The Italian Riviera... unbelieveable

Trip Start Aug 19, 2010
Trip End Dec 26, 2010

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Flag of Italy  , Liguria,
Saturday, August 28, 2010

Let me start off by explaining just how disappointed I am that I couldn't rent a kayak and see the "five lands" by way of the ocean; however, Cinque Terre is easily the most beautiful place I have ever seen in person.  The trip from Florence to get to the Italian Riviera was less than stellar though.  The three hour train ride was riddled with illegal immigrants chanting in some crazy African tribal tongues just glaring at us Americans hoping we fell asleep and they could steal all of our stuff.  All racism and stereotypes aside, they gave me the creeps and while they might or might not have been contemplating stealing my shit, they were trying to get to Pisa to sell a bunch of silly touristy things to Americans.  I hope that one day my knowledge of languages can evolve to the point where I can even say basic things in the language these guys were spit-balling in.  I kid you not, it sounded like everything that people always do to make fun of African languages with a bunch of weird tongue-in-cheek clicking and awesome sounds like they were trying to swallow a ton of food. Unreal.

My traveling companions Rob and Adrian were an absolute riot the entire train ride there, but we were unfortunate in our endeavors to say the least.  We had one connecting train between Florence and Riomaggiore, the beautiful Italian coast.  When we arrived in this sketchy-looking town called La Spezia where the kind English-speaking people selling us our tickets to the five beautiful beach towns told us very definitely, the next train is at 10:01.  Well that was the biggest load of shit I've ever had the pleasure of experiencing.  All of our comrades within the KSU-Florence program proceeded on to the train that was scheduled to leave a full half hour before we actually arrived in La Spezia, which means they arrived at the desired destination around 9:30 AM.  Good for them, right?  Adrian, Rob, and I went exploring a little because we thought we had a good hour-long layover: we return to the train station at 9:45 to hop on our next train, but we couldn't understand that the departures board was trying to explain to us that our 10:00 train no longer existed and that the next closest train (at 10:50) was "SOP".  This part is hilarious because Adrian is fluent in spanish, he was born in Spain, I can speak plenty of French, and Rob is probably my equivalent in German, however we still couldn't piece together that when a train in Italy says "SOP" it means sopressa.  Sopressa as it turns out does not mean delayed, it loosely translates to "deleted."  Needless to say it took a homeless man that understood how dumb we were to convey the message that we needed a new train.

After our supposed 1 hour sojourn in La Spezia turned into a 2 and 1/2 hour slough through some bull crap that is the European rail system, we finally got to our destination, and from here on out words can literally not even approach the explanation that is Cinque Terre.  If any average human imagined a place where buillding a village would be literally impossible, I'm sure they would dream up something that looks like any one of the five incredible little towns.  Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, and Monterosso are all built into this incredible landscape that includes enormous mountains, a crystal-clear blue ocean, jungle-style foliage, and all of the most amazing terraced vineyards you could imagine.  We opted for the 8 euro pass that gave us unlimited train access between the towns and it included a pass to hike the trails between all of the towns as well, I feel like I should have had to pay 4 times that to see just one view close to this gorgeous in America.  This hike that is so steamed up by tour guides like Rick Steve's and the likes is not to be taken lightly.  I'm not sure if there is a warning to how tough the hike is, however three very in shape 20 and 21 year olds had a pretty decent sweat built up hiking just through four of the towns.  Personally I looked and felt like I just got out of a shower that leaked out disgusting salt-sweat.  For those that brave the incredibly breath-taking hike though, there are some incredible benefits.  I took over 200 incredible pictures that probably don't do the towns full justice, but that is beneficial because they need to be experienced more than just viewed.

Only a couple of the towns had decent places to swim, Manarola had a few good spots along the trail to the third city Corniglia, and Vernazza and Monterossa have sand beaches that are more than perfect places to take a dip.  Some advice: take plenty of water if you intend on hiking the trail, hike the trail, and bring some snorkeling goggles or buy some for 10 euro and snorkel in Monterossa.  My room mate Keith saw an octopus and hundreds of fish just a swimmers distance off the coast. Overall, Cinque Terre is a beautiful day trip away from Milan, Florence, Siena, and Pisa, but to fully enjoy it I think a return trip that included a couple hours on a kayak would be optimal.

On a scale of 1-jump on a plane and visit Cinque Terre, I would highly recommend it
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Tina on

SOP = SOL ;)

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