Thursday, 17 September 2009

Cinque Terre

Cinque Terre is a five (cinque) town (not terre?...?) hike just north of Tuscany (La Spezia is probably the easiest close city to find on a map). We have been using the Rick Steves Italy book for getting around some of the places. Fairly useful... He says you should go up the night before so you can get an early start but the hike (7 miles) should only take about 5 hours. He must be in pretty good shape... We did the hike from hardest to easiest. The book forewarns that the hike from the first town to the second is fairly challenging. It does not however point out that the hike from the second town to the third is at least as hard, if not worse (change of elevation wise). I've been running lately and I was a little sore the next day. Very pretty hike and nice little towns. Each town had its own feel.
We started off by driving to La Spezia Friday afternoon. We got to where we were staying around 9 pm. It was a small place up on the hill side. A man and his wife ran it. He, his parents, and his brother all lived on the same property. Above one of thier places, pretty sure it was above the parents, were a couple apartment like places. Not easy to find. I called the guy a couple times and he finally asked where we were and then came down the hill to get us. There is no way we would have found it otherwise. You literally pull into the guy's gated driveway.
La Spezia itself is pretty. Fairly modern. As we drove in there were restaurants, bars, big hotels... Not that there aren't restaurants and bars around, but these looked like bars in the states. Hard to explain at this point. After being here for three months, it was different.
Beautiful view from the room (bottom picture). It overlooked the city below and the harbor. La Spezia happens to also be an Italian Navy base.
We drove down to the train station and took the 10 minute train ride (vice hour drive) to the first town. The train just cut through the mountains were the road would have winded around them.
North to South.
Monterosso: The train station drops you off on a beach. The water is beautiful. Clear. Blue. A sandy beach.
From Monterosso to Vernazza is a pretty good hike up and down. You walk on the edge of vineyards and start to get some nice views.
In Vernazza we stopped for lunch. Really good pizza.
Next town was Corniglia. The hike to get there was somewhat painful. Probably because we, based on our book, figured the worst was past. Still nice views.
From Corniglia you go down 400 steps to regain the trail. On this side it is a very rocky, narrow beach. The trail itself is up about 40 feet and set back a little. Probably a good thing. At one point I looked over the side and laughed as I told Carey, "That old dude has no pants..." We kept walking for a short bit and noticed, either does that guy. I'm not in this to see a bunch of dudes butt cracks... Then it dawns on us (me, Carey, and Brianna), there are no women on that beach... Walk faster, nothing to see here... Just naked gay guys (a couple entertaining each other). Later we reread the book a little more and it does point out a nude beach that as soon as the land becomes available the country is going to suck up as part of the trail and "clean up".
That brings us to Manarola. Tons of boats. No cars. A really big boat ramp. Time for gelato...
From Manarola to Riomaggiore is really were the trail started around the 1940's. The trail was made so guys and girls could walk from one town to the other, a lover's trail.
Once in Riomaggiore we caught the train back to La Spezia.
That night we had dinner in a nice little restaurant around the corner from where we were staying. Very good. I like the Northern Italy food and sauce better I think. The sauce is thicker. Around here I've had sauce that wasn't much more than olive oil with a little tomato to make it red.
All in all it was a nice hike. Great views. Worth the trip.

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