We stand outside the cafe, a gorgeous stone terrace with little tables, overlooking the tranquil blue water of the Ligurian Sea (a far cry from the tumultuous experience the day before when attempting to take Cinque Terre’s water ferry). Mom and I stand waiting, our suitcases at our sides, when the owner of Alla Marina comes up to us. We’re renting an apartment in Riomaggiore for our last night in the gorgeous region of Italy, and moved from our Flipkey rental in Vernazza to the most southern of the five towns to enjoy a the remaining moments of our mother-daughter Italian vacation.
“Hello, hello,” Sandro Pasini greets us. He’s one of the two brothers who run the Alla Marina, a small cluster of rooms and apartments in the village. Sandro is tall, his English perfect, and his willingness to help us is apparent immediately.
He guides us to the entrance of the building, and my mom and I crane our necks upwards, looking at the stairs, which could also be considered a ladder. We’ve got luggage and I can already visualize myself in true D form beginning to carry it up the steep steps, losing my footing, and toppling down to the sea.
Sandro senses our hesitation and instructs us to wait as he heaves both bags up. Grateful, my mom and I follow him as he leads us to our apartment.
It’s a small affair, but adorable. Two rooms — one a bedroom with two beds — and the other, a small area with a couch — it is impeccably clean and decorated in what I consider to be beach-y colors — that of a cloudy day giving way to sun (i.e. gray and yellow).
Proudly, Sandro stands with us as he tells us about the building (it’s from the 13 century and has four rooms and an apartment people can rent) and has recently been renovated. Then, he launches into the city itself.
“Do you want a tour?” He asks us as my mom and I begin to settle in. Unlike other places I’ve stayed, he genuinely wants to show us his city. His pride in Riomaggiore pours out of him as he discusses its history and his love for it.
We decline the tour, but only because we’re planning on doing another hike today, and thanks to the train strikes (again), we are behind for the day. But, he really wants to show us some highlights of Riomaggiore. Instead, we opt for a quick walk around the back entrance to the property and into the town to see some places he recommends for dinner.
After our little jaunt, we return to the room to prepare for our day.
He leaves us to unpack, but not before letting us know about the complimentary breakfast (housed in the living room, and offering packaged baked goods, coffee and more) and to let us know that if the strike continues tomorrow, he will drive us to the next town to take the train so we are able to leave and return to Milan.
The two of us spend some time in the room, just unwinding before we head out. I open the curtains and look out to the sea — a stunning view which offers not only the water but also a glimpse of the colorful town surrounding us.
At night, after eating a gorgeous meal at one of the spots Sandro recommended, my mom and I retire to our room, bottle of wine in hand, to call it a night.
Full, wine-buzzed and content, we fall asleep in our comfortable beds and awake the next morning to the call of seagulls.
Sandro is at our door in the morning to make sure we are taken care of and to help us with our bags again. The trains aren’t on strike, so instead of driving us to the next city, he helps us carry our luggage to the station and then bids us farewell.
Talk about service. I don’t think I’ve ever had such great customer service in any of the places I have stayed.
The bottom line
Alla Marina is a family-owned apartment/hotel and it shows. From beginning to end of my stay, Sandro was making sure we were ok, making sure we liked his city, making sure we knew where we were going, making sure everything was up to our expectations. The room itself was charming. The beds were comfortable, the bathroom gorgeous, the free breakfast perfect since nothing was open when we had to leave in the morning. The complimentary wifi was quick. Location-wise, Alla Marina is in a perfect location to get to the ferry, a quick walk to the train station and nearby plenty of dining options. The night we stayed at the hotel, it was quiet, but being above a popular restaurant likely means that it can get loud. I personally found Sandro and his team to be the perfect addition to my time in Riomaggiore. They were so kind, so helpful and so knowledgeable, it gave Alla Marina even more personality. Would I stay there again? You bet.
This post is part of the D Travels Europe (and Israel) series. Stay up-to-date on all of my adventures by following along on Twitter (#dtravelseurope), Instagram,Trover, G+ and Facebook. And, for a look at the health and wellness side of European travel, be sure to follow along at The Comfort Zone Project and on TCZP’s Facebook.