Cinque Terre, Italy

Stop number two on my month long trek is Cinque Terre. Three weeks ago I had no idea what or where this place is or was. I had wanted to start my spring break in Italy and slowly make my way through back west through Europe. A few friends from Swansea had told me they were spending the first week of spring break here and invited me to stay with them as long as I wanted. After a little research into this place and booking of the cheapest flight that was close (Milan), I planned on meeting up with them.

Cinque Terre is basically like a National Park. It consists of 5 beautiful villages perched on tiny cliff-bound inlets on the west coast of Italy. The main things to do are to hike around and to admire the amazing views of the sea and sunsets. I stayed with 5 others who were also studying abroad in Swansea (all from ISU, boo, one of who is Guatemalan-Diego) and also Diego’s cousin who came from Germany. They rented a holiday house in the village of Manarola, which was 5 rooms/stories, including the roof top terrace, which had amazing views of the sea.

On my train ride to Cinque Terre, I had made friends with some other Americans, who were really nice and helpful, except when they wrongly informed me to get off at the 2nd village, Vernazza. I didn’t realize I was off at the wrong stop until the train had left, so I had 30 minutes to kill. This worked out perfect because it gave me enough time to go down to the water and watch the sunset.

After arriving in Manarola, I luckily ran into two of the friends I was staying with (wasn’t sure if they were getting my calls and was getting worried) and we headed to the house. After a few Italian brews, we went on an adventure in the village. We had decided that lemons hanging over the fence of people’s little yards were not rightfully theirs and we could take them. We loaded up and were set for a while on lemons. We also made smores on our fire (we used marshmallows, crackers somewhat similar to graham, and nutella instead of actual chocolate).

The next day we started off by going on a hike along the cliffs/shoreline to the next village, and furthest south, Riomaggiore. This was the easiest of hikes possible in the Cinque Terre, for it was paved and was short. After spending some time exploring that village, we hiked back to Manarola and straight through to the village on the other side, Corniglia. This hike took about 45 minutes, but the worst part was the exact 382 steps needed to climb to reach the village at the end. I think this village probably sits the highest up of the 5 on the cliffs, and there was an awesome panoramic viewing area at the top of the village we hung out at and ate gelato (I lived on gelato and nutella while here).

After hiking back to Manarola, we all decided that we needed some IT (internet time), and the closest access point was in Riomaggiore, so we went back there for that, the sunset and dinner (local wine and amazing Calamari for me). That night we then used our lemon treasure to make vodka-lemonade. We all pitched in to squeeze the lemons and produce lemonade (I cut them and also made some wedges and twists with my bartending skills). Best vodka-lemonade I’ve ever had. We drank them that night by the fire and played some card games.

On Wednesday, we pumped ourselves up for a real hike. We planned to go to Corniglia, but not the shorter, straightforward hike, but instead one up to the top of the coastal mountains and then down to the village. The paths were much steeper and narrow, and it took us a little over two hours to do at a very fast pace, only stopping for the occasional photo opt. The views from the top were well worth the climb. After getting to Corniglia and more gelato, we took a quick train ride to the most northern village, Monterosso. This is where the beaches were located in Cinque Terre, so we hung out there for a while, I climbed some big rock thing sticking out of the water, and then we had a dinner on the boardwalk (delicious anchovy pizza for me).

I had planned to leave either Wednesday or Thursday when I first arrived in Cinque Terre. But as Thursday morning rolled around and I woke up to another beautiful day, there was no way I could leave yet. That is the great thing about no planning and just winging my backpacking journey; I’m not locked into to many things and can stay places as I please.

So we found out that there was a local train strike for 5 hours during the middle of the day Thursday, so we decided to hop on a train right before the strike at noon, and take it to the farthest north village, Monterosso. This is where the only real laying out type beaches were located in Cinque Terre, and that is what we did. The weather was in the high 60s and the sun was out in full, so we were able to get our bronze on. We also frolicked in the Mediterranean water for a little bit too, but it was still a little cold.

After a couple hours on the beach, and still three more until the strike was over, a few of us got restless and decided we would start hiking. We decided to go with a trail that was suppose to take about 3 hours to get to the next village, so we thought perfect, right in time to take a train home and get ready for another beautiful sunset. When asking how to get to the trail, we were advised not to do it, for it is hard and not very well marked. We went for it anyway though. The hike started off really cool, going up a mountain alongside a big creek, but then turned into a path that obviously wasn’t ever used and it was getting very difficult and somewhat dangerous. We were pretty sure we were going the right way and everything, but after about 45 minutes we ran into a dead end, a giant tree had fallen in our path. There was no way around it, we were on a 2-foot wide ledge of a cliff, and so we were forced to turn back. Even though we didn’t get to do what we wanted, the hike was still pretty fun and exciting.

That night, one more of our friends from Swansea came to Cinque Terre to stay the last couple nights there. We of course had to show him what we do at night in Cinque Terre. That had consisted of watching the sunset, borrow/stealing lemons and making lemonade, playing cards, and making smores by the fire. Just another great night in Italy.

I was able to do laundry that last night, and early Friday morning I was off towards Venice.

Sorry it may take me a while before I can get pictures on here or facebook, but I do have a ton of them!

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