. We did the first one, the second one was closed due to mudslides from the torrential rain, we hiked the third, and were so pooped after that (well, at least I was), that we took the train to the fifth. The walks take you to and through each of the villages. I was wondering what the people who lived there thought of all those tourists trudging through day after day after day, but they seemed happy to wave hello and sell you postcards or a keychain. It was fabulously picturesque, just like you have seen in photos (and hopefully captured in ours!)!!
La Spezia itself was a sleepy little town, and there weren’t hordes of tourists, which was nice. When you go in for a beer or glass of wine, they served you a healthy portion of snacks--so many that on a couple of occasions they sufficed as meal replacements. Most places brought out chips, olives, little slices of bread and pickles, but one place (called the Jolly Bar) also gave us little slices of focaccia bread, some penne pasta and stuffed mussels. Then, the owner brought in a giant bag of what we think were raw fava beans and started putting piles of them in front of everyone. I’ve never been given raw veggies in a bar before, but after all that pizza, it was a good thing!! All the locals happily munching away on these fava beans was a pretty funny site! The other thing that is a specialty of this area is called “farinata”. They make a batter out of chickpeas and bake it in a pizza oven until it is semi-crispy-kind of the consistency of an overcooked hashbrown. They eat it by itself, in sandwiches, as a an appetizer or a snack. It was really delicious! We decided to head straight to Rome, with the intention of coming back up to Venice slowly, stopping in lots of places along the way.
We took an overnight train from Barcelona to Milan. We took the cheap option- reclining seats instead of sleeper cabin on the train. I don’t remember sleeping well, but apparently I slept through a thorough sniff test from a French German Shepherd drug dog. We decided to skip Milan--mainly because the main attraction was the Last Supper painting, and reservations are needed months in advance and we don’t plan more than 3 days in advance. We chose La Spezia because it was close to Cinque Terre, a series of 5 coastal villages with breath-taking views (and a "breath-taking" hike if you did the whole thing!) We found an apartment online, which we shared with two other couples (one bathroom!). It was very clean and had a kitchen, so the shared bathroom didn’t bother us too much. It was called “La Tartaruga Doralice”. We were there for 4 days, and 3 of the days it poured down rain. We were lucky that on the last day the sun came out so we headed to the Cinque Terre villages. We were not disappointed! There are hiking trails connecting all five villages, getting progressively harder as you go along