab

Kylie (to the boy in our group): Oh, no thank you, I don't need help.  I am brave and strong.

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