We have been going at a maniac pace for our entire vacation to this point, so we were ready for a little break. We thought we would get that break when we hiked the trails of the Cinque Terre – but that turned out to be slightly more intense than we thought it would be. So, we decided to take a day off and enjoy Monterosso. We slept in a little (probably the first day of vacation that we didn’t have somewhere to be early), and went over to visit Giovanni and get some breakfast. After breakfast we packed up some of our left over lunch supplies and went over to the New Town to hang out on the beach.
After the beach we ate some lunch and strolled the town and blew some Euros in the shops. After our shopping, we got cleaned up and went back to visit Giovanni and some of the other guests of Manuels Guest House. After about an hour on the terrace, we went down the stairs to get some dinner. We ended up choosing a place out of one of the guide books – L’Alta Marea. It was great. I know that it was the best pasta that I have had so far – and Jason says that it was a coin flip between here and the place we tried in Siena, (for all the times we have cursed Rick Steves on this trip, he hasn’t lead us astray on food recommendations yet).
After dinner we headed back to the room to pack up. We had to be out early to catch a 7:10 train to Venice.
We got up early to deal with some laundry, and then headed to breakfast on the terrace. Breakfast (free) was a nice surprise, and got even better when we discovered that it was served on the terrace overlooking “old town” Monterosso. At Manuel’s Guesthouse Giovanni serves the breakfast in the morning and runs the bar in the afternoon. His English is minimal, but he makes a really good cappuccino. After breakfast we walked down to the train station to get our Cinque Terre card – the pass for the hiking trails.
There is a seaside hiking trail that connects the five towns Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore. Unfortunately we discovered that the portion of the trail connecting Corniglia and Manarola was closed, but a detour was made (more on this later). We started our hike in Monterosso, and the trail went up, and up, and up. The beginning was basically a neverending staircase, with very irregular steps. The climbing was the downside, the upside was some amazing views of the coastline. We also got to walk through some of the local farms/vineyards that are perched on the cliffsides. After much climbing and about an hour and thirty five minutes we arrived in Vernazza, surveyed the town – and continued on our way.
From Vernazza to Corniglia was again, lots of climbing. Melissa loved the uphills and steps, especially when we would descend just to climb again. The second leg was a little shorter than the first, about an hour and ten minutes. When we arrived in Corniglia we again gave a quick survey of the town, and found an excellent spot for our picnic. Santa Maria Belvedere is a panoramic viewpoint where a church used to overlook the water. We were able to find a stone bench and had our picnic of bread, prosciutto, mozzerella, tomatoes, grapes, and plums. By far the best lunch we’ve had thus far – and much cheaper buying the supplies from the market than buying lunch from one of the bars or vendors.
After lunch we checked out the detour from Corniglia to Manarola, and decided against it. While the normal trail runs right along the coast, the detour basically went straight up the side of the cliff. When we were making our decision we observed two hikers with boots and trekking poles turning back – and decided that the train ride would be better. Once in Manarola we did the mandatory quick screen of the town, then proceeded along the trail en route to Riomaggiore.
The portion of the trail between Manarola and Riomaggiore is known as the “Via dell Amore”. This part of the hike is actually paved with stone, flat, and with railing, etc. Two traditions of the area are attaching locks to the fencing, and writing names on the rock wall. The “Via dell Amore” was much ballyhooed in the travel books for it’s picturesque views and for the traditions of the area, but it basically came off trashy. The rest of the hike was so beautiful, and such a good experience that ending with the graffiti covered walls kind of cheapened it.
By the end of the hike we were pretty beat, and retreated back to Manuel’s. We decided to hit the terrace for a few drinks, and to enjoy the view. It turns out that in addition to making a good cappuccino, Giovanni also gives the healthiest pour of wine that we had ever seen. We also met some other travelers that were really nice, that we talked with on the terrace. After this we hit the town for a dinner of pasta (Melissa – trofie with pesto, Jason – spaghetti al mare), and then called it a night.
We wanted to post a quick update, because we have been having some connectivity issues with the computer. This post is brought to you by the iTouch which will connect, but is not as friendly to type on. Yesterday we hiked between the 5 towns of the Cinque Terre – absolutely beautiful with many great pics. On the hike we had a pretty sweet little picnic of bread, proscuitto, mozzerella, tomatoes, grapes, and plums that we picked up in the markets. After getting back we had drinks on our terrace and visited with some of the other travelers. Today we’re gonna hit the beach in “new town” Monterosso, then do some shopping in “old town”. Should be a relaxing day, then travel to Venice starting early tomorrow. We’ll do a revision post with pics once the computer gets it’s act together.
Last night we decided that we loooooved Siena. So much so that we decided to try and squeeze a few extra hours out of the city. Instead of taking the 9 o’clock train out, we decided to sleep in a little, get some (free) breakfast from our B&B, and catch a later train to our next destination. (Just incase anyone is looking for a decent B&B inside Siena, we stayed at the Palazzo Bruchi – which I would recommend.)
We had a ten to fifteen-ish minute walk to the bus stop, and it probably took us about that long to figure out the Siena bus system, and to discover that “Ferrovia” and “Stazione” both mean train station. After a quick bus trip we were at the train station, and on our way to Monterosso. Todays travel seemed a little intimidating at first, since until this point we hadn’t had to change trains at a station that wasn’t the end of the line. But, in the end it wasn’t too hard to figure out – even if I did run back to check the schedule 5 times at every stop – just incase the printed schedule magically changed since the last time I had checked it….
The whole trip was about 3 hours and 45 minutes, so it was a long travel day, but surprisingly it didn’t seem too bad. We passed by Pisa, but we didn’t get out to check it out. Not that we wouldn’t want to see it, but we have had some pretty packed days, and were on a fairly tight time schedule since we opted to take the later train. We arrived in Monterosso, part of the Cinque Terre, around 3:00 and found our way to our room by about 3:30.
Another quick lesson: The Cinque Terre is made up of five towns along the Italian Riveara. Literally, it means “the five lands”. There is a local train that connects all of the towns, and hiking trails that you can take also. It is also apparently a huge American and German tourist draw. I think that I have heard more American accents here than in any other place we have been so far – and less smoking. As an aside – ALL ITALIANS SMOKE. It is unbelievable. We ran into a group of four older folks, 2 from Bama, 2 from Georgia – who told us that they knew we were American because we weren’t smoking while waiting for the train.
Anyway, we made the trip up to our room. And when I say up, I mean UP. I think we had to climb about 100 stairs, with all of our bags in tow. But, when we finally made it to the top, we were treated to a pretty awesome view.
After getting settled in, we headed out to check out the town, and picked up a few things to take with us on our hike tomorrow. I also continued my Italian-domestic-animal-safari. Taking pictures of random cats and dogs has become my side project while on vacation. This leg was pretty easy to complete – there are cats EVERYWHERE. As I type this, there is actually a one-eyed cat on our terrace, meowing, and trying to make friends with Jason while he is hanging our laundry to dry. He is actually pretty cute, despite his one-eyedness. He is trying to make a break for the open terrace door, not Jason – the one eyed cat. Although neither of us wants to risk petting him – I bet he is scrappy.
Despite the moving around (travel days are always a bit crazy), today was pretty relaxed compared to our previous maniac pace. To me it feels a little weird to slow down so much – but it is a welcome change of pace.
Tomorrow, we hike!