Hope you’re having a fantastic Monday, rather than a case of the Mondays… I, myself, am experiencing the latter. It’s just one of those days today… I think I’ve caught a cold, I’ve got no motivation to work on projects, and I’m feeling like a poor, foreign, 5000-miles-from-home college student. I can’t think of anything better than being in Huxley, sitting around the table with my folks, maybe a fire crackling in the stove, or at the very least a space heater at our feet, just shootin’ the breeze about our days over some air-popped popcorn maybe–hearing about what kind of numb-skulls Dad got to deal with today, what research topics Mom had to look up for lazy college kids, what funny thing happened in class for me– that kind of night sounds pretty good today, and it’s hitting me hard that it’ll still be another two months (from today, to be exact) before I get to have that kind of day again. I know you’re all grumbling to yourselves, thinking, but you’re in ITALY for crying out loud! Stop feeling sorry for yourself and go live it! and I know you’re right, but I think it’s ok to miss home sometimes. So I will admit that I do, and not every day is sunshine and roses! Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, I’ll give you what you’ve all been waiting for (some of you haven’t been very patient, either (eht-ehm sister)!)
I think last we left off with Capri and Mt. Vesuvius two weeks ago. Now let me tell you about the most beautiful place I have ever seen or been to in my whole entire 21 years. Last weekend, October 9-11, I went to a place called Cinque Terre, which is composed of five villages along the Italian Riviera on the coast of the Mediterranean. Cinque Terre is a protected national park. Over the years, people have carefully built terraces on the rugged, steep landscape right up to the cliffs that overlook the sea. Part of its charm is the lack of visible “modern” development. Paths, trains and boats connect the villages, and cars aren’t able to reach it from the outside. Tourists like us are drawn in by the walking paths that connect the five villages and the opportunity to see the beauty of the villages and coastline in a totally different way.
The five towns that make up Cinque Terre are Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, and Monterosso al Mare. Heather, Alexa, Jami, and I got into Riomaggiore on Friday night after a four hour train ride, found our hostel (which was nicer than our Rome apartment by far), then set out to explore a little bit. We had some dinner (I made the unwise decision to be brave and order the penne with scampi–the scampi still had its eyes and was staring at me through the whole meal. Never again.), then went to a gelato bar where we met some very interesting Australians and Canadians. The Canadians were in town for their sister’s wedding (she was marrying a local Italian) and the Australians were there on what seemed to be an eight month holiday, living out of a van they bought for 600 euro. They were definitely a couple of characters, and had a lot to say about kangaroos!
Saturday morning we got up around 8 and got ready for our day, put on shorts and tennis shoes, and set off to buy a trail pass. Once we had that secured, we set off on our 9 kilometer trek through the five villages.
From Riomaggiore to Manarola was a pretty little hike referred to as the Via Dell’Amore (roughly, “Lovers Walk”). It wasn’t all too strenuous, and it really set the tone nicely for what would be an amazing day. The path is pretty much all paved from Riomaggiore to Manarola, cut into the cliff, and only took about 20 minutes. Instantly the views of the coast were beautiful, and during one stretch of the hike is a little tunnel where visiters have shown their love through the form of graffiti–there were a lot of cool things to see here, hallmarks left by past tourists.
The hike from Manarola to Corniglia was probably the easiest, and took about 45 minutes. The hike was pretty low and flat and uneventful, until we realized that we had to climb 382 steps to get up to Corniglia! Not exaggerating… It took maybe 5 minutes to climb the stairs, and once we got to the top of the steps (get this) the street name was Via Lardarina. Lardarina! Exactly what I felt like after 382 steps! I had a good chuckle over that, as I wheezed my way back to a normal breathing pattern.
After Corniglia came the hike to Vernazza, and when I say hike, this time I mean it. It took about an hour and a half to get from Corniglia to Vernazza, and the trail got pretty rough and narrow in places. There was lots of uphill climbing but some of the best views, paths through groves of olive trees and vineyards. Vernazza was our favorite of the five villages, with several places to eat and shop along the main road. We poked around here for about an hour and a half, had some lunch, then carried out the remainder of our day’s mission.
Vernazza to Monterosso was a pretty intense hike. This stretch was another hour and a half, and by far the steepest, most narrow trail–a little scary at times. I’ll admit, I did some whining on this stretch, like when I saw that there were a million steps up, and not like normal people steps, like Goliath sized steps. I thought it might be better if I sat at the bottom of the steps and waited for God to send a helicopter to come save me from having to do any physical activity. Life-flight never came, so up the stairs I begrudgingly went. It was all worth it, though, because the end of the hike offered beautiful views of the sandy beaches of Monterosso, and a feeling of accomplishment. All in all the 9 km (5.6 miles) took us about 5 1/2 hours to complete, and made for a wonderful day.
After exploring Monterosso for a while, we caught the train that connects the towns back to Vernazza to do a little more shopping, then back to Riomaggiore to watch the sun set over the Mediterranean. After the sun went down we went back to our hostel and got cleaned up, then out to grab some dinner. We were pretty exhausted after our day, so we turned in relatively early for the evening.
The next morning we packed up, checked out of our hostel, and jumped on a train to Pisa, since it was on our way back to Rome. Had to check out what the Leaning Tower was all about, you know!
The week following Cinque Terre went pretty fast, Heather and I went to Florence for the weekend this last weekend and had an equally wonderful time, which I’ll tell you about next time…. but so many great weekends in a row has led to an insufficient amount of sleep (and dang-near insufficient funds in the ol’ bank account–probably should slow down on the spending!) and therefore a weakend immune system. This girl is pooped, with a ton of homework to get done in the next few hours. But I couldn’t leave you nice folks hanging any longer, so I thought I’d sacrifice my homework so you’d have something to keep you entertained for a short while.
Thanks for reading!
p.s.- Papabear, did you notice I hiked in my DARE shirt? Just keeping the trails drug-free! Ha!