Thursday April 20th
A semi spontaneous trip to Cinque Terre as my first solo trip! I’m becoming very aware of my free days dwindling… so I have to take advantage of every day off. Other people in the apartment were dragging a little bit so I took matters into my own hands!
My train was at 7am from SMN to Pisa and then the La Spezia – this is where most trains stop before hitting the Cinque Terre towns: Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, and Monterosso.
I wanted to go to Riomaggiore first because from the little research I did, it is easiest to hike the towns from south to north. Little did I know that there was a land slide several years ago and the coastal hiking train between islands 1-3 was closed! Since I wouldn’t be hiking as much as I thought, I bought the Cinque terre card which gives you unlimited use of the trains between the towns and unlimited hiking.
It was pretty cold at 9 in the morning and I walked down to the water of Riomaggiore and the wind made it even colder! After taking pictures and gathering myself some more in a quiet Riomaggiore, I hopped on the train and went to town 5: Monterosso.
Monterosso was much much busier and it had an amazing beach! Unfortunately, there was some sort of cold front in all of Europe (Maya said it was snowing in Vienna!) and it was only going to get up to 60 degrees today. So, there would be no beach activities for me. I really wanted to do some paddle boarding but it was too cold and none of the rental shops were open because it wasn’t tourist season yet.
I walked around the town a little bit before making my way to the hiking trail. The coastal trail between Monterosso and Vernazza was supposedly the hardest and I now know why! The first hour or so was straight up steep stairs. I had to keep stopping to take unnecessary pictures as an excuse to take a break from the stairs. But, I was finally warming up and had to shed all my layers down to my tank top. I didn’t want to waste my phone battery so I had it off and in my backpack for most of the day which was actually really nice. Every once in a while it’s relaxing to unplug and be by yourself. Once I found a sunny spot with a view, I stopped and ate my PBJ that I packed and it really hit the spot since my feet were starting to drag. At around 1:30 I could finally see Vernazza! This is the town that most people would recognize from postcards but none of my pics are great because the sun was straight above me.
One the only and major downside of solo tripping it is you have to rely on strangers to take photos of you. I’ve never been one for selfies, so I did a lot of asking (in French, because everyone visiting the Cinque Terre area was French for some reason??) and in return I got a lot of terrible photos hahah.
I sat in Vernazza awhile in the sun because I was exhausted and I had an apple saved in my bag. I was in good company sitting in the sun as there were many benches and rocks for relaxing. Instead of hiking to Corniglia…I opted for the train.
I’m SO glad I took the train to Corniglia because I was unaware of the thousands of steps up to the town from the train station (33 flights of stairs to be exact) so that made up for my initially lazy idea of taking the train. I walked through the small colorful streets here and pet a bunch of dogs before hurrying down all the stairs to catch the train to Monarola. While waiting for the train (it was late) there was a man singing opera while painting a mural and he was awesome! It really made my day.
Manarola was my favorite town but that might just be because I spent the most amount of time there. It was my last stop so I wasn’t rushing and worrying. It was also really easy to get to from the train station and there was minimal walking to get to a beautiful view of the city. I sat on a bench here for close to an hour because there was a friendly Croatian man selling paintings next to me and he was playing nice music. Very relaxing! Somehow I was getting hungry again so I went into town to get an early dinner for one. I was flattered that the waiter gave me a menu in Italian and I got through dinner without speaking any English! It was a little over priced because it was a place right in the middle of town, but the food was delicious and pretty too. The wine wasn’t great but that’s ok – I don’t like how I can distinguish between good and bad wines now….because now I’ll have to buy expensive wine. After dinner I bought a post card and went back to the same spot as before because the sun was starting to set more and the view was different. Then, I fell asleep on a rock right on the water while listening to the waves hit. Thankfully I set an alarm so I knew when to go home!
On the way out, I caught a soccer ball that was rolling down the stairs and brought it up to a group of young boys playing soccer here.
I was sad that my train was scheduled right as the sun set, because it would have been really beautiful if I could watch it set from my rock in Manarola. But, I got a nice nap on the train home and helped some spring break travelers navigate the trains to Florence since they were on the same route as I was.`
I got back to the apartment and my legs were very tired as I climbed the stairs up to the fourth floor. I was proud of myself for how my mini-trip played out and also surprised that my hiking went so well – I guess all the stairs up to the apartment and Strozzi were paying off!