"Bat Out of Hell"

Trip Start Apr 18, 2007
Trip End Jun 29, 2007

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Flag of Italy  ,
Monday, June 4, 2007

Today was to have been a straightforward day. Early start, vaporetto back to Venice station, then four trains across country Italy to Riomaggiore on the west coast.

With a healthy 20-30 minutes allowed between each connection.

Of course, three connections was just asking for trouble and it was not the little regional Italian trains that failed us. It was the high-speed, bat-out-of-hell Eurostar train from Venice to Florence that sat in a tunnel somewhere in Tuscany that threw the whole plan. We missed the train from Florence to La Spezia by a whisker. However, trains criss-cross Italy like suburban trains serve Melbourne and we were able to reach La Spezia via another train through Pisa and then onwards...

Only an hour late after all!

We had the chance to watch the Italian countryside roll by our windows over the course of the day. There certainly isn't much that isn't built upon or cultivated. The hills towards La Spezia reminded me of the sub-tropical rainforest south of Currumbin/Tweed Heads. Tall trees with vines, a weed that looks like sugar cane, yellow broom, red poppies and the occasional banana palm. And always vineyards, orchards and vegetable plots. The hills to the east of the train line around Carrara showed where the marble of that namehad been quarried, leaving huge scars. Big blocks of marble sat in numerous yards awaiting cutting and polishing. (The rejects we were later to learn formed some of the breakwater at Riomaggiore!) The approach to Riomaggiore by train is a long tunnel through steep mountains that drop to the sea. You enter in countryside and pop out on the side of a cliff with the Ligurian Sea twinkling below.

Riomaggiore is the southern most of five villages - the Cinque Terre - that cling to the cliffs and are connected by train, ferry and walking trails. The town itself is a maze of tiny alleys connecting the houses that are jumbled up each side of the central road between the top of town and the harbour. Pastel pink, yellow and salmon walls and bottle green shutters dominate. There are a number of good cafes with seafood being the local specialty. The area seems to be a backpackers' and hikers' destination and is reknown for it's walks and sunsets.

We are trying both tomorrow.
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