Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Five Towns. Hmmm, It Sounds Nicer in Italian

Besides Venice, the other place that I simply had to see in Italy was Cinque Terre.  I had seen a picture of it some years ago and just knew I had to visit the candy-coloured coastal towns nestled on the top of five little hills.  Except the picture I had seen was actually the Amalfi Coast.  Whoops.

Regardless, I had heard amazing things about Cinque Terre and amazing it was.

The Engineer and I snickered at the passing German tourists, complete with their walking sticks and hiking boots, thinking that the ‘hikes’ between all the villages were nothing compared to the mountain hikes of British Columbia.  

Not that we actually hike those either.

Walking along the graffitied via dell’amore, we barely broke into a sweat (and that was only because of the hot Italian spring sun).  So we had no idea why these people came with their walking sticks.

Then we walked from Manarolo to Corniglia.  Okay, this was a bit more ‘up down’ action, but still didn’t warrant the walking stick.  Or hiking shoes for that matter.

We spent a lovely afternoon in Vernazza, my favorite of the five villages.  Watching the sun set over the water, drinking a glass of white wine, listening to the three nonna’s chatter away.  The town was utterly charming.

Time to head back.

When one decides to do something in Italy, one should not be of the Type A personality.  We assumed - and yes, assuming is wrong - that trains would be running between the five towns more than once an hour.  Nope.  Then we thought that the clever little enviro-buses strung the towns together.  Nope.  They were only for driving from the bottom to the top of each town.


Choice was to wait for an hour or simply start walking towards Manarolo.  Let’s walk. 

Not a clever choice.

The path between Vernazza and Corniglio is less like a leisurely stroll along the sea, and more like the Grouse Grind.  That is, UPHILL. 

All right, now we got the walking sticks. 

So here we are, walking as fast as possible to the next town, to beat the setting sun, and dripping with copious amounts of sweat.  I kept having to stop.  The Engineer told me if old German ladies could do this, then so could I.  I wanted to punch him.

By this time the path was deserted, and the sky was almost black.  So we were crawling our way through olive groves, guessing that we were on the right path and feeling out stairs.  Sometimes I fathom at our combined intelligence.

It took us a while longer than usual because someome had to keep stopping and taking pictures.

Eventually, the Engineer yelled at me to stop.

We did eventually make it to Corniglia.  One and a half hours later. And then watched as our train snaked its way along the coast far below us. 

So we had to wait another hour for a train anyways.  The path to Manorolo is not hard, but it was pitch black.  Definitely not a smart idea – those waves crashing on the rocks below are not a comforting thought.

We ate.  FAST.  And then raced down 365 stairs to the train station.  In the dark.  I was leaping down stairs, in the dark, in my flip-flops. SMRT.  

We made it!  And as we got on the train, I looked up at the path we had just flown down, congratulating myself on not dying.

The Engineer and I agreed not to make fun of the walking stick hikers.  We also agreed not to walk those paths again and stick to the train schedule. 

As we left Cinque Terre, I realized that the large national park was a host of hiking trails.  OH I GET IT, I thought, people are hiking in the mountains.  See?  This is what happens when you don’t have Rick Steves.  You miss out on what is surrounding you and learn the hard way that trains only run once an hour.

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