0600 comes early when you have been up galavanting with the locals. We quickly packed our day bags and headed down to reception to pick up our box breakfasts that we smartly ordered the day before as the breakfast buffet doesn’t open until 0630. We needed to meet our excursion group at 0645 across the street at the rail terminal.
It was pouring rain today but it still didn’t dampen our moods. What was missing though was coffee to give us that extra kick before getting on the bus to Cinque Terre. We ran into the station and spotted a McDonalds and prayed the coffee was as good as back home. It was pretty good.
We found our seats with Jen and Yordie towards the back of the bus and Jo-Ann and I at the exit.
The Tuscan hills were beautiful for what we could see with the fog. The green rolling, terraced hills dotted with farm houses adorned with terra cotta clay tiles. Cypress pine standings greet you as you drive by. If you blur your eyes you see an artist’s pallete of red and yellow ochre, with deep green. If it wasn’t raining I am certain the background would have been an ultramarine blue sky. Today, however, rain is in the forecast.
We drove for two hours and winding upwards to La Spezzia which was large enough for our bus to park. That drive upwards was terrifying for those of us with fear of height issues. Jo-Ann, Yordie and I squeezed our eyes shut and whinnied with every turn the driver made on the wet roads. The bus driver was gearing up and down like a pro but for every lurch of the coach, my heart was skipping a beat. Since I am writing this entry, we did arrive safely. Villages clung to the side of the hills and perched precariously looking like they would slide into the Mediterranean at any moment.
Next it was a downhill jaunt to hop on a train for 1 stop to Monterosso, a beautiful village, with its narrow, cobblestone streets. Trinket and trash shops were alongside the art galleries, trattorias and bars. Churches were at the tops of hills, accompanied by a ruin of a fortress. All churches are free to enter. You can even take photos. Very touristy.
I always thought Cinque Terre was 1 location, 1 village/town. Duh…cinque is 5 in Italian and terre is village. The 5 villages of Cinque Terre are Monterosso, Manarola, Riomaggiore, Vermazza and Cornelia.
Take what we saw in Monterosso and do it 4 more times and you have Cinque Terre. We visited 3 out of 5 towns (Monterosso, Manarola, and Riomaggiore) and they looked pretty much the same but one that you should take in if you ever get the chance.
Taking the train between the villages was fairly simple and we had approximately 50 minutes to explore each one. We stopped for our included lunch of white wine of the region, a seafood appetizer, pasta with pesto and gelato with fruit cocktail for dessert. We are surprised at the amount of canned fruits over here.
One church Jen and I visited was quite lovely. While we were snapping photos two men came in carrying a casket. They heavily dropped the casket on a carpet in front of the altar and draped a large floral arrangement of white flowers on top of it. OMG even with the tourists, a funeral was going ahead. What a strange experience.
By the end of the excursion my legs and feet were aching as were some of the others. We did get a bonus of riding back to our original station by ferry and to see the villages of Cinque Terre from the water was spectacular and another recommend. Yordie said it reminded her of Newfoundland, Canada with the high craggy cliffs and inlets. I’m sure it would have been even more spectacular if it was sunny though it was trying really hard. It started to warm up and the balance of the trek home was promising.
When we came back to our hotel, we decided to find some place close as we all wanted to have an early evening. We did just that. After a quick pizza and our customary wine, we turned in.
The next day we were booked for another full day excursion to San Gimignano, Siena etc., but when Jo-Ann and I thought about it, the more we wanted to experience more of Florence. We had not had any time to see the art. You cannot come to Florence without visiting the sculpture of Michelango’s David. We shared our idea with the others and the idea of sleeping in and having a leisurely day was very attractive. Yordie really wanted to get inside the Duomo also. We had a plan, full bellies and no need to get up early.
Side note: There doesn’t seem to be much accommodation for those with disabilities. I have short legs. Bus stair steps are high. They don’t provide a step stool to get to the first step. Lots of marble stairs at hotels and tourist attractions that when wet are treacherous, no handrails.