Still continuing on my Trip of a Lifetime – celebrating my 50th year….Well these posts about my trip in 2010 are taking a lot longer than the trip did. Previously I started my trip in Paris and wound my way around to Venice… now after a long train ride we have reached the rugged Italian coast.
I have to say the men in Italy, amongst their other charms, are very polite and couldn’t see a girl struggle with her luggage and very chivalrously always helped out. After packing for a 6 week trip (in girl talk 6 weeks = 30kg [5kg/week]) our muscles were not up to the task. BTW since then I have learnt never to pack that much no matter what my inner head says! If you cant carry it yourself, don’t take it.
The Italian train system, whilst possibly not leaving on time and hazardous with strikes I am told, ran perfectly well on our journeys and any area we wanted to go to… there was a train to take us there. It did include sometimes up to 2 transfers but other than that oh and not having elevators (dragging said luggage up and down multitude of stairs, sometimes trying to run when changing trains) it was great. They are improving their stations and adding in small elevators which would be most helpful for disabled traffic. By now five years later I’d like to think most of them have this facility.
Anyway I digress… we arrived in La Spezia at the eastern end of the Liguria coast and after a quick transfer we arrived at our destination – Riomaggiore – the start of our 4 day exploration of the famous Cinque Terre. One problem and a good one to note is – always sit up near the front of the train so you can disembark from said train at said station! We were near the end of the train and had a little problem when the train stopped – we were in a tunnel and couldn’t get out, it was too far down to jump with 30kg of luggage and we couldn’t safely squeeze between the train and the side of the tunnel to reach the station. Soooo we had to go onto the next station then get out, walk back to the next platform going back to Riomaggiore and make ourselves comfortable near the front of the train for our 5 minutes journey back for another shot! Its funny at the time you are stressed and this is a setback but later on its the stuff holidays are made of. Where else would that happen, it was funny and something I will always remember and not much of a set back really once we thought about it.
The Cinque Terre is made up of five villages hence the “Cinque”, they are joined by walking tracks precariously placed at a lot of points along a steep cliff with
literally only inches of path to walk on and inches from plummeting into the ocean or the jagged rocks hugging the coastline. No ‘occupational health and safety’ on this walk. When we were they they’d had a lot of rain and so some of the walks were closed. Not phased by this we did ignore all but one walk and went over the poorly constructed barrier to have our walk. After our trip, a few years later noting the serious flooding and raging torrents that erupted over this area, we really should have paid heed and were lucky it wasn’t that bad as the muddy paths without guiderails and flooding could have been fatal.
The easiest walk starts from Riomaggiore to Manarola – the walk of love – Via Dell’Amore. A little history – Up until the last century, due to isolation, it was unusual for anyone to marry outside their town. In the early 1920s when putting a train line through to Manarola, a trail was made primarily to store gunpowder for the blasting, thus allowing more communication between villages and lovers used to meet along this trail. It is graffiti strewn which put me off initially but apparently this has historic value now as it has been there since the 1940s.
Manarola greets you at the end of the Dell’Amore walk, it is another lovely picturesque village (2nd smallest of the five).
My Favourite Vernazzza –
and last but not least Monterosso al Mare. We would come back here of a night to have a couple of drinks at a lovely bar that served Galliano (my favourite drop) and they would bring over capers, peanuts and olives. We didn’t want to leave!
The trek between Monterosso and Vernazza was the hardest. It took a few hours, I had on a back pack with my heavy camera and lenses and also a present. I wasn’t expecting to do this trip on that particular day. It was quite hilly in places and there were steps, bridges and narrow paths along steep hillsides. Quite picturesque but I was quite relieved to see Vernazza on turning the bend.
Transport through these lovely villages was easiest by train but also could be taken by ferry for a more scenic view and for the trekkers via the trails. Worthy of a good few days visit.
Next stop Tuscany.