Day 77 – Cinque Terre


    Today was one of those days that builds character. We woke up very early to catch the 3 hour long, 7 am train to La Spezia. Once there, we saw an information desk for Cinque Terre. The employee told us that all of the coastal paths were closed due to land slides. To make things worse, there was going to be a strike of the rail employees from 2-6 that day. So even though we could travel between the 5 towns by train, we would likely be stranded in one of them for 4 hours in the afternoon (during the train strike) unless we headed back before 2 pm (which would mean traveling 6 hours to spend under 3 hours at the park). We continued on to Riomaggiore  (the first of the 5 Cinque Terre towns) anyway, hoping to explore the cities and even to find a few walkable paths. We walked around the first small town and went up to el Castello, a very small and ancient castle. Not too exciting. We then took a regional train to Manarola (the second town) where we were able to walk a little bit on one of the ocean side paths before we encountered a large locked gate with surveillance and warning signs prohibiting entrance. We headed back towards the town to get a gelato (we had read that a particular gelataria in this town had the best gelato around) but most places were closed, including the gelataria. Instead we had a sardine panini (which in Italy only means sandwhich,  not necessarily a grilled “panini” as we know them) and some bruschetta before heading to the next town. In Corniglia (town three, if you were wondering) we tried to go to a small bar we had read about which serves high quality local olives and local wine for cheap, but it was closed as well. We visited a couple small churches and then headed down to the sea. We encountered another gated off trail and a sign that seemed to say that pedestrian access to the nearby pier was prohibited, so we headed back into town. We found a nice area with a panoramic view of the ocean and the nearby coast where we petted a nice cat. Since we were basically stranded at this point (in a town where almost everything was closed down) with no way to continue on to the next town except by one open trail, we decided to hike that trail to the next town (Vernazza, town four). This ended up being an intense 3.5 hour hike. We hiked for an hour up to San Bernardino. This was VERY steep uphill on a small path through the woods. The sun was setting by the time we began the (again, steep) hike down to Vernazza. There were many places where the trail was hardly large enough for our feet and a misstep would mean a 10 foot fall. Oh, did we mention there were cactuses everywhere? Jon got a bunch stuck to his pants during the hike. There were also many places where there was a fork in the path with no markings or the path ended at a road or opening where it was unclear where the path continued. This was obviously not helped by the low light levels. The last bit of the hike would have been beautiful by day but we were hiking through the vineyard terraces and along seaside paths with steep drops down to the ocean (oh, and did we mention we were now in the area where a large landslide had killed three people last year) at night. This night alone made carrying around a flashlight in our backpack the whole trip worth it. We survived, and made it into the town just in time to catch the first of two trains home. We were absolutely exhausted and it felt incredibly good just to sit down! Arriving in Firenze at around 10, we had a huge Italian dinner (our first meal in 10 hours) and then went to sleepy town immediately after.

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