After 4 delightful days (the longest we have stayed in any place yet) we are moving on to Monterosso in the Cinque Terre region. Three trains to get there. My understanding is they are all ‘normal’ trains – no high speed and no first class, just more deadlifts of luggage to the overhead racks.
Getting back to Arezzo was a hoot – fortunately GPS saved us again. I have a bad habit of taking wrong turns – but the GPS lady, always polite, got us back on track. Amazing ….. when we dropped the car off and asked the gentleman behind the desk what was causing the ‘boing’ and ‘dinging’ noises he said it was just the GPS warning us about the speed traps. Way to go fellow, you could have warned us before we left! Oh well – guess we’ll see how right he is if they let us leave the country.
In case you were wondering, we hit a dark spot in our journey. Our hotel in Monterosso turned out to not be a hotel, The air conditioner turned out to be a fan & open window and the wifi was extremely spotty. Needless to say we moved the next day. In defense of the first location it was a very nice room with a large terrace. The manager explained they had planned to installed air conditioners, but were stopped by historical designation zoning bylaws. They had removed “air conditioning” as a feature from their website but missed notifying us because we had booked in January. They will be giving us a refund.
Day 1, 2 & 3 (mushed together):
We did the tourist thing – check out the shops, check out the historic sites, then eat and drink – repeat.
There are some interesting locations to visit. The first being the Church of Cappuccino (yes really) and the attached graveyard – which are the highest points of the town. The next location is the ferry dock (reminds me of that old song ‘Sitting on the Dock of the Bay’) and the final is the start of the town-to-town historical trails.
Everything else in between is touristy and gravy.
The hike to the church and graveyard is sweat inducing ….. but worth it for the views. It’s amazing how they built these religious structures on the highest points – the effort to move all the granite and marble showed true faith and dedication. The church and graveyard are still in use to this day. People come and visit their deceased relatives daily!
The ferry dock is an anchor for the town as it provides one of the easiest accesses to 4 of the 5 towns of the Cinque Terre.
It handles alot of the tourists going from town to town and provides a fabulous view unlike the train which travels most of the region through tunnels. Also, on a clear day, you can see at least two of the other towns from the dock. In the evening the lights are quite visible.
Finally, the trails are grueling, pretty steep leaving from each town going up into the rugged hills. At many points the trail narrows to less than 2 feet wide and this usually happens on an up or down slope!
After an hour it feels as if every direction you have to go is up. But the scenery is spectacular and well worth it if you are an outdoors person.
We were advised to take the ferry to Vernazza and attack the trail back to Monterosso as it wasn’t as steep. They lied! Every way to the trail is up and it started to rain. We decided to go anyway.
Even though it was more treacherous it was also cooler. We could get wet from sweat or rain. We choose rain. Ironically we ended up sweating in the rain. Apparently the wardens closed down the trail shortly after we started. Because of the rain we didn’t get as many pictures as we hoped but what we got we really wanted.
It’s amazing the outfits people wear on the trail. Only half were dressed appropriately. Some actually looked as if the were going to dinner and a lot had open umbrellas trying to duck under the lush trees and vines!
When we reached the slope going to Monterosso we carefully made our way down the uneven rock “stairs”, passing a vineyard. Suddenly we were greeted by an old italian fruit farmer, sitting in a small shelter off the path, selling Lemoncello! It was a hoot talking to him – Gerda now has a small Lemoncello glass momento from our encounter. The drink was also quite good. In fact too good as the last 500 m the foot path seemed to shift and move around!
The dinners we had over the three day stay were unusual for us prairie landlovers. Spaghetti or linguini with seafood (usually combinations of clams, mussels, shrimp or scampi – shells and all) but very tasty. Not losing any weight on this diet – again the guilty pleasures of pursuing dreams.
In summary Monterosso is great with its sights and beaches. Vernazza is interesting – we didn’t stay long enough to visit many sites other than the harbor castle lookout pearched high above the town.
Unfortunately there are no beaches here, so it’s more of a tourist trap.
But the same can be said for Monterosso, as a majority of the beaches are covered with umbrellas and lounge chairs. I estimate there are seats for 1500 people. You rent the chair and can buy drinks or food. The only place on the beach that has fine sand is where the chairs are, the rest of the beach is very rocky and hard on bare feet.
As I said it’s a tourist trap and we were willingly caught like so many before us and so many who will follow. Such are the illusions of dreaming for a paradise ……
Footnote to the night:
The last thing we did before turning in for the night was take a stroll along the dock. We both commented it seemed odd the locals had removed all the boats from the water. It was a calm, quite, slightly overcast evening – nothing unusual for us. Well, about midnight the lightning and thunder show started. Bright flash, followed almost immediately by a crash of thunder. Then the wind and rain lashed out at anything not nailed down. This lasted for several hours with periods where it would almost stop, but then start again. At one point, just when we were drifting off, someone started throwing rocks – well it sound like rocks, but was really hail. Needless to say we didn’t get a full sleep.
Surprisingly there was little damage showing in the morning, although there was lots of debris. The harbour, which had been clear blue Sunday afternoon, was now muddy and opaque.
Our time is up here and we move to the next dream location on monday (hint it’s a nice place near Monaco)