I have been busy the past few months with school, student organizations, the LSAT, law school applications, and the necessitated allotment of time for socializing and mindless downtime. So finding the time and motivation to write more was a little difficult for me. I have always meant to come back and finish the blogs for the last leg of the trip to the best of my ability. Not finishing the entires I intended to do felt like not finishing the story or giving the trip closure, for me at least. I have lots of pictures and took notes, and so now over the next couple weeks I will try to reconstruct the final days of my adventure in Europe.
Leaving Florence, we traveled by train through Pisa and up the beautiful Northwestern coast of Italy to the coastal city of La Spezia. We had booked our hostel the night before, and were given some confusing instructions which told us to catch a shuttle a mile or so from the train station, because the hostel we booked was actually several miles into the hills above La Spezia. So into town we went only to get lost and miss the shuttle. We went back to the station and paid a taxi driver 20 euro to drive us up the winding, narrow hill to the hostel. The hostel and the small hill community it was in were beautiful, and the hostel itself was nice inside. We got our room assignment, threw our bags in lockers, and boarded a shuttle to take us 20 minutes to the chain of five villages called Cinque Terre. Once, just a bunch of poor mountainside fishing villages, the Italians turned them into a beautiful national park with lots of trails, and connected the towns with a rail system and ample ferry access.
The shuttle took us to Riomaggiore, the most eastern of the 5 villages. The streets were narrow, carless, and bustling with tourism. The street led down to the sea: beautifully blue waters with picturesque coastal apartments protruding over the water, flanked by wonderful rock formations full of people sunbathing, reading, and relaxing. A small path led to a cove and very rocky beach with more sunbathers and swimmers. We took a steep and narrow staircase to see what was up above, but it ended up just being some private gardens. We went to the cove and sat there for a while and I tried to go swimming, but the waves were so strong that I physically could not get into deep enough waters before being crashed into hard rocks that bruised my hands and arms pretty good. So I gave up on that.
An hour later we went back into the main part of the village and through a tunnel to get to the small train station there. We decided to travel to the furthest village of Monterosso and work our way back. Monterosso is the most tourist infested of all the villages because of its several miles of beach front that include rare sections of sandy beach. Plenty of shops line the main road, and small cars were regularly moving around. We walked the main street to the farthest point possible with some Gelatto, enjoying the impressive view of the sea front. I found a section to swim in and enjoyed that for a few minutes, and then we made our way back to the train station.
Next was Vernazza, A smaller yet incredibly pictresque little town with a single street that led to a tiny rim port with a wall and walkway jettisoning into the sea from the beach which was made up of the calm, blue waters where several people were swimming and where small boats were anchored. Outside of the sea wall the waves were crashing against the rocks. We sat in this area for a bit, where I played with my camera to take some cool shots of the sea and hillsides of the town, and then walked up a small staircase to pay a nice lady a few euros to get to the top of a small fortification with a tower at its center, which gave an incredible view of the ocean front and birds eye view of most of the town. To our left facing the ocean was a smaller beachhead cove only accessible by a tunnel towards the train station that I went up before we left. This was my favorite of the villages we visited because of these sights.
Time was running short after this Vernazza, so we skipped the village of Corniglia by train in favor of a quick stop at Manarola. If you know anyone who has been to Cinque Terre, you’ve seen the photo of this cliffside village from across a small cove. That stereotypical tourist picture was basically the extent of our trip to this village. That and watching a guy get egged on by a crowd to jump off a large rock into the water. Manarola is certainly sight worthy. I thought about getting a nice glass of wine there, but we opted to just save time and head back to Riomaggiore for dinner.
At Riomaggiore, it was getting late, and I spent an inordinate amount of time going back to the rocky beach I kept getting crashed on because I had read about an old Nazi bunker up on the cliffside. Normally there are dozens of miles of cliffside trails to explore all throughout the five villages, but there was some sort of rockslide danger or something that kept all of these routes closed, including the path that led to the bunker. By time I wandered all the way across the rocky bay area we were at that afternoon, the sun was setting, and even though I didn’t get to see that bunker, I did get to enjoy the sunset from here on this beachside, and that was well worth the walk.
Jacob was far less fond of my trek to the bunker in hindsight, because it consumed some time that turned out to be very valuable. In Riomaggiore we went looking for a dinner, leaving the first place we went because of a lack of variety, but the second place we went to was fancy to say the least, with the prices to show for it. But it was our last night in Italy so we figured it was worth it. I had a fantastic pasta dish and choice glass of house wine, and Jacob had a seafood dish with just about every type of fresh ocean delicacy you can imagine from the nearby sea. Jacob, I think I mentioned in previous entries, was also in desperate want of meat, so it was extra special to him. It was midway through this meal that I realized our shuttle from the hostel was to pick us up at 9, and it was about 8:30 when we got there. So I used my cell phone that was provided by LDM (First and only use) to call the hostel to see if we could catch a later shuttle, and they said no. But I did get the shuttle to wait a few extra minutes for us, lest we be stranded without a place to stay or our luggage. So we had to scarf down our meals at lightning speed and sprint up the hill to get to our shuttle, and for the next week Jacob would rave about that meal and to this day still complains that he had to rush it. Very funny for me though.
Cinque Terre is a beautiful place that lives up to the pictures and hype I had heard of. It’s very touristy, but the architecture and cultural feel of the smaller villages were great. I would’ve loved to hike those cliffside trails if they were open. Cinque Terre was our quick, one day pit stop on the way out of Italy–a worthy note to go out on.