Cinque Terre - "the five lands"

Trip Start Mar 14, 2012
Trip End Jun 15, 2012

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Flag of Italy  , Italian Riviera,
Sunday, April 29, 2012

Faff's Ramblings

On the morning of Tuesday 17 April, we had breakfast at Kerry and Gwen's apartment in Lucca. I had fruit (strawberries, kiwi fruit, banana, rock melon) with natural yoghurt and bran, orange juice, and toast with butter - it was an awesome breakfast! We skyped with Lea-Anne and Marty, which was fun :) Gwen left for school, and Dan and I walked around Lucca with Kerry. He showed us the square and the city walls and we saw some snow-capped mountains in the distance :) We walked halfway along the city walls and went back to the apartment to pack to go to the train station. Kerry walked us to the train station and we got our three tickets for the three trains needed to get to Cinque Terre. We got the first train to Via Reggio. We used the toilet at the train station, which is a self-cleaning toilet in which the whole room is flooded with water after each use. I had read about these toilets in an amusing article in QWeekend by Mike O'Connor (a friend of his got stuck in one at a train station in France, I believe, and thought he was going to drown), so I was a little worried about that happening to me (getting stuck in there, that is). But it was all good. Worth the 50 cents for the experience :P

We waited for the train to La Spezia and it was about 10 minutes late. If it had come on time, we would have nine minutes at La Spezia to get to our next train. But it was 10 minutes late, so we were worried that we wouldn't make our next train on time. When we got to La Spezia, we checked the screen on the platform we got off at and saw our train was still there, at another platform, so we raced to the other platform and jumped on the train. Now, in Italy, you buy a train ticket but have to validate it in a machine. On pretty-much every train we had gone on in Italy thus far, ticket inspectors had come around to make sure people had validated their tickets. But we couldn't see any validation machines in our rush between platforms, and there were none on the platform, so we didn't get to validate our ticket! On the train ride from La Spezia to Manarola (two whole stops worth of train ride!), a man came around and saw our ticket wasn't validated, and gave us a 50 euro fine!!!!!!! We were so p'ed off, because we clearly had bought a ticket! We had done the right thing! Apparently the validating machines had been in the underpass between platforms, but we hadn't seen them in our rush to the train, and we thought they would be on the platform, like at the other stations. And when we had gotten on the train, it had ended up waiting for about three minutes before it left, with the doors open, but there was no way either of us was going to get off the train in search of the validating machine, in case the train left! It was such BS! >:( (I wonder if the fine is more if you don't have a ticket at all!)

We arrived in Manarola and walked to our apartment. It had a stunning view of the blue, blue Mediterranean :D And the stairwell smelt like cinnamon (although, I said it smelt like a cinnamon doughnut :P). We dropped off our luggage and went to get some lunch. Part of our lunch was a traditional chickpea flour pizza with mozzarella, which was delicious :) We then set off on our walk from Manarola (2nd village of Cinque Terre) to Monterosse (5th village). We were originally going to be staying in Vernazza (4th village), but it was devastated by a big mudslide in late October 2011 and they are still cleaning up! And there must have been a bit of a mudslide down the cliffs between Manarola and Corniglia (3rd village), because the low path between them was closed for restoration. So we had to take the high path. It was a real schlep to get up that mountain, but the views at the top were worth it :) The ocean was like a big blue sparkling jewel! To quote Rilla in 'Rilla of Ingleside', "You'd have to say 'blue' a hundred times before you could express how blue it is" :) (except Rilla's quote is about the sky, not the sea :P). The weather was stunning, which was nice because the last few days had been rainy. Once we were up the top of the mountain, the path was relatively flat or downhill most of the rest of the way. We walked through vineyards and olive groves, a little village called Volastra, and forest. The downhill part of the path right at the end, just before we got to Corniglia, was not proper steps, so it would have been hard walking up them to walk from Corniglia to Manarola (opposite direction to us). Corniglia is a quaint little village, like all the others of Cinque Terre, but it is perched at the top of a cliff, as opposed to Manarola and Vernazza and Riomaggiore, that cascade down the cliffs to the water :) We kept on the Cinque Terre path that went a little through the town, and continued our walk to Vernazza.

We saw a sign in Italian that we thought said that the path to Vernazza was closed, and three German hikers came up to the same sign before the path started and were wondering if it was closed. An Italian man walked from the path we wanted to go on and told us that it was open, so we set off. The Germans were walking in front of us. When we had been walking for about 15 minutes, we saw that they had stopped on the path ahead of us. They said that they had been told to wait there because a helicopter was flying over from the other side of the mountain to the path between Corniglia and Vernazza to drop off supplies (like planks of wood, and plastic hessian bags of rocks) to fix the damaged and blocked path. We had been able to hear the helicopter, but weren't sure what it was doing. We were told by one of ground crew on the path to go back about 50 metres, but we really only went back about 30 metres, and when the helicopter came back over the mountain with the supplies dangling from straps underneath, it was very close to us! Some people came from the opposite direction while the helicopter was over the other side of the mountain, and I asked them what the rest of the path was like, and they said that it seems open but some parts are hard to get through. I had walked back a little further along the path than everyone else (the Germans and Dan), and they were told by the helicopter ground crew guy from before that we could continue on the path, so they called to me to come and we ran along the path sort of ducking because we could hear the helicopter coming back again :P It was pretty crazy! We were stopped again because the ground crew were working their way along the path as the helicopter was dropping supplies off at strategic points. We were told that we had to wait for six more drops. A few more people came up behind us, including an Australian family :) We ended up waiting for about half an hour for the helicopter to finish doing the drops at that spot, and it seemed really quite close to us on occasion. It was scary sometimes. We continued walking but were told to stop again as the helicopter was doing some of the last drops further along the path, and we were quite close to it again, and from our angle it looked like the chopper blades were getting very close to a tree!

We continued on our way and had gone beyond where the helicopter was dropping off supplies, so we could just keep going. But supplies had been dropped off previously on the path, and we had to climb over big stacks of planks and big hessian bags full of rocks and other such things, because they were completely blocking the path. The path was always essentially slope/cliff going up on the right of the path and slope/cliff going down on the left, so there wasn't much room for movement. There was one spot where the whole path was blocked by fallen dirt and rocks, and there was a large flat rock (looked similar to a tombstone) laying diagonally (on a slant, like a 45 degree angle) across the fallen dirt and rocks, and it was completely blocking the path. We had to somehow manoeuvre around the large flat rock to be able to continue on the path. There was a little bit of a steep slope on the left that only went down three metres max, but there were large rocks at the bottom that would be enough to seriously injure if a person was to fall on them! Dan climbed around the large flat rock, but I am not good with heights sometimes and I was getting too scared to try to climb around it. A (Dutch, we believe) man who had been walking with the group helped me get around part of the large flat rock, and Dan put his hand out and helped to pull me around to the other side :) It seemed that I was the only person having trouble getting around that large flat rock blocking the path, because the Aussie family behind us caught up pretty quick after we'd gotten beyond that obstacle :P

We continued walking, and there was a part where we had to climb down about a 1.5 metre drop on the left of the path to a lower bit of path because the upper bit was completely blocked off for about three metres. The Dutch man helped me down there as well, and when we climbed up again three metres ahead, he helped pull back a wire fence so we could get around it :P He was very helpful :P We continued on the walk and I spoke to a young boy from the Australian family, and they were from Perth :) We could see the little harbour down in Vernazza from the path, and it is still full of solid dirt from the mudslide :(

We finally arrived in Vernazza after about a two hour walk and went down to the main street. Pretty much all of the street-level shops on the main street are still closed and being worked on. It was very sad. We got the train back to Manarola. We had planned to walk from Vernazza to Monterosse, but the walk to Vernazza had taken too long because we had to wait for the helicopter for over 45 minutes all up! We went to a local restaurant for dinner, and there was an Aussie girl sitting at the table beside ours, and a table of six Aussies sitting at a table at the other end of the restaurant :) It's nice to hear Aussie accents :) But it's also nice to hear Italian too :P The sunset was absolutely stunning that night :)

Ultimate cultural experience of the day: walking the stunning (but sometimes scary!) Cinque Terre tracks.

Wednesday Cinque Terre
On the morning of Wednesday 18 April, we went to the alimentari (deli) to get some food for a ploughman's breakfast. I got chilli cheese and sliced turkey and oily-licious focaccia. We ate breakfast at the apartment because it was too cold and windy to eat outside.

We went to the train station to get tickets to Lake Como for the next day. We walked along one of the Cinque Terre tracks called 'Lover's Lane' to Riomaggiore (1st village). It is a seaside path, and the water was really rough, and it was spectacular watching the waves crashing against the rocks and cliff! :) We walked around the town a little, but the sky was threatening rain. We walked back to Manarola along Lover's Lane and got a picture at the Lover's Lane seat. People have put locks all along the fences along the path, and we saw some council workers removing them, and they had half a wheel-barrow of them!

We got the train to Monterosse and walked along the promenade to look for a place to have lunch. I walked down onto the (stony!) beach and touched the Mediterranean Sea :) We had lunch at a little bar by the water. We walked around that part of the town a little, and I saw a cute Cocker Spaniel :) We walked in the other direction along the promenade, and the waves were crashing mightily against the rocks and cliff! We saw some silly young people getting ready to swim! We kept looking back at them as we walked along, but we are not sure if they actually got in the water. We walked back to the train station and got the train back to Manarola. We passed the main part of Monterosse on the train, but we hadn't had time to go there.

We stayed in for the afternoon because it was too windy to go for any more walks, and it was constantly threatening rain. We went down to a waterfront restaurant for dinner and I got spinach and ricotta ravioli with walnut sauce - beautiful! Dan got squid ink linguine (ha! - 'Kath and Kim' :P) We went to the edge of the little harbour to look at the waves crashing, and it was crazy, like a washing machine! It was still quite overcast, but the sunset was still pretty :)

Ultimate cultural experience of the day: walking along the famed Lover's Lane :)

Dan's perspective

- The Cinque Terre trail is one of the most magic walking paths, ever. 
- Despite the devastation that hit two of the villages last year, they have bounced back and are rebuilding. 
- Squid ink linquine with shrimps. Grilled fish platter. Baby lobster. Octopus. Fresh. Delicious. 
- A must-visit on any Italian itinerary.  
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Melli on

Sounds (and looks!) like such a stunning part of the world! Total bummer about the 50 euro fine, but it was better than missing your train I guess :) The helicopter on your walk would have been a bit scary but a great story to tell! :D xox

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