So, we've now visited all 5 towns of the Cinque Terre, and we even hiked the only trail that was open today. We are tired. The End.
Though we are very tired, I'll still write this thing. Also, for those who don't know, the name of this area is pronounced "Cheenkway Terray."
We slept in this morning. And really in. I didn't get up until after 9:30, at which point I really felt like I was on vacation. It was so nice, and I'm pretty sure that's the latest I've slept since I left America. One of things that I do miss is a good breakfast at the hotel - this hotel doesn't have one. So we have to forage for what we can once we leave the hotel. I had hoped to get something small at the station when we got there, but the line was massive for the Cinque Terre office that we didn't have time to get anything except the hiking pass (which you need if you want to hike the trails between villages) and the transportation day pass (good for all the trains and buses in the area). We also found out here that only
one trail was open, and it was the one we were planning to hike today, so that was good news for us. Then there was the train; talk about sardines in a tin can. That's the most packed-in I've ever been on a train. We stood for the first 15 minutes, and then Eno got a seat for the rest of the way but I stood. I was quite relieved when we got off the train at Corniglia, the middle town in Cinque Terre.
Corniglia is the smallest town and the only one without a harbor. But it's the one with the most massive hike from the train station to the main town. We had hoped to get a bus (since we had those fancy bus passes), but it was pulling away as we got there. There was no bus schedule - not like it would've mattered in Italy anyway - so we didn't know how long we'd have to wait for the next one. We had gotten mixed up in one of those tour groups that just decided they were in no hurry. Of course, this meant that we got to follow them up the huge terraced stairway
leading from sea level to the town above. Several of the males among the group - tourists and leaders - were comparing their testosterone along the way up, and we had a good time laughing at their efforts. Once at the top, we ditched them and did our own thing. While walking around some of the streets, Eno twisted her ankle, though it didn't get a sprain. That's probably the worst thing that happened all day. There's not really much to see in Corniglia - some of the views over the sea are nice. But we had to be there for 2 hours because of the train schedule. We did catch a bus to the train station, and during the ride we met a pretty saucy retired couple from San Diego who brought their own pillows and sheets on their Italian vacation. I wish I could've done that, too.
Our next stop was Vernazza, and I think both Eno and I enjoyed it the most. It just feels like the most laid back (and that's saying something) of all the towns. You don't have to go far from the train station to get anywhere at all, and there's even
a hidden beach underneath this cavernous rock face. Like most of the beaches around Cinque Terre, there isn't much sand, just a bunch of big rocks, so you can't really lie around and soak up the sun. Back in the town, we crawled our way around some of the more circuitous roads that were really stairways around to people's houses or to rooms for rent. We even got up to the castle, but they wanted to charge us money for the privilege of enjoying the view, but we were planning on hiking above the town later anyway, and that view was pretty unbeatable.
We had lunch at a place that had some prize-winning pasta with anchovies, and Eno has become obsessed with those anchovies here. I got this massive 3-cheese pizza, and it was probably the greasiest thing I've eaten on this trip. I'm going to say that it was just olive oil. After that, we found an amazing gelato place that had CINNAMON gelato! I once found cinnamon ice cream and have desperately tried to find it elsewhere. I got a massive cup of gelato with 2 scoops of cinnamon and 2 scoops of custard. It was a
diabetic nightmare, and it tasted so good.
At long last, it was time for the hike between Vernazza and Monterosso, our 5th and final town in Cinque Terre. It started off as a pain in the knees. You just keep going up, most of the time using stairs that are in reasonable condition. And sometimes there's a guard rail to protect you from going into the bushes or into the sea below you. Sometimes the path is wide enough for 2 people, and sometimes it isn't. Once we got to the main "road" at the height of the path, it wasn't so bad - a narrow path here or a treacherous step there, but really it was quite doable. A few waterfalls with loud frogs, a couple of nice views over the sea, and even a home for cats, which was rather unexpected. All the indicators said the journey would take 90 minutes, and it probably took us about that long. We stopped whenever we needed a drink of water or to catch our breaths - more at the start than later on. The path down to sea level again at Monterosso was the most precarious, in my opinion.
We both agreed that we had gone the right direction; if we had gone from Monterosso to Vernazza, instead, I think I would've quit before getting 1/4 of the way, maybe less. That would be a brutal climb; it was bad enough descending it.
Monterosso itself felt a little disappointing to me. Maybe because we had just done that hike and I was exhausted, I don't know. I had hoped to get to one of the beaches there, since they were indeed the best of the region, but the sun was not that great and the wind was picking up. And I didn't want to be freezing when I came out of the water. We're planning on taking the train back there tomorrow and hiking to the next town to the north (Levanto, not part of Cinque Terre), so maybe I'll get to go to the beach then. We didn't really do a whole lot in Monterosso. Eno tried to find some more anchovies at a few grocery stores to take with her, and my camera battery was on the verge of dying. This town seemed more like a resort place to me, maybe because of the better beaches.
We were very ready to get back to the hotel tonight. Like I said earlier, we were exhausted, but in a good way. At the train station in Monterosso, a Minnesota fan told me he hated my shirt - I was wearing my TCU t-shirt (now with no sleeves!), and he said that we were going to kill them at the start of the next football season. I didn't disagree.
We've seen several people with their dogs (of all sizes) on this trip, and I just think that's a bit too much for a vacation. Maybe they couldn't find a sitter, or maybe they just can't live without the pooch, but this really is one of the last places I'd be taking a dog with me. The boats and the trains are simply not the place for animals. And in cafés? Don't get me started about some guy who just let his dog bark and bark at people while we were sitting at the table next to him at a café in Corniglia.
Tomorrow is another no-alarm clock day. We do have to get out before 10:30, since that's when they start doing room service. Other than
that, there's no set start time, which I'm enjoying.
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