Entering the Five Lands (Cinque Terre)

Trip Start Apr 03, 2007
Trip End Jun 16, 2007

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Flag of Italy  ,
Thursday, May 10, 2007

The Cinque Terre (CHIN-quay TAY-ruh), literally "Five Lands" is a great scenic portion of the Italian Riviera.  Not over-mobbed like Venice or some of the other parts of the Italian Riviera due to it's relative remoteness and ruggedness, it still has it's fair share of tourists and tourist infrastructure (it's highly touted by Rick Steves, with a full chapter devoted just to it, although the Lonely Planet guide I have barely gave it a paragraph).  It's an intriguing place, with 5 seaside towns dating back to medieval times, connected together by a hiking trail that's hike-able in 4-5 hours.
Since my hotel was so close to the train station in Venice, I was able to get out very quickly.  Even though it wasn't even 8:00 AM, already mobs of people were tramping down the street, heading into Venice, as I was heading out.  I had made a reservation the day before, so I had no problem catching my train.  A few hours later, I was in Florence.  The train schedule claimed that it would be there by 11:30, but we actually arrived around 11:50.  I had to run to catch my connecting train, which left at 11:57.  I made it on board, though, and soon was headed for La Spezia, the gateway to Cinque Terre.  On the way, we stopped in Pisa, although I didn't have time to get off and look around since my hotel said "must check in by 5:00 PM or lose reservation".  Made it in plenty of time, though, but I wanted to make sure.
In La Spezia, I bought a "Cinque Terre Card", which allows entry into all the hiking trails (it's a National Park), as well as unlimited rides on the trains and busses in the area.  The train ride from La Spezia to Riomaggiore, the first town, only took about 8 minutes.  From the train station, you have to walk through a long underground tunnel to reach the town.  I got checked in at the place I had reserved, the appropriately named "La Dolce Vita".  They even had the movie poster and a big picture on the wall of the classic scene where she wades through the Trevi Fountain.  The actual room was decent, but not one of the better places I've stayed as far as smell and noise level (it opened right onto the main street, and was quite noisy until well after midnight).
I went out and walked all around Riomaggiore.  The towns here are so colorful and lively, and they're set right next to the glistening blue of the Ligurian Sea.  The towns are also built right on the hillsides, so I got to walk up above and get some great views looking back down into the town.  The only way to get down from where I was at was to walk down a windy path through the community gardens up on the hill.
I knocked out early to get ready for my hike tomorrow between the 5 towns.  My roommate was a guy from Houston, Texas.  He's been traveling about the same time as me (5 weeks), and has spent most of it in Spain.  He's going the exact opposite direction as me, heading for Interlaken, Switzerland, next, and then Stockholm, Sweden.  I told him he's going to love both of them.  He was kind of bummed out when he showed me the heavy coat he's been lugging around with him the whole time just for those locations and I told him that he wasn't going to need it (unless some big storm blows in).
Tomorrow: one of the classic coastal hikes.
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