My trip on the way to Cinque Terre was characterized by late trains and high hopes that I was really traveling in the right direction. Note to travelers: Look up some of the small towns you will be traveling through so that you know you caught train going the correct direction or else you’ll end up like me just praying you’re Italian made enough sense to stranger you asked which one went towards La Spezia at 6:00am while you were both still halfway asleep. I spent the whole trip looking at each train station sign hoping for a town name I recognized. I got really excited when I saw a sign that said “Uscita.” I thought, FINALLY a town name I’ve seen before… yea, “uscita” is Italian for “Exit.” Blonde moments are so much more fun when there’s another language involved. Luckily I got the correct train, but I didn’t know for sure until I was almost to La Spezia. When I got to the train station where I made my first train switch, I finally heard from my friend who I was meeting up with. He was supposed to arrive at La Spezia at 10 and I was to arrive at 12. He missed his first train and so now I would arrive at 12 and he would arrive at 2. Well my train was 45 mins late at the second station (which was only a 15 minute ride to where I was going) so when I arrived I only had to wait about an hour to meet up with Andrew. But then Andrew’s train was late and in the end of it all we FINALLY meet up around 2:45 and took the 3:00 train to our first city of the Cinque Terre, Riomaggiore.
When we arrived to Riomaggiore there was one task: Find a room and dump the backpack before my poor shoulders break. So we started to walk towards a place (uphill in the strangely hot weather for the middle of October) that Andrew had stayed the last time he was in CT but we were stopped by a better offer on our way. We were offered a private apartment for 25 euros each. Of course we took it because we were expecting to pay 20 euros for a bunkbed style room. They said it would be about a 5 minute walk up some stairs, but it would be worth it. The 5 minute walk turned into a 15-20 min walk up some of the steepest skinniest stairs that I have ever seen. By the time we got to our apartment I had sweated through two sweatshirts AND my coat on to my backpack. It was worth it though. We had an amazingly clean and safe room and the view, although not from our window, was amazing from that high up.
After re-grouping and changing into dry clothes we walked down to actually explore the town. We walked around Riomaggiore and then started to walk the trail called “Lovers Path.” This path runs along the coast and has some outstanding views. There were names written and carved into everything along the path of couples that had walked there before. There were also lots and lots of locks…the most I can figure is that it’s supposed to be like Locks of Love, but I never bothered to ask , so I’m not sure. We stopped at the foot of the path down by the water to take a break and watch the sunset. I got some amazing pictures of some of the fishermen from the next town over out putzing around as the sun went down.
After sunset we headed to the next town Manarola to walk around and find someplace to eat dinner. I asked a local bartender for a suggestion on where to eat and he said there was a placed called Trattoria Billy that was past the church, to the right up the stairs, then on the left up some more stairs…It’s amazing we ever found it but I’m glad we did. We had a dinner that was so simple and so amazingly good, and our waiter was the cutest little gray-haired man that SWORE it was not him in the painting on the wall. We had freshly baked bread, an assorted cheese plate, house white wine, and tiramisu. I told the waiter I wanted fish and he brought me out what they had caught that day…all raw and just laying there on the plate waiting to be cleaned and grilled. I pointed to one and obviously made the right decision because I cleaned the thing to the bones. Andrew, of course, got a steak that he said was equally delicious. After dinner we made our trek back to the first city then up the never ending stairs to our apartment where we crashed from full tummies and exhaustion.
Day two started out with showers and packing up the backpack. It took a good hour to get it all re-situated…poor Andrew hates my ziplock baggies and all the noise they make. After we got ready we headed down to find our “land lord” of sorts because he had said that I could put my backpack in his warehouse for the day while we were out walking the next three cities. He did however warn me that I should take anything of importance with me, because other people would be coming in and out of this warehouse and if they saw something they liked they may take it. So I packed everything important, right down to my glasses, into my day pack and left all my clothes and bathroom supplies and the bottles of wine I brought to Andrew from Fattori, then I prayed for the best (that I wouldn’t be naked and wine-less come that next day). After the pack was in place we had to figure out how to get from City 1 to City 3 because the path from City 2 to City 3 was closed off. The funny thing was the train ticket machine and all information booths were also closed…long story short we walked to City 2 and hopped the train illegally, with full intentions to pay if we got caught, and rode to City 3 Corniglia. In Corniglia we stopped in a gelatoria and had some sodas and a nice conversation with the owner. I’ve found people are really nice, especially if you speak even a little bit of Italian with you. This particular man even told me a bit of his life story. We jumped the train again and headed to City 4 Vernazza. Vernazza is said to be the most beautiful of all the cities, but for me it was just swamped with tourists. Yes, it was beautiful, but I prefer a less packed with tour groups type of beautiful. From City 4 we took the train again to City 5 Monterrosso. The coolest thing about City 4 was at the train station. Andrew and I were sitting on the bench with a French couple to our right, a Spanish couple to our left, a group of people from the England two benches down and some Italians mixed in here and there. So much diversity, and I loved listening to all the languages! Monterrosso is a beach town and was quite beautiful. After walking the town we headed back to Riomaggiore to pick up my pack, because we had to pick it up by 4pm which is why we took the train all day and really didn’t stop to do too much other than take pictures and look around. We picked up my pack, checked our train times and wasted some time at a little café that had great views of the mar. We almost wasted too much time and at 6:33 Andrew asked me what time it was, our train left at 6:37. We sprinted (backpack and all) down the hill to the train station and made it just as the train was about to pull away. We made it back to La Spezia (this time we bought tickets) and then were able to take the same train out of La Spezia from which he would head back to Rome and I would go to Cecina to start my adventure in Tuscany. I arrived in Cecina at 7:47 to a very welcoming face that I had never seen before but was holding a sign that said "Rachel"…must be me. :)