Friday immediately after class I went to the train station and left for Cinque Terre. I sat in yet another hot train, but by now I am used to it. I was in one of those God awful end seats at the end of the aisle. I dealt with it. I read during the whole train ride (which was nice. Because I have not traveled alone until this weekend and was taking 2 classes instead of 1, there wasn't much opportunity to read for pleasure). I arrived in La Spezia station around 4pm. I bought my ticket to Riamaggiore (where I stayed this weekend and the first Cinque Terre village), which is about a 15 minute ride from La Spezia. Here is where I unofficially met my new Moroccan friends, Mehdi and Fatine. Mehdi and Fatine did not realize they had to validate their tickets and unfortunately had to pay a mini fine. We got to talking and they asked me where I was from, etc. We parted ways after the train ride. I got off the train and there was a pedestrian tunnel to take to get the Riomaggiore's center. Right before entering the tunnel, there were some cool murals on the wall.
[I have to say, I relied a little bit too much on Rick Steves (shout out to Tiffany and Nico, I will get to introductions later, don't worry) for Cinque Terre. I trusted his judgment that it would not be too crowded. It was definitely super crowded. Most of the locals I spoke to told me the best time to go to Cinque Terre is a weekday in the fall (none of which were the days I spent there).]
I checked into my hotel, set my stuff down and then I decided to check everything out and get my bearings. I went ahead and purchased my Cinque Terre Card (this card allows you entry to the "hikes" between the towns) since I planned to do that Saturday. I walked around Riomaggiore for awhile and had an Birra Moretti at Bar Centrale. After that, I took a train to eat dinner in one of the other towns. Here is where I would like to mention that Cinque Terre's trains are an adventure in themselves. They basically go to each of the 5 towns, but for whatever reason they are not reliable. I did eventually make it to Vernazza for dinner. I had Linguine with Crab at Trattoria del Capitano on the water. It was good. The only downfall was I had to crack my own crab which just happened to be slathered with red sauce whilst wearing a white dress. That was a challenge my friends. I had a beer at the Blue Marlin Bar. There was a sign there that said "Cash Only" with a photo of Johnny Cash. I found this to be quite amusing.
I took the train back to Riomaggiore and that is where I ran into Mehdi and Fatine again. We spent a couple hours chatting and enjoying the outdoors. While we were talking a parade for San Giovanni (John the Baptist) came through the streets. That was interesting. Mehdi and Fatine were very nice! Unfortunately, I did not run into them again during my trip, but I trust they had a great time!
I went to bed with the hopes of getting up early. I woke up around 8:30 (not as early as I'd hoped for). I had breakfast at my hotel and then I was off to the trails! I started with Via Dell' Amore to Manarola. This is a famous path in Cinque Terre connecting Riomaggiore and Manarola. It was once a lover's lane for those who dated outside of their village after WWII. There are a ton of locks placed by lovers and a lot of graffiti professing love for one another. There were also a lot of people making out (more so when I took the path back in the evening). Unfortunately, I was not locking locks or lips with anyone, but it was still enjoyable and very beautiful. I did not walk around Manarola until later in the afternoon.
The path between Manarola and Corniglia was closed due to landslides, so after taking the path from Riomaggiore to Manarola, I took the train to Corniglia. After getting off the train at Corniglia, it is about a 400 step climb to the top. Despite the trail being closed, I would consider this to be my effort for the Manarola-Corniglia trail! I walked around Corniglia for about 30-40 minutes. It was very cute and quaint. Loved it! I did some shopping and scoped out the panoramic views. Side note--someone who has an accessory addiction such as myself, can get into a lot of trouble in Cinque Terre! From Corniglia I hiked the path leading to Vernazza. This hike was tough due to the crowds and the heat. Despite the fact that I was getting run over by German giants who had giant hiking boots and walking sticks, I enjoyed the hike. It was definitely exhausting. I walked around Vernazza again and enjoyed the daytime hustle and bustle (crazy term for Cinque Terre, but true for this weekend).
After that, I decided not to do the path from Vernazza to Monterosso because I kept hearing how dangerous it was (not to mentions the giants and the crowds). While waiting for the train, I met Tiffany (works in London for the NBA, originally from AZ) and Nico (works in London for the NBA, originally from France). We asked the same questions, where are you from, etc. We parted ways after getting off the train (don't worry, I bump into them again, just like Mehdi and Fatine).
I walked around in Monterosso and found a pub to eat lunch in. Gotta say, not a great lunch. Then again, I ordered salad. Nothing special about that. After having lunch I walked back to the main beach to rent an umbrella and beach chair. All full! I walked down a little further and found one in "New Town" (Bagni Fegina). I rented a chair and an umbrella. I enjoyed the water (this time in my Vibrams avoiding any rocks or hot pebbles like in Positano). I stayed in Monterosso for 3-4 hours. It was my least favorite village. Very touristy, very crowded. I only had one village left to see-Manarola.
I took the train from Monterosso to Manarola and walked the town. At this point in the day I have to say I was pretty beat. Nevertheless, I walked uphill (all of the villages were hilly) to the top of the village and went on a path into a vineyard that ended at a cemetery, then descended back into the center of the town. There were lots of lizards on this walk, so it was more like a run the entire way.
I made my way back to Riomaggiore by taking Via dell' Amore. The winding down of the day looked gorgeous on the water and the rocky coast. I went back to my hotel to freshen up and then began a quest to find some delish food (which I had yet to have in Cinque Terre). I walked down to the harbor and up the stairs to a bar with a view and low and behold there was Tiffany and Nico! They asked me to join them. We had drinks and watched the sunset. Chatted up for the rest of the night until the bar closed. It was a great time! Afterwards, we found a Pizzeria open (everything closes by 11 in these parts, other than a few places here and there) and had dinner. Focaccia and pesto is what Cinque Terre is known for. However, I only tried Focaccia and it was actually pizza . Pretty tasty! We had gelato after that (of course) and then called it a night.
This morning I slept in a little and had breakfast at the hotel again. I did some shopping in Riomaggiore and Vernazza. On my way back to Riomaggiore before departing for La Spezia I was sitting across from a young woman. I kept staring at her. I am sure she noticed because she finally said, "Do you go to Harvard?" (shout out to Claire, Kelly, Kim, Mayson and Rachel...I was sporting my Haaahhvard tee I bought in Boston from a street vendor)
I laughed and answered her. "No. I don't--just a souvenir I got in Boston." (she was the 2nd person to ask today) I got ballsy and finally asked her, (since I had been staring for 5 minutes) "Did you play one of Ted Mosby's girlfriends?" (yes, all of you HIMYM fans! She played Victoria, the girlfriend who moved to Germany ) She replied "uh, yes. you are like the 3rd person to ask me that on this trip!" All I could think to myself was, "What? Of course! Who wouldn't have asked you!?" I asked her for her autograph and she signed my train pass "Jenna, I didn't go to Harvard either. Ashley Williams" It was so freaking cool and super down to earth! She was chatting it up with me and I've never even met anyone famous other than Clinton Kelly! She was actually on her honeymoon and her fiancee was so freaking nice. It was like the most amazing way to end a most amazing weekend! I am a little embarrassed because I have actually seen her on a few ABC Family Christmas movies and of course Law & Order: SVU, but the only thing I could think of was HIMYM! When I got back to Rome I IMDB'd her and saw she was in Something Borrowed, so I feel like an idiot for not asking that. But, in my defense I have not seen that. I definitely want to see it now!
All in all it was an AMAZING weekend! Again, the pictures never do it justice! Ciao for now!
P.S. look for more on Roma this week. A lot left to see in my last week here! Then it's off to Paris and The Netherlands!