Cinque Terre (Day 1)

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May 19th 2015
Published: May 19th 2015
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We've come off day 1 of our Cinque Terre adventure pretty unscathed. We visited Riomaggiore and Manarola by boat, and while it's not in Cinque Terre proper, we also visited Porto Venere. We bought a day ticket for the boat, and we got as much out of it as we possibly could.

As I mentioned yesterday, half of the seaside trails between towns were closed, so we decided to visit the towns that we could get to by boat, but couldn't get to any other way. We took a boat ride to Riomaggiore with multiple tour groups, primarily of retirees, around 9 AM. We were told the boat would stop at Porto Venere, which is on the way to Cinque Terre, but it did not. So our first stop was the first (and largest) town in the National Park of Cinque Terre: Riomaggiore. The boat ride was a big disappointment, since so many of the people were trying to stand up and take pictures around us that we often couldn't even see what they were taking pictures of. And once we got to Riomaggiore, our first café experience was a disaster - 2 rude women who acted like they didn't want to be there or care much for anybody else being there, and the prices were twice what they were elsewhere. So here's my advice: don't go to the first café you come to in Riomaggiore.

After that, everything was superb. We had great views of the town from top to bottom. All these towns (except 1) are on the coast, so they rise up from sea level through several terraced levels of streets. The main reason for their existence in the Middle Ages was wine production, so the terraced vineyards are one of the most notable features as you approach the towns from the coast. We didn't have long in Riomaggiore - maybe an hour - because the boat schedule demands it. You can either spend a lot of time in one place, or a couple of hours in a couple of places, but going to three towns is really pushing it for the day ticket on the boat. Since we read that Riomaggiore is the least impressive of the towns we wanted to visit, we decided to spend the least time there.

Next up was Manarola, the 2nd town coming from the south. We were glad to get to visit, since there were certain doubts as to whether the boat would be able to get there - the sea was pretty rough. But we made it there and had some fantastic pizza at a restaurant there. Eno had the anchovies on hers (and these are not the same kind of anchovies you think of in America - never in a can), and I had some fresh salami on mine. After that, we climbed a good ways to get some great views, and then we found this rugged path up above the town to some stations of the cross. We went about as far as we could go - you have to have a hiking pass to go all the way to the next town, and once we ascended to a certain point, we encountered people who were coming from that other town. The stairs are makeshift at best to get up there, and several times I just knew I was going to have another Dracula-pushing-me-down-the-stairs encounter. This time, it would've been much more difficult to stop.

On the way back to the boat dock, we found a great gelato place. I had a scoop of kiwi and one of cherry vanilla, and it was so good. Then we went to the boat dock where we had to wait for about 45 minutes before our boat came. But we had learned our lesson from the previous time - that line gets long in a hurry. We met some friend Aussie retirees and had a hoot just waiting for the boat (as well as sending people to the back of the line who were trying to cut).

Our final stop was Porto Venere, which is outside of the Cinque Terre park, but a decent stop. There's a castle and a big church overlooking the harbor, but other than that, it's mainly known as the first stop for the tenders from the cruise ships that dock out there. There was only one cruise ship there, so the place wasn't too slammed. Lord Byron and some other writers from the English Romantic period lived around here, so there's the literary connection for anyone interested. We got to see some nice views of the sea cliff from Byron's Grotto and then from the ramparts of the castle above all that. The castle cost money to go into, so you know how we treated that - we walked the other way. We found a nice little café where I wrote some postcards and had another gelato - this time a scoop of tiramisu and one of crema, a nice complement to my cup of hot chocolate. By then, we had to get on the final boat back to La Spezia just after 6 PM. The ride back was much more scenic than the morning - no one getting up to try and take pictures and block our views - and less stressful overall.

Tomorrow, we're going to get a train to the further towns of the Cinque Terre and actually walk between a couple, on a trail that's open. The trains mainly go through the mountains, via tunnels, so there's not much to see on the train route. That's why we decided to do the boat trip today, and I think it was totally worth it. It was sunny the whole time, and I'm trying to get rid of this awful farmer's tan I've been developing. It's supposed to rain a little tomorrow, but we're hoping to be hiking the trails and walking through the towns during the dry periods. The town furthest north, Monterosso, apparently has the nicest beach of the area, so I'm wearing a bathing suit and keeping my hopes up. Trains leave every hour, so we're not even going to set an alarm for tomorrow.

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