I thought it would only be appropriate to begin my blog with these pictures because this was how Cinque Terre greeted us when we got off the train. Since this was OUR first impression, I think it should be yours too.
Basically, Laura, Kayla, and I knew we had come to the right place when we saw this beautiful display of colors IMMEDIATELY after we got off the train. After snapping a few pictures, we went to search for our hostel.
We encountered two short detours: taking a picture with a cat and getting a little lost. When we did find our hostel, it had a note on the door telling us to go to the bar next door when we arrived. The note explained the owner of the bar would call the owner of the hostel, and then he would come to check us in.
It is worth noting that in October, Cinque Terre experienced a DEVASTATING flood that sparked mudslides that basically destroyed all five cities. (Cinque Terre is a chain of five villages on the coast.) All of the cities are still recovering, working around the clock to be fully-functioning by the summer. (I don’t know this for sure, but I would say a BIG part of their economy is tourism.) Going to this wonderful city really taught me something about coming together in a time of hardship and resilience. It was truly inspirational.
Anyways, I said all of that to say that this bar was a mess. There was stuff EVERYWHERE! Random knick-knacks lined the walls; there was a pinball machine stuffed in the corner, and tables and chairs were stacked all over. The floor was a concrete slab, and the porch on the outside was only covered partly by a screen. Obviously the people who owned it were still recovering from flood; it was just quite a sight!
This was the first time I had TRULY noticed a language barrier. Both parents and their 20-year-old something son spoke a combined two words of English. After a lot of pointing, they called the owner of the hostel for us, and before we knew it we were checked in.
Emmanie, the owner of our hostel, told us that were not many places in Monterosso to go, but kindly circled and starred every place that was open and that we might be interested in. You know, the bars that “had the Wi-Fi” (said we-fee) and some restaurants. We decided to eat at his family’s place; they owned a hostel and two restaurants.
On our way there, we ran into him, and he showed us the way. His brother was our server, and after he finished taking our order and walked away, I looked at Laura and Kayla and asked if they knew what we had just ordered. They didn’t. It turned out being a DIVINE regional dish. I cannot even explain what it was, except wonderful. We then proceeded to order dessert that had been homemade by our server’s mother-in-law that night. (Gotta love that!) It was also to die for. After our meal, we went back and slept up for our big day of hiking! (:
When we woke up, we walked out on our balcony (yep, there was a balcony) and felt the warmth of the sunshine on our skin for the first time since… probably the last day it was warm in Knoxville! We hurried and got ready for the exciting day ahead of us. We went to the train station to get directions for the hiking trails that would take us all across the cities. Just after we walked up a huge, steep path, we realized that we were going the EXACT OPPOSITE of the way we wanted to go. We had followed the directions given to us perfectly, but we realized a little to late that we were being sent to Levanto, not the city we wanted to go to.
After some discussion, we continued on the path we were walking. IT WAS SUCH A GOOD DECISION. The path was difficult, but the views were breath-taking. (Two things: #1) The pictures really don’t do it justice, #2) I had SUCH a hard time choosing which ones to put on here.)
As we made our way to Levanto, we took a couple of scenic routes: one one purpose, one on accident. Our first stop was Punta Mesca. Here we overlooked Monterosso and played on some VERY old ruins. The view was indescribably beautiful. Now, during the other route, we MAY have wandered up and down some steep, painful hills… but there is no lesson like a bought lesson! The rest of the way we would yell “MARKER!” when we saw a trail marker… No matter how close it was to another one. We were NOT getting lost again.
Once we made it into the city, we found a drink and immediately went to the train station so we could catch a ride to Manarola, the fourth city along the chain. The walking trail between Manarola and Riomaggiore, known as Lover’s Lane, was the only trail open.
Well, I say trail, it was more of a concrete path, but it was BEAUTIFUL none the less. The walkway is known as (in English) Lover’s Lane. As you walk on it, you see hundreds of locks. The story that is told is this: if you and your significant other put a lock on Lover’s Lane, you’ll have good luck. EWW. (Ok, the truth is the only reason I hate it is because I couldn’t do it. But whatever. When I’m rich one day, I’ll go back, and put a lock on it…)
The path was above the rocky coast, so during the entire walk, I was BEGGING to go down near the water. As Kayla and Laura will tell you, I think water on rocks is the most gorgeous thing ever. (I probably told them a million times… but I couldn’t help it! IT IS!) So, when we were near the end, I told them that I was going near the water, and that they should come to. (The truth is, they wanted to do it as much as me, but were being responsible and NOT wanting to walk down the steep, uneven steps to go play on the rocks.)
So we went down and climbed like five-year-old children and talked and felt the chilly water. We enjoyed basking in the sunshine and feeling the wind blow our, what was by this point, hopeless hair. After we finished walking Lover’s Lane, we explored Riomaggiore for a bit, walked Lover’s Lane again back to Manarola, then caught a train to go back to Monterosso.
While there, we all saw the MOST BEAUTIFUL sunset any of us had ever seen! The soft pink sky reflected off the cold water and created the most memorizing effect. After admiring for a while, we ran off to find food, and enjoyed a truly Italian dinner.
After we woke up the next morning, we caught a train to Vernazza and spent the morning talking on rocks. We did not realize that this city was one of the hardest hit by the flood, and that there was nothing to do except get out of the way of the construction. The views were still wonderful though.
After that, we caught our train and were off to Florence! We were excited but sad to leave such a beautiful place.