February 15th, 2005 – by: sylviandavid
David at the restaurant in Vernazza. It was a lovely warm family run place...
David and I tried to leave Rome to catch the train up to Spenzia beginning around 9:30 am. Unfortunately, there was a bus strike in Rome. We stood at the bus stop for hours and couldn't understand why the bus number we needed hadn't come. We laughed later and said probably everyone around us was talking about the strike but we couldn't understand them.
We finally got onto a bus. It was incredibly crowded. We had a day bag each and a suitcase/backpack each. We stood holding the day packs with our suitcases between our knees. An elderly lady offered to put our packs on the window ledge beside her. She sat the whole trip holding them up.
very sweet of her. Every bus stop was so crowded that several times there was no room for more people and if people needed to exit folks would need to get out then get back in: When we got to the train station we thanked the elderly lady and helped her exit the bus.... It came out she was traveling with her daughter.
Vernazza: David took this great shot! (but I sent him through the brambles to the perfect spot...lol..)
We got tickets to Spenzia. The train ride was quite enjoyable. We were in a car with a professional volleyball player who spoke some English. She was really keen to learn words and slang phrases. She said she just wanted to listen to us talk.... Hmmmm... that was a little awkward..... But David and I tried to converse (it felt forced) about things as we rode. A soldier got on at one stop. He was quite excited to see Americans.
... He had taken a trip to the eastern part of America. The thing he loved the most was the cheap food and the continual refills on his coffee.... He was so cute!.... he went on and on about how he tried to find out the cost of the refills and was astonished over and over that refills were free. The ride was quite entertaining. I borrowed his knife to cut some water bottles to protect the small plastic wine glassess we were carrying. It was really a sharp knife and he got so nervous when I used it that he cut the bottles for me.
The little town of Monterossa. It was the first town of the five. I wanted to start at the hard end and go to the easy trails....
And finally we arrived at Spenzia in the evening, just after dark. This was really dissappointing as we had planned on exploring in the afternoon.. At the Spenzia station was the Cinque Terra park person.
She gave us a list of people in Vernazza who might have a room for rent. I had trouble with the telephone booth outside and went in to ask her how to dial. She very kindly made the calls for us. She found a room and bargained the price down for us. She told us to take the little milk train to Vernazza and go to the wine shop and the man there owned the apartment we were renting.
Do you see the man sitting and holding onto the mountain behind him? This was a house in the cliff too. probably a pretty rich person lived there...very rich!
When we got to Vernazza it was very foggy and dreamy looking. The town lights were glowing through the fog making the whole place look like a movie set with the old fashioned houses looming over the town center where we were walking. I could not get over it.... I kept stopping and exclaiming how wonderful it all looked.
The wine shop owner was standing in his doorway waiting for us. He led us up five flights of stairs... (the whole town is stairs so this was outstide) We finally arrived at the apartment door. We had a room with a king bed and there was a second room that was vacant that had a double bed. David is 6'6 so we took the king. We had a private bathroom, dining room and kitchen all to ourselves. Very nice. It had marble floors so it was really cold. We went to bed to warm up!
Vernazza: Amazing view
The next day we rode the little train to Monterossa al Mare. I thought it would be best to start at the hard end and finish with the easy end. This came out to be a completely flawed theory. We bought food and wine in Monterossa and started out with a song in our hearts and spring in our steps.
.... and....... speaking of steps..... The guidebooks I consulted said it would take about 5 hours for all five villages and the walk between Monterossa and Vernazza was about 1 1/2 hours walk and was medium difficult. Yikes. Although I had prepared by walking two miles rain or shine at home I was not prepared for a walk that was all up and down stairs. I wilted pretty quickly and the time on the trail stretched out.... it was sad. It took us almost 2 1/2 hours to get to Vernazza: It was a beautiful walk and several parts had wonderful views. My favorite view was about 15 minutes out of Vernazza above in in the bluffs. It was the classic picture that everyone photographs with the town laid out and the blue water twinkling. It was stunning ....
the church in vernazza
We walked through Vernazza and hiked out the other side up the stairs towards the next town of Corniglia.
We would see it wayyyy off in the distance as we started out. The walk was much easier and faster. We got to Corniglia around 4:30 and it was duskish. We asked people for directions to a restaurant or bar (only Americans would drink at this hour but I was keen to try the famous Corniglian wine that is a dessert wine ... It is made from grapes that are aged and half dry so it's very concentrated and sweet ~ in California it's called a late harvest wine....) all of the people we spoke to said nothing was open until 9 pm. We decided to take the train to the next town as it was too dark to walk.
Me: cheery, wearing a scarf and feeling pretty darned chipper...
Corniglia is perched atop a huge hill: to get to the train station one must descend hundreds of stairs ..... or walk in the total dark on the hairpin curves .... I insisted on walking on the road because I was staired out.
... We walked quite a ways and thought we might have made a mistake and the road didn't meet the train station..... then..... suddenly there were cars on the road heading down. The occasional light helped us find our way and we eventually got to the station. We got tickets to the next town of Manarola.
Me: about one and a half hours into the hike. It came out the trail is all stairs: I was so tired... I made david retake this picture then kept it because it's so darned funny
At the station we saw two people we had seen on the trail: (a mother / daughter team). The four of us strolled through the town and picked a restaurant. We ate together and I got a bottle of the Corniglian wine: they too had heard of it and wanted to try it. It was quite good. I had fish raviolli and David got smelt in a tomato basil sauce for dinner.
One funny thing we saw: they had blue glass water bottles they filled at the sink, then they put gas in it and served it.... so basically you paid for tap water. We thought that was funny. Dinner was really fun and we were happy the end the day this way although I had imagined we would hike through all 5 villages instead of just three.
Me: forcing a smile.... gotta keep trucking: lots of stairs to go. ha ha: notice the scarf is now around my waist!
When we left Manarola town and headed to the station we heard a train whistle. Yikes.... We ran through the tunnel (it was about 500 feet or so) towards the train station. When we got there it was deserted and locked. Trains whizzed by..... obviously not the litle milk train we wanted. We found a little building with benches and wrote postcards until a slow train going the right direction stopped.
The down time was fun and it completed the postcards I had needed to send. Plus I had help writing them.... David is really more clever at writing.... not just "having fun wish you were here...."
Looking down at the town of Monterossa.
So: what did we learn?
First: do the walk in the order it is written in all of the books.
Second: don't do the hardest part of a trail first unless you have to: Take the easier parts and enjoy the view when you are fresh.
Third: don't change the part where you celebrate a day with a great dinner and wine: that works!