June 5: Le Cinque Terre
Today we were finally going to go to the Cinque Terre, five small Ligurian towns cut into the hillside of the coast of the Mediterranean. I had really been looking forward to seeing these towns.
After breakfast, I donned my new walking shoes and we hiked over to the train station. Originally we were going to get to the Cinque Terre through Viareggio, but the train schedules were such that it proved to be faster going through Pisa.
We hopped a Eurostar train (sitting in smoking... yuk!) to Pisa, then got on a train to the Cinque Terre. We went as far as Monterosso, the northernmost town.
Monterosso sits on the Mediterranean Sea, and is separated into a new town and an old town. It has some very nice beaches where many tourists (mostly German, it seems) come to sunbathe. After taking stock of the beaches and putting on plenty of suntan lotion, we began our hike to the next town over, Vernazza.
The path from Monterosso was a combination of stairs and narrow dirt paths cut into the hillside. It wound around the hills, and in many places was wide enough for one person. The hillsides were covered with vineyards in places. It's amazing to think that people actually harvest these hills given their remoteness and steepness.
We hiked for about an hour and a half, encountering many German and American tourists (but very few Italians) along the way. During our hike we were afforded spectacular views of the town we had just left and then of the town we were headed for. And of course, wonderful views of the Mediterranean.
We climbed down to Vernazza, a smaller town than Monterosso, which has narrow streets accessible only to those on foot, and a beautiful port at the base of the town.
We had a nice lunch at a pizzeria in the main piazza (recommended in Rick Steves' book). Then we hopped on a ferry boat and mistakenly went back to Monterosso before traveling south to the southernmost island, Riomaggiore.
The boat ride along the coast gave us very nice views of all the towns of the Cinque Terre. The breeze felt nice as today was a fairly hot day.
After arriving in Riomaggiore, we walked through the town (all uphill). Riomaggiore is a smaller town than Vernazza, but is very nice. The houses all seemed to be carved into the hillside. A main road goes up to the train station and then to a parking lot at the very top.
After walking through town we treated ourselves to a gelato (of course!), and walked to the train station, ready for our return journey home.
We had to wait almost an hour for the next train. We changed in La Spezia, and went to Viareggio, where we hopped the next train for Lucca. Quite a long and exhausting journey!
My feet were now covered with blisters from my new shoes. The shoes had the intended effect of cushioning the soles of my feet from the rough pavement and paths. But because I didn't wear socks (I didn't have any to match!), I had big bloody blisters all over my feet. Fortunately I had enough bandaids to cover them.
We readied ourselves to leave tomorrow.