(See Gallery Photos of Cinque Terre from my trip.)
Where did I leave off… Oh right… How could I forget…
Hostel – Da Luciano
When we arrived at our hostel it was closed. The office had closed at 8pm but we had let them know in advance that we would be late. The email we got back had just said that after 11pm there is a 50 euro fee – we had rushed for this reason.
The only way to get ahold of them was to call, so, after a few failed attempts at calling a european number for the first time, we got ahold of the man. He had asked where we were, “in front of the building”, and told us to wait there. 10 minutes passed, 20, 30, 45… Still no sign of him. Where did this guy live? Calgary? So we called again. This is how the conversation went:
“Where are you?”
“Still in front of the building… where you told us to wait”.
“It is late”
“Yes, we had emailed you giving our arrival time, which was 45 minutes ago”
“It is late”
“yes we know. How much longer do you think you will be?”
“it is late”
“Yes, well we called 45 minutes ago and have been waiting, so it is getting later”
“50 euros extra”
“no, our email says 50 euros for after 11:00pm check in”
“ok. well… how long do you think you will be to let us in”
Had he even left at all the first time? Or was it some kind of punishment.
25 minutes later he showed up. He let us into reception and asked for the 50 euros. Jess pulled up the email that clearly stated “After 11pm is 50 euros” as the response to our email stating we would be in by 1030 (the soonest we could get there after our wine tour and the travel time). He still demanded the 50 euros! “Sir, this email states that 50 euros is for after 11pm. We got here and called you by 10:30”. He still wanted it. Jess got her business face on, which is super impressive by the way, and convinced him he was wrong.
Finally he started to lead us to our room. We were disappointed to see we were not in the building where reception was, especially because that was the only place to access wifi, but were happy to be getting a room since we had now been here for an hour and a half.
Up one flight of stairs. “phew”.
Up a second flight of stairs, these needing a 90 degree angle knee hike. “ouch”
Up a third set of stairs. “holy crap my thighs are burning. Thank god I see a road”
Down the road to a gate. “excellent. my back is soaked but we are here”
Up another flight of stairs. “geese. are we getting close? Im heavily breathing”
Up 2 steep ramps. “ok… this is getting ridiculous… is our room in Calgary where this guy seemed to come from?”
Up another flight of stairs, a turn, and another flight of stairs. “Where the F*ck is this guy taking us! I can’t even breath!”
Up to a door. “Thank god. My legs are on fire and I have probably soaked through both my shirt and the 40lb bag on my back.”
But wait, inside? ANOTHER FRIGGEN FLIGHT OF STAIRS. That is right folks. 457 stairs in total. Not including the ramps, the road, and the walking BETWEEN the flights of stairs.
Finally we made it to our room. We dropped our bags and hopped in the shower.
We then found out that not only is wifi at the bottom of all of those stairs… it was also only available during office hours… great. Well… I guess that means bedtime.
The next morning we wandered down all of those stairs (much easier heading down and without bags, but still a good core work out), and dabbled in the wifi for a bit. There were about 6 other travellers huddled around the reception entrance on their phones so we were not the only ones feeling silly sitting on a stoop for Facebook.
We went on a quest for breakfast and came upon a decent looking place that had omelettes. They were a little bit expensive but neither of us were in the mood for another croissant. When the omelettes came they were pretty much all oil with a little bit of egg and one mushroom thrown in for good measure. Nevertheless we made it through, paid for our overpriced oil and decided to check out the pier.
It was very gloomy and a storm was clearly coming in. Huge waves broke over the barrier wall and the scenery looked glum. I snapped a few photos of the stormy seas and we decided to head to the next town, Manarola, where most of the famous ‘colourful building’ photos are taken.
There is a very convenient train line that goes between the cinque terre’s (5 towns) as well as to other locations in the area. We had heard that the 2 day pass was very worthwhile if you were going to visit all of the towns (you can also do them in one if you do quick visits) but after adding up the price we decided that, if we walked around the towns instead of bussing it, it was cheaper to pay as we go.
We hopped a ride and landed in Manarola 3 minutes later. It was a cute little town with a steep shopping street like Riomaggiore so we peered in windows as we headed down to the water. The colourful houses were adorable but, with the grey skies as a backdrop, the vibrancy was lacking. I wandered around the pier taking photos from every angle and trying my best to draw out the beauty from behind the grey – I hope I succeeded for you all.
Even with the weather as it was, it is easy to see why this is considered one of the most beautiful places in Europe.
We could see the next town, Corniglia, down the shoreline and decided to move on.
My pass was still valid (they last 75 minutes) so the decision to go ticket-to-ticket seemed to be the right choice. 3 minutes later we stopped in Corniglia.
We got off the train and followed the crowd up a hill. After a few minutes they all boarded a bus for the remainder of the journey to the town. We, however, were penny pinching and decided to do the trek on foot. We came to the bottom of what looked like 1000 switchbacks of stairs. Here we go again.
We counted as we walked them to keep our minds off of the fiery but welcome burn in our lower extremities. With all the pizza and pasta we had been eating we didn’t mind the workout. 473 stairs later (a number we were now used to doing) we reached the top.
This town was adorable as well. It was a little more than a steep main street and had a variety of corridors and restaurants and viewpoints. We wandered around the town for a good while before deciding on a small casual pizza shop to give us the energy to get home. It was some of the best pizza we had had and the man working there looked like he was in it because he loved it and was running it all by himself – he was adorable.
We had gotten a bit of a late start because of our late night so we decided to leave the next 2 towns until tomorrow. We grabbed some ice-cream before we left and headed back to Riomaggiore.
Rain, Rain, Don’t go away… this is fun!
It was now raining… no… pouring… and we were caught in it. We got off the train and started to speed walk towards our place, but, with the steep hill and the mountain climb to our place we were fighting a losing battle. We decided to embrace it. We were completely soaked and most people were standing under eaves because the rain had turned torrential. We, however, being the troopers that we are, powered through and more or less showered on the way up the hill.
We were absolutely soaked when we made it to our room, 457 stairs and a steep hill later. Not a thread or hair was dry. You would think we went swimming in the sea, AND IT FELT SO GOOD! I Even went back outside to enjoy the overwhelming sense of freedom that it gave me before coming in to dry off, clean up, and curl up in bed with a few episodes of “millionaire matchmaker” – still thanking Joel for introducing me to that masterpiece.
Ok rain, now go away.
We woke up the next morning to more rain. Neither of us felt like getting wet again so I threw on my super sexy poncho and Jess purchased one in town. We got a much better breakfast of yogurt, berries, and granola and enjoyed a tea and a coffee – some fuel for what we were about to endure.
I got another ‘pay as you go’ ticket and we took the 15 minute ride to Vernazza. Getting around here was so easy!
We hopped off the train and wandered through the town. There was a nice pier and I got some more shots of the buildings. It was a great little town that offered a little more than Riomaggiore and Manarola and I could have spent a few hours there. However, we decided to not wander long knowing what was ahead: There is a path that you can usually walk between each town but all of the sections were closed except the one between Vernezza and Monterosso. We had heard it was difficult but beautiful and decided to give it a shot – our Santorini hike had prepared us for anything.
Vernazza to Monterosso – Hike
The hike from Vernazza was beautiful. We were told that the views took your breath away. I don’t know if it was because it was raining or because I was so focused on my feet not slipping on the millions of stairs we were doing, but I found the hike itself the most beautiful. The small waterfalls and caves we were passing were much more beautiful than looking out into the distance.
We walked over a rock bridge that spanned a waterfall and creek, took a picture in a little watery cave, clambered our way up many many many steps, hugged the wall to let others pass on narrow passages, had some accidental slip-and-slides in the mud, and rested against some rocks overlooking the ocean. I have to say that, even though my shoes were too small and I was sweating more than it was raining, it was probably my number one recommendation for all of Cinque Terre, maybe even the trip so far. It was just lovely. I can’t imagine what it would have been like in the sun! (though probably way more hot and sweaty, so I didn’t mind the damp).
When we got to Monterosso we stumbled up onto the road. We had made it. There was a sign that said something about tickets for the hike. We had no tickets, but nobody had checked either so I guess do your own research for that.
We headed over to the town. It was much more spacious and wide open than the other towns we had visited. It was fresh and brighter (maybe because the sun was finally peeking through), and had some great looking restaurants and shops. We wandered up and down the streets and found a beautiful little shop with figurines. They were made from marble and stone from Tuscany and surrounding areas and they had an elephant! So… of course I bought it for my collection. The man gave me a great deal because I got a few other little nick backs and he also gave us cookies. He was the sweetest old man we had met thus far and had some wonderful merchandise. His son was a famous photographer in Cinque Terre and had an absolutely stunning coffee table book. I was very close to buying it but decided maybe I would make my own instead.
We thanked the man for the the cookies and went to find something real to eat. We sat down at a place in the square with wifi and shared 2 pasta dishes (a tradition we were becoming very fond of, and one I would miss when Jess was gone).
Now that the sun was finally out we headed to the beach. The public one was pretty much a hallway of rocks between the private beaches but we wouldn’t be there long – the sun would be down soon anyway. I hadn’t brought a bathing suit because we were hiking and it was raining, so I just lay in my bra and underwear. What does it matter? I would never see these people again. It was finally warm.
When the sun went behind the hill Jess and I went to find the train. We followed a group of people through a tunnel and, low and behold, there was a whole other side to this town! We had found the ACTUAL Monterosso. It had large beaches with lots of people and great shops and snack bars and more sun! We ventured down the the beach again where we wrestled with the clouds taking our sun away before heading back to Monterosso.
The day had been a long one and we felt pretty accomplished from our hike. We stopped at a grocery store for some snacks (smoked salmon, cheese, and crackers) and breakfast food before we climbed the many many stairs back to our room. We decided to settle in for the night and watch 3 episodes of Millionaire Matchmaker. It was a perfect day.
Off to Venice tomorrow!
- “via dell’Amore” – Way of Love tourist path from Riomaggiore to Monterosso (Closed due to flooding… But we did one section)
- Look around Riomaggiore
- Look around Manarola
- Look around Corniglia
- Look around Vernazza
- Look around Monterosso
I DID IT!