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.
The first half of today was a travel day. We got up semi-early, grabbed some (free) breakfast from the Hotel Aberdeen in Rome, and then schlepped all of our belongings – which are starting to take up more room every time we pack – across Rome. After a quick Metro ride we were at the bus station, ready to move on to Siena. Just a note to anyone who may want to travel to Italy – bus travel is waaaaaay nicer and much less stressful than train travel. The bus took about 3 hours to reach Siena, and that gave us plenty of time to research what we wanted to do.
Quick history lesson: Siena is about 35 miles south of Florence, and the two were medieval rivals. Siena had been a large military and trade power, but was hit hard by the black death (1348 – so, not any time recently) – and was then conquered by Florence.
We realized that we have been travel maniacs for the past week and we should probably tone it down a little. So, we decided to check out Il Campo (rated by some as the best piazza in all of Italy), and the Duomo. There is also a large tower that we had wanted to climb (the Torre del Mangia for those who are interested), but as part of admission to the Duomo, we got access to a “Panorama View” which had some great views of the city and Tuscany.
After leaving the Duomo museum, we strolled around the town, and had dinner at Trattoria La Torre. Jason refers to this restaurant as the coolest place ever . It was a family run eatery with an open kitchen and freshly made everything. He got home made pasta with boar sauce – something that he has been looking forward to this entire trip. THEN, he got what the owner referred to as “pork steak”- which was a giant piece of pork. As we were leaving I tried to take a photo of the restaurant and the owner stepped out just as I was taking the photo. I don’t know if it was the language barrier or what, but now we have photos of both of us with the owner.
Anyways, tomorrow we are on the move again. We head to Cinque Terre for 3 nights, and hopefully can take things a little slower for a few days.