Updated: Jun 30, 2018
Allow my idiocy to educate you so that you don't have to make the same mistakes
I tried to research Cinque Terre. I went on trip advisor, lonely planet, etc. etc. and I had a lot of trouble finding any in depth explanation as to what this destination entailed. Okay, it's five cities that can not be reached by car, but no one explained that three of the cities can be reached by train. I knew that you had to walk from city to city, but no one said what skill leveled was required to do so! Which is a lot by the way. It's an extremely dangerous hike. And on that same note, no one said where to begin or how long it would take. We hiked from Le Spezzia to Vernazzo, which I later learned is the longest and most difficult hike! So, I would not recommend that you choose this path unless you're living life on the edge and you hate being happy. I digress, because at this point I am just complaining.
Ian and I woke up around 7:30am in our villa in Genoa. We made coffee and got dressed, taking the bus down to the train station where we caught the train to La Spezzia. The train ride took about an hour and a half. We arrived mid-day and it was crowded with tourists. We began walking towards the mountains. There was a sign for the next village but after we ascended the steep path, there was another sign saying that, due to a rock fall, this path was closed and we would have to walk back down, through the village, and up another path that would connect us to the trail. Shit. I was already out of breath. We posed for some pictures because the view was already stunning (plus, it gave us a chance to catch our breath), and followed directions to the correct path.
Again we ascended, up, up, up! I had dressed in a black and white Adrianna Papell cocktail dress with my new, knee high boots from Paris, and a sensible wide brimmed floppy hat that I had received as a gift from one of my clients (Simply Be) years before. These little villages are on the water. Even in pictures, the path looks worn, short, and accessible. We finally reach a little booth (ticket counter) perched on the edge of a cliff. Here, they make sure that you have proper hiking shoes (I didn't) and you pay a small fee to continue on. The woman allowed me to pass because they weren't sandals. I now understood that we had just hiked, were already out of breath, and just getting to the starting line. I took off my floppy hat, shoved it in Ian's backpack, and began the journey.
Neither of us knew how long the distance was until we would reach the next city. People kept coming from the opposite direction, clearly choosing to have the train drop them at the 5th city and hike down, through all of the villages; a fucking brilliant idea in hindsight. The path wound round and around. It went straight up, steps carved by hand into the mountains probably hundreds of years ago; very difficult on your knees because every step's height is just a little different than the previous one. The trail dipped down and we thought, "we must be close!" like fools, only to be met again by another set of stairs. Why were we hiking straight up to get to a fucking village on the beach?? We started on the beach. Couldn't the same guy who carved those stairs just as easily have carved a flat path around the mountain connecting these places? My hair went up into a messy bun. My face was pink. No one going up the path could breathe well enough to hold a conversation longer than, "keeps going!". Every half mile, there would be a lookout where we would stop, consider hurling ourselves into the water below, look out onto the most insanely beautiful views that I have ever seen, take a couple pictures, and pretend like we wanted to go on.
This was no joke. The path became more narrow. People passing would have to take turns. There were no guardrails protecting you from falling to your death. Even a strong wind could easily lead to your demise. In areas, the path was no wider than a foot and a half. Why didn't anyone warn us about this? I would not have worn a cocktail dress! We trekked on. There was a man selling fresh squeezed orange juice about halfway through. I needed water, but there was nowhere to get water. We moved forward, coming to a descent. We thought, "Here we go! We're there!" as we walked down further and further, only to be met by another hill, and another. Finally, we turned a corner and could see the village below. We had another half mile going upwards to get there, but it did exist!
It's funny because we were waiting to get close to the city, for a hint that we were near, but when we finally reached Vernazza, it was abrupt. The path turns and then you are in someone's backyard. The path becomes more narrow and you are suddenly surrounded by towering villas, laundry strung across the sky, connecting the buildings. You have to walk through the city and come out the other side to get a view of it . I wanted to jump in the water, but Vernazza is a port, not a beach. We walked all the way there, and I immediately wanted to go back to Le Spezzia so I could swim! We bought bottled water from a street vendor and sat for a while, catching our breath and taking in the view. I should also note that as we were walking through the city, we saw people disembarking from the TRAIN! So, we could also have just taken a fucking train and skipped the perilous, possible death part.
When we had recovered, Ian and I decided to take a boat back to the first city. We paid 20 Euros for a boat ride back with a couple stopovers at interesting rock formations. Our guide was very sweet and I got to sit on my ass, so I was happy. We disembarked and I headed straight for the sand, took off my boots and dress and waded into the crystal clear water. It was cold, but not unbearable. I dove below the surface and the salt water cleansed me of my day. I spent some time just feeling my weight in the water, floating effortlessly with sun beams, reflecting off the ripples threw sparkles across the water. It was actually much colder once I got out and realized that I didn't have a towel to dry off with! I put my cocktail dress back on and headed up to a beach cafe with my boots in hand. We picked an outside table overlooking the water, ordered a bottle of local white wine to share, and spaghetti (my vegan go-to). The server provided us with bread, balsamic, and olive oil, which we devoured two baskets of before our food arrived. We finished the meal with grappa because it was on the menu and we felt it necessary to try. Grappa is made with grape skins. It tastes a lot like vodka. We did not expect this and were both surprised with the taste, but we were dedicated to finishing it.
We walked back to the train station and realized that we had an extra 45 minutes before our train would arrive, so we went to a Mexican-themed bar in the station (I should tell you that this was the only dining establishment in the station) and ordered a couple of beers. The table next to us was full of Australian back-packers who we briefly shared stories with. We boarded the train and set off back to Genoa. That's a lie. We set off somewhere but it was the wrong train which led to us getting off at two different stations, trying to speak Italian enough to get directions, failing both times, and finally getting a taxi home. I was able to buy Limoncello and Orancello from the second station as souvineers for my staff, so it wasn't a total loss!
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