Monday, August 3, 2015

Cinque Terre!

Life is funny the way it surprises us. Last week we visited the Dolomites, an area that shockingly became my favorite spot in Italy. This week we toured the Cinque Terre (CHINK-weh TAY-reh), an area I expected to fall in love with. To put it mildly.... I did not, and neither did Billy.

The Cinque Terre is five small villages located in the Italian Riviera. The towns are built into rugged cliffs, and you'll find very little traffic. The best way to access them is by train or boat. Or, like we did, you can hike between them.

The weekend we visited was very overcast, which actually turned out to be a good thing. While we didn't capture beautiful sunny pictures, the clouds offered protection from the boiling heat, and that was a blessing because our 45-minute hike ended up being, um, four hours!!!!

Before we ventured out, I carefully had chosen an "easy" hike due to being nearly six months pregnant. However, unbeknownst to us, the easy coastal trail was closed due to flooding. We followed the signs and the crowds and got onto another trail, which we thought was the easy one, but ended up being an advanced hiking trail!

Not that I've done a lot of hiking, but this one was, by far, the hardest trail I've ever attempted. It took us from the town of Manarola, up over a mountain to a little village called Volastra, and back down to Corniglia. The trails were extremely narrow, no guard rails (one wrong step and you're falling over a mountain), and very, very steep.

We stopped and rested every 20 feet or so in some spots. Going down was even scarier. You could feel rocks move and your footing slip every step. I seriously was praying the whole time for God to let us both safely get down.

Now, the good part to all of this, is that our hike offered some impressive views, after all, we were literally on top of a mountain cliff.  It's also interesting how the people who live in these villages have somehow surmounted the odds and carved out lives for themselves here. They've turned these wild mountain sides into ravines, producing a lot of wine.

Eventually, we made it down the mountainside unscathed and decided to take a train to the next village, called Vernazza. (No more hiking for us!) Vernazza is the area's crown jewel. She's the only city with a natural harbor, but again, we were pretty disappointed. While the trails were peaceful and quite, Vernazza was extremely hot, overcrowded, and overpriced. The "colorful" villages are pretty....from a distance. Up close, they're very rundown and dirty.

We ended up leaving the Cinque Terre by six p.m., exhausted and disappointed. The best part of our trip was where we stayed. The Cinque Terre was completely booked (August is the busy season), so we found an old farmhouse converted into a bed-and-breakfast in a city named La Spezia, just south of the Cinque Terre. Here's a link to Locanda del Papa.

While it was rustic and offered no frills, it was peaceful and off the beaten path. The place is run by a Fidel Castro-loving communist who actually was extremely nice and hospitable. The views are gorgeous, and he has two very friendly cats. There was also a restaurant nearby that offered, um interesting, food choices, like pizza with french fries. Guess who ordered that? LOL. I got the pizza with pesto, since that's one of the foods this area is famous for.

 I'm glad we ended up seeing the Cinque Terre, at least I know what the area looks like now, and we can cross it off of our list. We also have a new "dirty" word. The next time something goes wrong, and we want to yell a curse word, it's now going to be, yes, "Cinque Terre!" Try it; you'll like the way it feels too. :)

Ciao until next time! 

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