A Rendezvous on the Italian Riviera

Trip Start Mar 31, 2011
Trip End Jul 05, 2011

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Flag of Italy  , Italian Riviera,
Friday, June 3, 2011

We woke up early on Friday morning (6-3) to take the train from Pistoia to Viareggio to La Spezzia and ending in Monterosso to meet Parker. The whole adventure took a little under 3 hours, so we arrived in Cinque Terra mid morning with plenty of time to hike around. Parker and his friend Ambrose were staying in a different Cinque Terra village, so he hopped on the train behind us and arrived about 10 minutes after we did. Good timing! 
Cinque Terra is translated as "Five Villages," each of which is slightly different. Normally, you can hike from the first to the last in a little under 5 hours, but there were some detours and paths closed. We decided to start at the last village and hike backwards because Parker was staying at the first village and it made sense to end where they were staying.  Monterosso was really beautiful and made up predominately of nice beaches. The normal hike from Monterosso to Vernazza was closed, and the detour was pretty hard. It was uphill most of the way with very uneven ground, and it was very long-- we did it in just under 2 hours. We saw a few people who had fainted on the side of the train and plenty of people who looked like they regretted choosing to do the hike. It was REALLY hot and muggy but definitely worth it-- the views were absolutely amazing. 
We spent some time hanging around the second village because it was lunchtime and the people watching was pretty excellent. We had pizza Napolitana because the sardines are apparently famous on the Italian Riviera They were pretty good for sardines, and the pizza was definitely good for a pizza covered in fish and capers, but it was definitely not my favorite meal. Probably because sardines and capers are two of my least favorite foods. After lunch, we hung out on a little beach for a while to people-watch. The Europeans have far less shame than we are used to. We saw a grown man and his children get totally naked on the beach to change into their swim suits. Mind you, this was a very small and crowded beach, so nothing about this move was sneaky. Crazy!
The hike from the second to the third village too much less effort than the first hike. This stretch was supposed to be the most difficult, but it was definitely easier than the detour on the first hike. It took us about 45 minutes and was pretty intense but not too bad. The views were even better on this stretch, but the sky started to get cloudy towards the end of the hike and we had to rush into the third village to take cover from the rain. 
We started to run into problems in the third village. Apparently the normal section between the third and fourth villages was closed as well, and the detour was over 2 hours long! Plus, it was very steep and it had just poured rain, so we were concerned about the safety of the trails. We decided to try and take the train to the next village and hike the last stretch, but the trains had apparently gone on strike from 9 AM to 5 PM... At this point it was about 5:15, but the next scheduled train was not until 6:45. SO, we were stuck until the next train because we still had to get back to Pistoia and could not risk the hike taking any longer than 2 hours. We grabbed a drink at a supermarket and settled in to wait at the train station. Parker and Ambrose decided to hike the detour because they did not have to catch any trains back to Pistoia, so they were on much less of a time crunch. Bon voyage, boys! Hope you successfully completed that hike...
The three of us didn't sit at the station for long becasue a crazy lady from Arizona discovered that we spoke English then relentlessly tormented us for a solid 10 minutes before we escaped to go to the bathroom. She was very unhappy about the train strike and wanted to tell anyone and everyone about her displeasure. Charming! This bathroom experience particularly special. The toilets were just like the ones in Ukraine (hole in the ground), and there was no toilet paper. Thankfully, we had learned our lesson somewhere else and have been carrying toilet paper with us for the entire trip. Can't understand why they don't invest in proper toilets. I also can't understand how you use the toilet if you are crippled or not flexible. You have to be pretty flexible to squat far/long enough to succeed. Also, how do children use them? I would imagine that a small/medium sized child could definitely fall in. Gross.
By the time we made it back to the train station, the train was about to arrive. We squeezed on with everyone else-- it was very full since no trains had come since 9 AM... Luckily, we got pushed all the way to the next set of doors, so we were able to get off the train first in La Spezia and run to the ticket counter to buy tickets to Pistoia before everyone else. Good thing too because we barely made the next train! But we succeeded and arrived back in Pistoia at 9 PM. Chris's dad didn't have a phone either and we couldn't find internet to email him when to pick us up, so I texted Jenna and she emailed Jocko to tell him when to come get us. He was waiting at the station when we arrived, so it all went to plan! Back at the villa, Nikki had farro waiting for us to eat. We are definitely going to miss this villa and Chris's wonderful parents! Thanks for such a beautiful stay! Will post again from Pisa/Genoa tomorrow. Ciao!
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Mom on

Breathtaking views! Actually, some of those photos made me catch my breath! The color of the water is so beautiful. What fun to meet-up with your Boulder cousin in Italy....so cool. So, a train strike, then there was the garbage service strike....hummmm. Was this train strike mob related, too? Interesting.....Thanks for the great blog and keeping your optimistic view, even with all those barriers. Sardine pizza sounds yummy to me!

Aaron on

WOW! That is a great view. Cool you met up with your cus. Have fun!

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