After being a lazy sack of s**t yesterday, I got up early for a day trip to Cinque Terre – 7am to be exact. This is the earliest I have had to be up since I arrived in Europe and it sucked arse! I was grateful for the two-and-a-half hour bus ride there so that I could sleep some more before another day filled with some serious, actual mountain hiking (instead of city hill hiking). The plan is to have the bus dump me into the second town, Manarola, then take a quick hike straight up 382 steps to Corniglia to have some lunch overlooking the stunning blue ocean, then hike an hour-and-a-half to Vernazza, ride a train to Montesarro (because my arse will be sore), swim (since it is closest to the ocean) and then take a boat ride back to the first town Riomaggiore before catching a train to La Spezia, then jumping back on the bus back to Firenza. Cross yourself that this all works out, I am on a time table with trains, boats and busses here, people – no dinking around.
This is where I must give the Italians a shout out for running their shit on time so far, unlike the French – trains, boats, busses arrive and leave on time. So, if you aren’t on the mode of transport – that is your own fault (time works the same here and it does everywhere else – get used to it or wear a watch (and I totally sounded like my grandfather just now….wow). Anyhoo, I awoke just in time to catch the views just as the bus was dropping down into the middle of Manarola. Cinque Terre is a World Heritage Site known for a special variety of white wine, olive oil and limoncino (different from limoncello, and 40% alcohol). But all of the harvest is still very physical since much of the agriculture is grown on tiers of the mountainside, thus no machinery can fit. Over the years, and with the arrival of train service into Cinque Terre, younger generations got the eff out of there, so the traditions of the harvest are dying. In an effort to revive the industry, Italy is offering anyone a free 20-year lease on the terraces. However, you still have to buy a house, and being a tourist destination, well – that can be quite pricey, so their plan isn’t exactly working out so well.
The 382 steps from Manarola were quite easy, after all of the walking I have been doing this past month, in fact I ran up them – mostly to get out of the crowds of people who were smoking and bitching about how hard it was to walk to up all of those stairs. (Uuuuuhhhh….STOP SMOKING YOU DUMB ASSES! Oops, outside voice again, scuzie….) Once I arrived at the top and looked back over the vast expanse of vineyards, orchards and ocean it was just breathtaking. I don’t think any of the pictures I try to share with you will do the place justice, so just add Cinque Terre to your bucket list, okay? From the top of the first hill, it was a short jaunt down to the restaurant for lunch in Corniglia. Oh, lunch….I am still dreaming about lunch at the adorable little restaurant by la mare….seafood salad, octopus potato salad, salmon mousse, fried crab puffs, and some fresh pesto a la bologna over pasta……bellissimo! Just what a girl needs to prepare her for a hike up and over a huge mountain to the next town, Vernazza.
Fortunately, I made friends at lunch with a couple of ladies, Joanna and Debbie, from Scotland (and now I have pictures of me that aren’t self-portraits – holla!), and we ended up doing the hike together to Vernazza. Once we arrived in this town tucked into the crevice of two mountains joined at the sea, we celebrated with a beer. It is the first beer I have had since I got here, but I was with the Scots, so I wasn’t about to be a pansy and drink wine! I was ecstatic that they asked if I wanted to join them the rest of the afternoon – finally I had someone to talk to and they weren’t trying to get me drunk and take advantage of me! Or were they???? Hmmmmm……
After our luscious beer – which was the Italian equivalent of a Coors Light – but tasted exquisite after being so hot and sweaty from the hike over, we jumped on the train to Monterosso. Five minutes later, we got some gelato, shook off our shoes, and stuck our toes in the clear blue (and COLD) waters of the Mediterranean! We were all enjoying the victory of the day, until we got booted from the private beach and had to scurry with our tails between our legs back to the trashy, ghetto, free beach. The ghetto beach suited us better anyway. We sat and enjoyed the conversation about how much yoga sucks (“because it is so competitive,” Debbie pointed out) until it was time to get on the boat to Riomaggiore.
Granted the boat ride was a total tourist trap, but it was so much fun to be on the water and get a different view of each village on the way back down the coast. So like every other tourist, I was standing up to catch as many photos as I could of this special place to carry with me (and share with you) of my adventure. Once in Riomaggiore, we departed the boat, and walked through the town, did a bit of shopping, then caught the train to La Spezia and ran to the bus to make the connection back to Firenze. It was starting to get late, but we passed by Carrara just in time to see the beautiful sun shine upon the mountains where all of the world’s marble comes from – it gleamed like new snow in the dusk of the sunset.
After the bus dumped my tired butt back into the center of Firenze, I hobbled back to my hotel, took a shower, and barely made it into bed before falling fast asleep, dreaming of wine and olive oil and delicious fresh fish……