Salt 'n' Pepa, hello?
Cinque Terre Travel Blog› entry 27 of 48 › view all entries
Cinque Terre was so much fun, and we had a number of lucky mishaps that made our stay even more enjoyable. For example, the hotel that Joann and Lizzie booked online turned out to be a 20-minute taxi ride (or 35-minute bus ride) from La Spezia, the town where we thought we were staying. When we asked the information lady how to get to our place, she explained it wasn't even in the same town, but rather a small town up the mountain called Vezzano Basso. Though our location wasn't terribly convenient, it turned out to be the best place we stayed in Italy.
Not only was the room super cute and comfortable, the hotel restaurant served up deliciously simple Italian fare, and Lizzie tried an interesting dish called testarole with pesto, ragu, and butter. It essentially looked like three pancakes on a plate, though more blintz-like than pancake-like in texture, with each one covered in a different sauce. I had pasta and swordfish, Joann had pasta, and we all shared a bottle of sparkling wine. At the end of dinner, they brought out complimentary shots of limoncello, which we drank with the friendly man who served it.
In the town itself, there are only two options for eating - either the hotel restaurant or a small pizzeria down the street. When we returned from our hike the second night, we ordered 3 pizzas to go, then ate them in our room while watching Italian MTV. Eating junk food and watching crappy TV definitely recalled days in apartment 129, and Joann and I agreed it was just like old times hehhee.
For the Cinque Terre hike, we left really early in the morning, taking the bus into town before boarding the train. Our bus driver was hilarious. He kept yelling to passersby that he had "tres americanis!" in the back, and at some point even pulled over and left the bus idling to hang out with his buddies. We actually had no idea where the bus was going and ended up following some old Italian ladies to the train station, who thankfully understood our goal through a mishmash of hand gestures and broken Italian.
Because we're lazy, we decided to take the train to Monterosso, the highest of the five towns, then hike back down to La Spezia. There's still a good amount of climbing in this direction, but it's definitely not as strenuous as going the other way. The only thing about going backwards is you start with the prettiest towns and best views, then work your way down to the least impressive. We found the "lover's walk" near the bottom decidedly unromantic with its concrete pillars and graffiti-covered walls (though some of the graffiti was nicely done).
During the hike, we amused ourselves by guessing the nationalities of passing tourists and saying hello in as many languages as possible. For a while we had a good rotation going, where we'd each have an assigned language (e.g. Joann: "Hola!", Jane: "Bonjour!", Lizzie: "Buongiourno!"), then switch when passing the next group of hikers ("Guten tag!", "Hello!", "Konichiwa!"). The funniest sights were all the babies strapped to their dads' backs. They looked SO hot and miserable, though who knows - maybe they appreciated the views as much as anyone else! It can't have been easy for their parents, either, carrying all that extra weight uphill.
As a final note, don't forget to validate your Cinque Terre passes before getting on the train. It's easy to forget because they don't make a point of telling you it's needed when purchasing the passes and the validation machines are not that obvious. We ended up paying a 25 Euro fine for not getting ours stamped, though this was better than the 25 Euro/person fine it was supposed to be. Soon after we paid, we saw a couple get kicked off the train because they refused to pay. If you're going to be charged the full 25/person, though, you might as well get kicked off and rebuy your passes, since it'll be cheaper than paying the fine.
After only two nights in Cinque Terre, we took the train to our last Italian destination in Rome. Though two nights is plenty for the hike, I'd recommend staying a bit longer if you have time. The area's really very nice and perfect for taking in over several slow-paced days.