The Cinque Terre (Internet at last)

Quick Note: Found an internet cafe on my hike today(Wednesday) in Monteresso that would let me upload images. Will probably blog again Saturday afternoon in Rome.

Picture gallery Link

Riomaggiore

Monday – Checked out of the convent today and headed to the train station for my ride to Riomaggiore in the Cinque Terra (5 Lands). While checking out the nun asked how many nights I was there. I told her two, having arrived on Saturday and today being Monday. (Mind you that this conversation, if you can call it one, is taking place in Italian which is neither of our native languages). She didn’t like this answer and insisted that I had stayed more nights (at least I think that’s what her point was). After going through this several times I told her that today was Monday and that I had arrived on Saturday making it two nights. Either she saw the indisputable logic in this argument or gave up and figured I was trying to cheat her. Either way I paid for my two nights and was on my way back to the train station, on foot.

While having a second backpack for my photographic gear is quite a pain, I really like having my clothing in a backpack. It allows me to travel light (it’s not expedition size) and is pretty easy to navigate through the city, along cobblestone streets and through crowds. Most people have rollerboards and they seem to be a disadvantage in crowds and on the old pavement. Sunday a crowd of tourists was disembarking from their bus and heading up the street to their hotel and it seemed like a thundering herd with the noise the rollerboards made.

The train ride to Riomaggiore was uneventful; cost me a whole 8.75 Euros (about $11). This was a regional train, which was not as nice as the Eurostar I took to Florence from Venice. Also they only had second class service available, which means open seating. If the train is crowded there can be a scramble for seats but today was OK. (When you a buy a ticket without a reservation it is an open ticket for about 90 days or so. After you validate it, stamp it, at the train station then you have to use it that day).

I still have a problem figuring out which train is mine. I had to change trains in Pisa (home of the leaning tower) but since that wasn’t the termination point, it wasn’t easy to figure out which train was mine. Fortunately they don’t schedule trains to depart at the same time so if you find a train departing at your time, chances are it’s you train. If you’re fortunate enough to find the master schedule (it’s a poster size paper of all the departures from that station) you can cross check it, as it also has the train number.

Got to Pisa and changed trains. Only had a few minutes as the trains do depart on time here and since Riomaggiore wasn’t the termination point of the train I had to quickly figure out which train was mine. Luckily in Pisa they actually have the train number as well as the termination city so it was much easier.

Scenery  wasn’t really much to look at. I’m sure that there is some nice old villages once you get off the beaten path but along the train tracks there was too much of a mixture of new compared to old.

Finally made it to Riomaggiore on time (14:08); today was rainy so after checking into my B&B, I just took a quick walk along a trail along the cliffs, took a few pictures, and then tried to get some rest.

If the weather is nice tomorrow I’m going to take the cliff trail (the Via dell’Amore, I think that means “street of love” or something to that effect) west. there are 4 other villages west of here, the furtherest being 9 km away. You can stop in any village and explore; they also have picnic areas and refreshment points along the trail. The nice thing is that you don’t have to hike back, just get off in a village and take the train back to your home village.

Train Station Panorama

Train Station Panorama

 

Train Arriving from La Spezia

Train Arriving from La Spezia

 

Train Station and tracks are above on right

Train Station and tracks are above on right

 

Riomaggiore train station from above

Riomaggiore train station from above

Tuesday
I awake to the sound of bells at 7 AM. They sound bells all the time here, mainly for Catholic stuff (call to mass, etc). Not sure what the 7 AM bells are but they are much to early for me. Roll back over and sleep for a couple of more hours.

After a light breakfast of cafe Americano and croissants, I’m off to hike the Via dell’Amore. This is the trail that follows the ocean to each of the five villages, or so I think. In actuality the Via dell’Amore is only the section from Riomaggiore to the next village, Manarola.

Via dell'Amore, trail gets tougher later on

Via dell

 

It starts off easy, relatively flat and paved with stones. Little do I know that this is only for one kilometer because after the next village it becomes a trail hacked out of the mountainside. Evidently I wasn’t the only one who didn’t read the trail guide closely as I saw several women who were not wearing sensible shoes (nor attire).

I’m glad that they hiking portion of my trip comes when it does. I’ve been walking everywhere for the past week and a half so I’m actually surprised that the hiking doesn’t kill me. For the most part I do OK and if there is a weak point, it’s my legs and not my cardio. (Note: trail gets ALOT rougher and up and down than picture shown).

My initial plan was to hike all the way to the last village, Monterosso but after a leisure lunch/break in Corniglia (where my limited Italian serves me well as the nice girl serving me a cafe americano doesn’t speak English)

Village of Corniglia

Village of Corniglia

by the time I got to the fourth village, Vernazza, it was late and I was beat. I relaxed in the sun by the tidal pool with all the other tourists and then headed up to the train station to catch my ride home.

Tidal Pool in Vernazza

Tidal Pool in Vernazza

What had taken me 4.5 hours to hike would now take me about 8 minutes on the train. Interesting thing about the train station at Vernazza: the train tunnels are fairly small compared to Riomaggiore. When a train is coming it starts getting very windy on the platform, before you even hear the train. This is due to the train in the tunnel pushing the air.

Sidenote: Europeans are VERY fond of their walking sticks. I think that it’s a law that the Germans or French have to use walking sticks when hiking (and not just one but two).

Europeans and their walkingsticks

Europeans and their walkingsticks

Wednesday – After trying to go back to sleep this morning after the 7 AM bells, today started with a search for an English newspaper. Found a store that carried the International Herald Tribune. It went well with my standard breakfast of cafe americano and croissants.

Todays plan was to pick up the hike where I left off yesterday, i.e. begin in Vernazza and finish the last part of the trail to Monterosso. As it turned out, I had about 30 minutes to wait for the train so I decided to hike the Via dell’Amore (the easy part of the trail) to the next village over and just catch the train from there. The weather is beautiful (70’s, sunshine with a cool ocean breeze) so I might as well kill the time hiking and getting warmed up for the tough trail instead of sitting at a train station.

Got there in plenty of time; now only had 15 minutes to kill. Train eventually came and I caught an 8 minute ride to Vernazza. If the train is particularily long the car you’re in might still be in the tunnel when the train stops. Not a big deal as there is a walkway but there is a picture in the gallery if interested.

Started the hike out of Vernazza to Monterosso and of course it starts off with a climb. Supposedly it’s 90 minutes to Monterosso but the first 30-45 is climbing, then fairly level, then STEEP downhill to the village. I think that the downhill was steeper than the uphill that I did.

Monterosso seemed like a nice quiet little village until I was looking for the train station. That’s when I discovered that the majority of the village was through a tunnel to the west. It is actually the largest of the villages.

Monteresso from above

Monteresso from above

Found an internet cafe there that would let me use my USB card to upload so  I’m taking the train back over this afternoon (~12 minute ride) to post this.

Overall the Cinque Terre has alot of tourists but doesn’t seem to have lost it’s charm (at least I don’t think so). Alot of Germans; also the tourists here are more athletic as the main thing to do is either hike from village to village (there are many more trails than the one I took), or just hop the train from village to village.

Not sure what I’m doing tomorrow (Thur), maybe try one of the harder trails or maybe just explore some of the villages more in depth.

Postscript – I grabbed the 18:14 train (barely) over here to Monterosso to post this. Didn’t look at the schedule closely as the trains usually stop at each village but this one passed villages 2,3,4. I was wondering where I would end up if it didn’t stop here but it did.

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~ by l on October 8, 2008.

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