The 4 girls at dinner enjoying the seafood and pesto which are specialties of the region
So after the party at the castle on Wed night we stayed out until about 4 am and then walked back down the hill to the hotel to change clothes, catch a quick nap, and be out the door at 6:15 am to catch our train to Cinque Terre
. Going on the weekend adventure were me, Andrea, Debbie, Jennifer, and Chris. At 6:15 we were all down in the lobby ready to go except for Chris. After several phone calls and a knock on his door which he still didnt answer we decided we just had to go without him and left him instructions to get to the other side of ITaly and meet us at the hostel.
Despite the ominous start to the trip we had no other problems during our journey there. We had to switch trains a few times, and on the train from Venice
to Bologna we sat in one of the 6 person compartments and the conductor said that we had to pay a reservation fee to get seats even if we were using a rail pass.
smile for the camera!
SO we all payed the €5 and settled down for a nap during our 5 hour train ride. The trains in Europe are so luxurious compared to the US. IF it is a full train then random people will come sit with you, but since we were travelling on a THursday morning we had the whole compartment to ourselves so we could strech our legs out ont he seat across from us and sleep or talk without disturbance.
After 3 train changes we made it to Riomaggiore
which is the first, and smallest of Cinque Terre towns (there are 5 in all- hence the name Cinque Terre or 5 Grounds). Rio, as we called it, is the most picturesque so we chose to stay here in a rented room from an Agency called MAr Mar which was recommended by Rick Steves.
arrivaing from the train in Monterosso al Mare
We checked in and they walked us around the corner and up 2 flights of stairs to our room. When you walk in there is a kitchen, a bathroom, a living room, and 2 small bedrooms off of the main room. We had rented "dorm style beds" and they were literally 5 little twin beds in the liviing room with a table in the middle and a door to the patio. It was a cute kind of weird setup and we were a little weirded out when we met our housemate Oliver who was from Yugoslavia. He was a painter and was staying there for a month to paint and sell things. He seemed nice, harmless, but it was just weird having our bedroom be the main room of the house where he was sitting at the table to paint. After checking out the view from the balcony we set our bags under our beds and wandered around the town a bit to check out the little shops, take pictures of the gorgeous views, and scope out a place for dinner.
gorgeous view of Monterosso al Mare from halfway through the hike
We called our Program Director Shannon on her emergency cell phone to see if she had heard anything from Chris since it was like 5 pm but she said she hadnt seen him all day and the note we left for him was still in his box. We left Chris a note on the rental agency door telling him how to get to our apartment if he came in late and they were closed.
After cleaning up a bit the girls all went out for a nice dinner at a waterfront restaurant and enjoyed some seafood appetizers and pesto pasta which is a specialty of the region. After dinner everyone was tired so we stopped in at the BAr Centrale for a cup of tea or caldo cioccolato (hot chocolate) and then retired for the evening. Around midnight ANdrea heard a knock on the door and woke me up and we both went to answer it and thankfully Chris had arrived without mishap.
Monterosso nestled in the bay
THe next morning we woke up and got ready for a day of hiking through the 5 towns which is estimated to take about 5-6 hours. We put everyones stuff in my backpack and decided to take turns carrying it. The weather was overcast while we were getting ready and got breakfast and of course as soon as we stepped outside to walk to the train station it started to pour. Taking cover in the station we debated whether or not to call off the hike as we watched the lighting out on the ocean, but thankfully the storm lasted only 15 or 20 min and then we caught the next train.
Our plan of action was to take the train to Monterrosso Al Mare, the 5th town furthest from us, and then hike back to riomaggiore taking our time to shop, eat, and enjoy each little town. As we exited from the train station it looked like we were descending into a primordial forest from Jurassic Park.
view of the town we hiked to from Monterosso- Vernazza
The rain had left all the plants sparkling and crisp and the juxtaposition of the blue sea, the green mountains, and the hovering clouds of mist were breathtaking. The first hike from Monterrosso AL Mare to Vernazza
took us about 2 hours because it was the most difficult with lots and lots of stone steps, muddy dirt paths, and great views that captivated us. After arriving in Vernazza the sun was out in full force so we stopped to enjoy it over lunch at a seaside cafe. After some pizza, salad, and alot of water we layed out on the rocks by the dock and took our shoes off to let our socks dry a bit. Everyone was really fatigued and the thought of doing a repeat of that hike tot he next town was daunting to everyone but ANdrea so we decided to take the train from Vernazza to Corniglia and then continue the hike from there.
Andrea, Jennifer, Chris, Debbie and Me on Via D'Amore...Chris was just a pimp this weekend travelling with 4 cute girls!
COrniglia is the only town not right ont he shore so when we exited the trian station we had to climb 431 staggered steps to reach the town. JEnnifer entertained us and everyone within hearing distance with her renditions of Disney songs and her own Italian stairmaster/buns of steel workout routine. At the top we paused to enjoy the view over a cone of gelato. We hiked back down and proceeded along the seaside path to the 4th town called Manarola
. BY now we had been walking since about 10 am and it was already 6 so we were all really tired. We passed through the little town and walked along the last path from Manarola back to Riomaggiore which is called the Via D'Amore or Lovers Lane which is a picturesque walk along a balcony attached tot he cliffs and hanging over the ocean.
Me and Chris trying Limoncello which is a specialty of the region
After dumping our bags and changing into swimwear we headed down to the rocky beach where Chris, Jennifer, and I jumped in the extremely cold water to cool off while Andrea and Debbie sat on the rocks and worked on their journals. We swam for about 15 min and then sat on some giant rocks to dry in the sun. Everyone got changed for dinner and we hustled out to a cafe that was halfway along the Via D'Amore where we could watch the sunset over the ocean while we ate. THe dinner was one of everyone's favorite things of the weekend because of the beautiful views, great company, and the awesome food. Lemon and Pesto are from this region so everyone had either pesto pasta or pasta with mussels and garlic lemon sauce.
ALthough we were exhausted I couldnt go to sleep without trying the Limoncello which is an after dinner drink that is served chilled in little glasses that you sip on. Chris and Andrea went with me to the Bar and Chris and I got a beer and limoncello and Andrea had the hot chocolate and tried my drink. THe first taste was soooooo strong. Like very lemony vodka basically. But after a few sips the taste mellowed out and the beer chaser helped too. Sunburned, exhausted, and well fed we all went back to the room and passed out. Apparently in the middle of the night our roomate Oliver returned and sat out on the balcony singing very loudly but I totally slept through the whole thing!