Friday, November 13, 2015

Travel Diaries: Cinque Terra

This morning was the latest we got to sleep in in Italy. We had to reserve our train tickets in advance and chose to book the high speed train across the country. Arriving early is always a good idea when traveling abroad - the train ended up being overbooked, and while we were smashed in seats, some didn’t even have a seat to sit in.  The two and half hours went quickly talking to new friends on the train and doing some reading. When we got to the end of the line, we had to switch to a train that goes up and down Cinque Terre, making stops along the five coastal towns.
While sitting on the train with all our luggage, you notice many locals in their swim suits with beach bags in tow – these towns started as a local favorite escape to the beach, but the secret is out! More and more these towns have become a tourist attraction.
We stayed on the train till we go to the last town, Monterosso – this town is split in half between Old and New Monterosso. The train station stops in New Monterosso which has more hotels and restaurants, with beaches where you must rent a spot to stay on. We stayed in an apartment in Old Monterosso, where it’s much more quieter with many more locals residing in this area. But – this was a farther walk from the train station, and in the heat of the middle of the day I had to lug my big suitcase over cobblestone streets – I was a hot mess by the end of the journey. 
After a quick perusal of our quaint apartment for the next two nights, we ran down to the “beach” for a dip in the salt water. It was a gorgeous spot for swimming, but I do have to say we are quite spoiled with our Lake Michigan fresh water and silk like sand.  The “beaches” in Italy are covered in small pebbles that become extremely hot in the sun, making it a bit of a painful walk down to the water.
On our walk back we picked up some groceries at the local grocer – my brother Sam made us a gourmet spaghetti meal of his own making, pairing it with some delicious Italian wine.

*The selfie queen*

One of the biggest draws to visiting Cinque Terre are the hiking trails that connect each town and wind along the coastline. There are a variety of lengths for you to choose from between the towns, but starting where we did in Monterosso, the last town, and making our way towards the first is the more difficult route.  From Monterosso to Vernazza your climb is spent going up steep inclines at high elevation. Even by leaving at 6 a.m. we were hit with hot humidity and ran low on our water supply (due in part to the six foot five giant in our group who sweats out more than he can put in) so we were very excited when the colorfully stacked Vernazza came into view.

A little dead after the first hike - notice Sam's fashionable ombre shirt :)
Our fearless leader, and faithful water carrier - who we humbly call, "dad"

After a replenishing rest, we carried on to the next town of Corniglia – which is the only town not on the coast. It sits higher up with breath taking views. This was another hour of hiking, and by the time we got there we were ready for a dip in the water. The best swimming is in Manarola, so we caught the train and made our way down to the water. There was a swimming cove with cliffs. There the locals started the cliff jumping – and us tourists quickly followed.

To get a different perspective on the coastal cities of Cinque Terre, we took a ferry back to Monterosso.  We finished our evening with a classic Italian meal of Marguerita pizza and a fresh caprese salad. I can’t wait to go back for another visit!