Day 6: To the Ocean!

Today was not spent in museums, galleries, or fearingpigeons in city squares – but rather very much the opposite.

We woke up early to catch the train to Cinque Terre on thecoast. Cinque Terre is described as a rugged, coastal portion of the Italian Riviera and composed of 5 primary villages. Whenever I mentioned to people that I wascoming to Italy and here specifically, they resoundingly responded with a“you’ll love it”. I had mentally already committed at that point, but they wereright. This place is very much my speed – even in the off-season. I guesspeople understand my personality more than I expect them to.

The girl at our hotel in Florence made a note to us theother day that Spring is slow in arriving and you can get that feeling here inCinque Terre. The cities are ready for tourists but not quite fully open. WhileI’d love to experience the cities in their fully Spring / Summer glory, I haveno interest in experiencing the trail with more people.

Today on the trail, we had a consistent dozen people aroundus or so – within about 15 minutes hiking. I can’t even imagine what it wouldbe like in the high season. No thank you.

I’m writing this post as we both relax in our hotel room atHotel Pasquale. The view outside is incredible – like it’s the picture you puton a website. The moment we walked in Kerrianne announced we were sleeping withthe windows open … and honestly it’s hard to argue with her. I’m not sure howmany other times I’ve been this close to it…. AND WE ARE IN ITALY.

Just like yesterday, my cheeks have been kissed by the sunand I’m completely on board. Ten points for Italy.

Here’s how today went:
Train to Monterosso
I think I had a false sense of confidence from taking thetrain from Venice to Florence. It was just so easy and amazing. The train toMonterosso wasn’t hard but it did involve two transfers (one in Pisa, one in LaSpezia) and some sort of ticket validation that we couldn’t quite grasp at thetime. BUT, let me tell you …. The moment you leave La Spezia and you see theocean … and it’s so close to the train … it’s a wow moment.
Also, the train was set-up like with these littlecompartments of 6 seats – just like in I LOVE LUCY. Perhaps, you don’t know butI grew up on this show and it still makes me laugh on weekend mornings.Kerrianne might not have been as enthused as I was about this. Also, this is the view when you get off the train in Monterosso... seriously. Insane right?
Hiking the Trail
We didn’t plan much for how much trail we would hike – buthonestly I think I had anticipated much more than we did. But, to be fair… theyare rehabilitating much of it … so it isn’t as though we are lazy.

The guidebook indicated that the section between Monterossoand Vernazza was the hardest but I was cocky. I figured that I hit my “way toofancy gym” several times a week, so it’d be a breeze. 90 minute hike? I’ll takecare of that in 70, thanks. False. It was a true hike and reminded me a lot ofthe Inca Trail. Small little walkways, COUNTLESS steps, and most importantlyviews for days.

There are many picturesque and quaint parts about the trailbut my favorite is that you feel like you are walking in people’s backyards.But in actuality, their yards are lemon orchards and vineyards and waterfalls.There was this portion of the trail I originally wanted to hike in Manarolathat described it as being among lemon trees but instead we drank wine andwatched the ocean. I wasn’t the least bit disappointed because I had alreadydone that and in much more of a rustic way.

The Towns & OurHotel
I had done a fair amount of research on each of thedifferent towns within Cinque Terre – and it was frustrating. Why? Becauseeveryone has different needs and expectations. Thankfully, we love Monterosso.It’s so very much our speed and the location of the hotel is easy and amazing.I mean, remember the view?

I think ideally you get to each of the 5 towns when you arevisiting – and we tried but the people rehabilitating the trail had otherintentions. So we visited 60% of the towns and I’m going to consider that awin.
Monterosso: Verymuch a beach town. Ocean is the prime feature and more space to move around asopposed to the other towns
Vernazza:Allegedly the “cover girl” of the 5 towns, and it deserves that title sincephysically it is gorgeous… but it is so much more touristy in a way that Idon’t like. We ended up missing the train to Manarola and were “stuck” in Vernazza forabout 45 minutes longer than we wanted to be there. It just felt like you wereon a boardwalk in New Jersey or some other very touristy location.
We were starving after hiking… and I mean starving. So wesettled on the first place with a view and ordered a pizza. While the pizza wasincredible and a new combo for us (olive, caper, cheese), the wine portionswere paltry and moderately insulting. It was the first time that I really felttreated like a tourist in Italy. In Kerrianne’s words … “they’ll be getting aTrip Advisor review”.
Manarola: Ouroriginal plans were to hike the last section of the trail called Manarola – but afterarriving in Manarola by train, we learned it was closed. Womp womp. But, surprise forus we loved the vibe of this town. It was quiet and relaxed and so much moreour speed. We cruised the sites mentioned in our tour book and then sat anddrank wine for an hour. I can’t argue with that. There was not a single t-shirtshop in sight. Perfection.
One of the guidebooks had mentioned that if you scorned sardines in the States, you should give them another shot in Cinque Terre. I did not rise the to the challenge. Kerrianne did. I'll happily bear this burden. The end result was that she agreed they tasted better than previously remembered, which I guess is a wine for Rick Steve's and his Italian tour guide book.

Since pesto originally came from this region, we had a simple pesto dinner, some mussels in lemon, and a caprese salad ... but with anchovies. The pesto was great but very different than American pestos ... that tend to be more garlicy or with much more of a bite. I didn't give the anchovies a go... but I did try the mussels. I thought they were "fine" but felt like I had made better batches myself. Unwilling to spoil the moment for Kerrianne, I kept these thoughts to myself... until she said that I made better mussels. Victory is mine Monterosso. 

Tomorrow? Welooked at the train schedule today via the Rail Europe app and have settled ona 11ish departure. One it limits the connections from 2 to 1 and two, it givesus time to have a leisurely breakfast and walk the beach in Monterosso. Thenwe’ll be back in Florence for our last night together. Kerrianne lady flirtedour way to a great room at a reduced rate in our previous Florence hotel. Bothof us are excited for a view of the Arno during sunset …. And to take turns inthe Jacuzzi tub.


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