Monday, June 23, 2014

April 5, 2014–Monterossa to Vernazza to Riomaggiore (Cinque Terre)

The Travelpod was written by Doug and Lizzie on this day. Words from the Travelpod are in italics and new comments from Lizzie are in regular font.

This is the video we filmed of the walk from the central of Riomaggiore to our apartment. We shot this video at the end of the day, but I wanted to share it first as it has never been posted before. (If you get to the end, please accept my apology for airing our laundry in front of the camera. Smile)

How to get to our Cinque Terre Apartment…

It is Lizzie's night to blog, but due to the nature of our activities today and her sore lack of passion for said activities, she asked that I write the blog for the night. I agreed as long as she promised to write down a few thoughts of her own first. So I'll start with those here:

Thoughts from Lizzie:
First of all, if you know me well you know I am not the rugged sort of girl. I am not that into nature, hiking or scary wilderness. For example, on our two week road trip to Pennsylvania doug was very excited to drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway while I was not. I have a slight fear of heights (Doug tells me it is a normal level of fear – Thanks baby even if you are just being sweet.) and I love being efficient. I did not love the views, appreciate the natural beauty or enjoy the Blue Ridge Parkway as I felt we were being inefficient.

Back to Italy, Doug asked if we could hike the only open path along the coast from Monterossa to Vernazza. I was under the impression it was an “easy” hike and Doug being the smart man that he is did not correct my incorrect thoughts. We caught the train to Monterossa and checked out the town. Then we started the hike. It was not “easy”. It took two hours and that will probably be the only time I hike that trail. When I checked my fitbit at the top of the trail I was at 78 stories. We had climbed a 78 story building on crumbling, rocky, hard to walk stairway. Honestly, it was not my cup of tea. I did not really enjoy the hike as we were hanging off a cliff most of the time.

Doug wants to come back to Cinque Terre when all the trails are open again (since the mudslide knocked them out in 2011) and is looking for a hiking buddy. This girl will be at the spa or in Paris eating pastries, but Doug is accepting applications so let him know.

Ok, that's it, I'm back. (Doug)
I sit atop our rooftop balcony, watching the sun go down and waiting on a delivery of one bottle of wine from my favorite person in the world. Yes, Lizzie agreed to go into town by herself to get me un bottiglia di vino bianco. Well, she did mention “could this day be any more about you?” before she left. She isn’t really upset, she is happy I’m taking the blogging duties for the evening since she wasn’t too thrilled about our activities today. And if I went with her, I couldn’t write these words right now, she is always about efficiency.

Today, we ventured out further into the 5 lands. We woke up early enough to catch the express train into Monterosso. No stopping in the other 3 towns on our way, just a direct shot. I think it took about 8 minutes in all. And we only had to stop once, which made Lizzie happy (special side note – this is one of the only points I can make that this day was not all about me).

Monterossa is the only city you can see the other 4 cities of Cinque Terre from. It is hard to see in this photo, but if you squint you can make it out. IMG_0788

We got into Monterosso, walked along the beach front… IMG_0782

my immediate reaction was that perhaps I chose the wrong Cinque Terre village to stay in because you couldn’t go more than about 100 steps before finding another gelato stand. I didn’t stop for gelato, but I was tempted.
I, Lizzie, liked Monterossa because it was more civilized. Way more stores, bars, etc. Much larger than Riomaggiore, but we knew that going into it.


We walked the “new town” area before heading back through what used to be a major landslide a few years ago that separated the new town from the old town of Monterosso. They cleaned it up nicely – had I not read about it, I would not have known there was a landslide there. We saw Il Gigante – a statue in the new town area. The guy stands about 45 feet high. From my viewpoint, though, he didn’t look all that big. I’m pretty sure he’d win in a fight, though. He’s made of rock.

We headed back toward the old town area, but before we got there, I saw a path leading up to the Cappuchin church. Lizzie told me I was driving, but I could tell she didn’t want to head up those steps. So what did we do? We tackled those steps! All the way up to the top, the views of Monterosso were amazing. We hadn’t even made it into the town yet, but it looked beautiful from our vantage point.


Back down the stairs (Lizzie is back with Limoncello!) – we pushed on into town. Our mission, see what Monterossa has to offer, and maybe get a bite to eat since we both skipped breakfast. We hit the main drag, checked out the little shops. This town is much bigger than Riomaggiore, and has a much stronger “beach” feel than the other towns we’ve been to. Maybe it’s because they actually have a sandy beach?

We found their church… 

It was the most unique church we saw the entire trip. What do you think?IMG_0793


and stopped into the grocery near the station. Lizzie asked the lady if they could ship things back home for us. When she said si, that was it – we were off to the races. We will have Scichetra, limoncello, olive oil from this region, pasta, spices, and anchovies waiting for us when we get back home. Lizzie and doug are happy.

We got some flatbread and pastries from the Bar Centrale and sat in the park to eat it before starting on our hike. We grabbed little pizzas and a pastry for lunch. They were quite good and we knew we had a hike approaching so we did not want to to full. I especially did not want to need a bathroom break so I ate and drank with that in mind.

Both Margherita and some of the locals in Monterossa confirmed that this trail was indeed open, and this is one of the things we came here to do. Or at least one of the things _I_ came here to do.

We followed the signs to Vernazza -IMG_0798

The view was quite scenic….(but not worth what we were about to do –  In my very humble opinion.)

All of the coastal trails on the Cinque Terre site are listed as “easy” to “moderate.” They’re all also listed as “closed.” The only one we heard was open was the one that was labeled as the “hardest of the coastal trails.” I shared all of this information with Lizzie before we hit the trailhead, but some of the information I didn’t emphasize and/or repeat.

I, Lizzie, completely disagree with the paragraph above. Doug DID NOT tell me it was the hardest of the coastal trails that day. He _might_ have mentioned it a few days before, but I was not prepared for the climb. Just look at my clothes – I was wearing jeans. I definitely did not have enough data before we ended up at the top of a random hill in Italy.

Off we went, onto the trail, passing a sign that clearly stated the trail was closed. IMG_0807

Lizzie was none too pleased about continuing on, but didn’t fight it too much since there were so many people ahead of us trudging on. With the sign stating the trails were closed, we didn’t have to pay the 6 euro entry fee onto the trail, but I had to pay whatever the going rate for my wife’s anxiety is.

This is where I really started freaking out. The trail was CLOSED! Why are we doing this? It is closed for a reason. Why get half way there to find a mudslide and turn back. I was not in a good place here. I wanted to turn around and go back to the train – and that is saying a lot. I hate public transportation.

Soon, we ran into some people coming from the other direction, and Lizzie asked them whether they had turned back because the trail was impassable or if they were coming from Vernazza. “Vernazza!” They responded. The trail is passable, we must continue on!

These photos do not give you a real photo of how steep the steps were. IMG_0815
Less anxious now, we trudged on ahead, up the uneven stairs of the trail.


This is what the majority of the path looked like. No rails, just cliff. IMG_0822

Side note – all of these smiles are fake. I did not want to look miserable in the photos so I put on a smile.

We paused to take a photo for a family of four in exchange for a photo of us. And Lizzie took a liking to this family. She did everything she could to stick with that family, losing me because I would pause to take photos, then getting angry that I wasn’t right beside her. I’m fairly certain she hiked more with that family than with me.

I seriously spent the majority of the hike looking back to find doug and wait for him. I always wanted a visual on him to make sure he had not fallen off a cliff, but I also wanted to stay with that family.

The family ahead of us gave me three comforts.
1. There were four of them ahead of me and if all four of them could survive the scary parts of the hike, I surely could. I wanted to see them do it first.
2. They were leading the way so I could make sure we did not take wrong turn and get stranded out in the mountains with no cell phone service or anyone to help us.
3. They gave me great distraction. If they were gone, I think I would have felt more scared. Like we were all alone.

Here is me looking back for doug every 5 seconds:


The trail was hard. It felt like we were climbing endlessly up into the clouds. Just when it looked like we were finished climbing and the ground flattened out, we turned the corner to find another set of stairs steeper than the set before.

Insert Lizzie freak out. MORE UP?!

Doug loving the hike – see behind him that city?! That is the city we started at  - Monterossa. IMG_0834

Some Vertical Video doug took to show part of the hike:

Hike from Doug’s view–I am long gone ahead with my “family”

Eventually, we hit the top of the climb and stuck with that height around the cliffs to get into Vernazza. The hike became much easier at that point and we only had a few more climbs before starting our descent into Vernazza.

Our first view of Vernazza: (it still looked too far away for my liking, but at least we could see it.)IMG_0841

Lizzie kept saying out loud that she loves me a lot.. stating that her presence alone shows how much she cares and should I ever have any doubts in the future, I need only remind myself of her sacrifices on this hike. Lizzie not happy.

The city we had come from: – yeah it was freaking far away.


The final descent: (see my family ahead of me)

She made it to the end, like a trooper. Her knee was starting to bother her, her husband was lagging behind so much that she had to abandon her “family” to sit and wait for me on one of the descents. Fortunately for me, her family stopped for a photo op that had a line. We caught them and exchanged photos with them once again before climbing all the way down to Vernazza.

These are real(er) smiles. I was finally close to a city.


Here is the other side of the trail that says the path is closed. I was so glad it was over.


This is one of may favorite photos of the trip! Doug was taking a photo of me and then realized a cat above me was about to jump from the roof. He got this action shot and I just love it!


Vernazza is another city that looks very similar to the other 3 we had already visited, but had a feel all its own. Maybe “trendier” is the word I’m looking for? There were certainly a LOT more people in Vernazza today than we had seen in any other city, but I think most of that is due to it being a Saturday and there were several tour groups we saw on their way down from the train station. T

he trendy aspect seems to come from a different attitude from the shopkeepers and the different types of shops along the main strip. More art shops, their bank had a fancy set of automated doors rather than the simpler ones in the other towns.. I’m not entirely sure how to describe it. Each town is certainly unique.

We of course stopped for gelato after earning it on our hike today. I got something called Crema di Cinque Terre. It seemed to be some kind of Nutella cream with alcohol in it. It was definitely the best gelato I’ve had so far. Lizzie got her first (and maybe last) gelato of the trip here.


She asked for un assaggio, per favore (a taste, please) of the blackberry sorbet, and decided instead to go for the fragola (strawberry). When the shopkeeper handed her the spoon of blackberry, though, Lizzie swore that the cup she pulled it from _had_ to be already used spoons. She thought the shopkeeper disliked her so much that she gave her a used spoon to taste the gelato. There was a larger bin of spoons to the side, but I was certain those were all fresh spoons, just easier to grab than the other ones in the bin.

Lizzie further proved her point by noting that there was nowhere else to put the used spoon. Until I stepped aside and revealed a trash can to her. Still not convinced, she looked at me scornfully and threw her spoon into the rubbish bin as the shopkeeper finished scooping her strawberry gelato. The woman rolled her eyes at Lizzie because she was a wasteful American. She could have used that spoon to eat her gelato, but instead, she had to pull another spoon from the “used” spoon bin to give to Lizzie. I should have gotten a cone this time and avoided the spoons altogether in case Lizzie’s theory actually held any water.

This was one of the rare rude Italians we ran into. There is always one!

We sat down just outside the shop to enjoy our frozen treat. I shed a few layers down to my undershirt.. sweat pouring out of me. The sea breeze felt fantastic.

We finished our gelatos and took a stroll around the city – down to the beach, where it isn’t uncommon for a rogue wave to sweep unsuspecting travelers right off their feet and into the ocean. No such waves hit today – and we didn’t know that fact until after we got to the train station or Lizzie would not have let us walk down there.

This photo gives you a good picture of where the “rogue” waves come in from the right and flow right over that concrete walkway right over doug’s left shoulder. IMG_0879

In 2007, a rogue wave came and swept away an American lady. She did not survive. Doug is right. I would have avoided that area had I known that was a risk.

We also took a tour of the castle in town, including the tower that gives you a different angle of the city from above than the trail does.


We did all this under the impression that the train was supposed to arrive at the station around 3pm. So we got up to the station about 2:45, with a huge wave of people coming down off the platform. “Uh oh,” I’m thinking as with all these people coming down from the station, that likely means a train just left. I hope I didn’t read the schedule wrong.
I did :(

I don’t need any sort of condolences from the readers of our adventures, or any sort of justification for what I had done, but I do want to say, the schedule is a little confusing. There are two sets of rows that show the station information: one for the morning, one for the evening.

The times all line up in columns. At the top of some of the columns is a letter that has a meaning described at the bottom of the schedule. A means festivale (weekends and holidays), B means non-festivale(weekdays only), and so on. I got those all figured out, but the letter is not repeated for the second set of rows. I made the assumption that since the rows are separated by whitespace that the letter indicator no longer applies to a certain column. That assumption was flat wrong. There was no train at 3pm.

The next one was nearly 30 minutes later. We waited it out at the station and discussed the likelihood of us stopping at the only town we hadn’t been to.

Rick Steves noted that if you thought of Cinque Terre as the Beatles, Corniglia is Ringo. There really didn’t appear to be too much to the town. It’s not actually on the sea, it takes a 15 minute hike from the station to get into town – the only thing it appeared to have going for it was a high quality wine produced there. But the season for it is only just beginning, so it’s not like we could find some locals to take samples from. T

here on that platform, we decided not to make the stop into Corniglia. This gives me yet another reason to come back here in the future. As Lizzie mentioned, I am taking applications for people that want to go to Cinque Terre with me and hike the whole thing. Lizzie is done and “never doing this again,” but I am certain I’ll be back to hike the full trail when it opens again in the future. I think you only need to have a good attitude and not mind if I stop for gelato in every town. That might be the only requirements. Inquire within.

This train boarding was the most stressful of the trip. Maybe I was already wound tight from the stressful hike, but we ended up deep in a train tunnel and when the trail would go by it felt like it was sucking me into it. It was scary. We did what the locals did. When they hid in the side tunnel, I followed them. They knew how to avoid the train suction. It was also neat as the train would approach from miles away the temperature in the tunnel would drop – significantly.

You could tell a train was coming just by the temperature. As it approached it got colder and colder. By the time you could see and hear the train, it had dropped close to 15 degrees.

We made it back to our place, took some (poorly shot) video of the climb from the station to our apartment (we’ll upload that at some point when we have wifi in our room), grabbed some nutella focaccia bread and unloaded our gear in the room. We discussed our plans for the night – and then realized that today was the fifth and we need to take a picture with our piñata. IMG_0910

We decided to head out to Pie de Ma – a bar overlooking the sea (mare in Italian – ma in the local dialect) for a drink, some food, and pictures. As we approached it, several tour groups started heading up the stairs to the bar. Considering the only thing after that bar is the closed Via dell’Amore, I figured the huge tour group was going to stop at our bar. I was right. There were a good 50-80 people in that group and they filled up the bar quickly.

Lizzie managed to nab a seat, I went to the bar to try to order something as the bartenders desperately tried to fill the wine orders. One guy in front of me inquired about the gruppa – and I heard the bartender say “per ora” – oh, good, they were only going to be here for an hour.

I got an order in for some drinks after a LONG wait, and when I brought back our booty, Lizzie asked what food I ordered. Food? I didn’t even see a food menu yet. Fortunately, she had rustled up a menu and she went to order food for the both of us. We enjoyed some salami and proschiutto along with two varieties of cheese and I got the local wine sampler with a bowl full of olives and focaccia to go along with it. It was perfetto.


IMG_0917We got some of the local group to take photos of us with the cinque, and we both thought it very appropriate we find ourselves in Cinque Terre on the fifth of this month. (For those that don’t know, we’ve been taking pictures with our number 5 pinata since our wedding on Cinco de Mayo. Now we can celebrate Cinque de Aprile as well)IMG_0923IMG_0921

We walked back into town after our lovely meal, went and got some more gelato for me, took a few more pictures and headed up to the room to enjoy our balcony and finish up the blog for the night. The idea was to finish the blog using the free wifi in Pie de Ma, but unfortunately, we couldn’t get the wifi to work reliably enough. So we came back to the comfort of our apartment.IMG_0927

I, Lizzie, had picked up some pesto pasta from the restaurant we ate at on our first night. It was so delicious.  (real smiles back)

I _really_ enjoyed that pasta.

I would strongly recommend Cinque Terre to anyone that makes the trip to Italy. The towns are unique, and the hike is fantastic.

We’re going to make the train ride back to La Spezia in the morning, pick up our car, and then we’re off to Pisa and Florence. Until domani. 

After that hike and the climbing we did, I earned a new badge from Fitbit:IMG_1541

Yeah. What a day. I am glad Doug really enjoyed it. If you want to hike all the trails with Doug, let him know. He really does want to do it when they open the trails back up. That may not be for a few years so you can start saving now. Smile 

Lizzie Fitbit: 21,573
Doug Fitbit: 18,7230

Love and Hugs, Lizzie