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Cinque Terre

On to Italy

sunny 95 °F
View 2017 Summer on randjb's travel map.

The drawback to staying in a non-tourist town, in this case Nimes, is that getting a train to our next destination was not so straight forward. Each time we've traveled between the Airbnbs we've stayed in seems to exhaust the entire day, even when the traveling is only a few hour such as Granada to Barcelona, but in the case of going from Nimes to Riomaggiore, our home in Cinque Terre, the travel truly was all day: the train left at 9:50 a.m. and after numerous transfers arrived at 10:05 p.m.
Of course, had that been how it worked out, we would have been pleased. Instead, as we neared Genoa, our last transfer, I got anxious since we had only 20 minutes to make the transfer and we had to carry the luggage downstairs, under the platforms, and up to wherever the train to Riomaggiore was leaving from. As a consequence, when we pulled into Genoa, I rushed us off the train... without looking at the station name. Yes, we were one station too early.
Luckily, Debbie and Chesirae remained resourceful, and they soon found an alternative train, one that had the possibility of getting us in only 15 minutes late. We got on the alternative train and hoped we would arrive in La Spezia in time to transfer to the fast train to Riomaggiore. Despite a four minute delay at one of the stops, we pulled in with a couple of minutes before the Riomaggiore train left.
I grabbed two suitcases and took off down the stairs, saw the platform number of the other train, and raced up the other set of stairs. My watch said the train was just about to leave, but in fact, it had left. Early! In Italy!
In the end, we took a long and expensive taxi to Riomaggiore and had to walk down the main street with our luggage. We have become used to carting around all the luggage needed for three months, but when you look at the pictures of Cinque Terre, you will get an idea of what going downhill means there. Despite it all, we avoided runaway suitcases and arrived 50 minutes late. Thankfully our hostess, Cecilia, was waiting and helped us the rest of the way. Thank you, Cecilia!
If you haven't been to Cinque Terre, think Escher stairs: they are everywhere, going in every direction, and just to keep them interesting, these stairs meet no building code I know of. Very high, very narrow, very steep, no handrails, twisting and turning, and also very worn so not level. The leg muscles of the locals are impressive (and that is not a joke.) My Fitbit registered two days of 51 flights of stairs each day, and Fitbit does not count going down.
A perfect example of how steep the hills are was the apartment we stayed in directly above the lowest part of Riomaggiore where the boat launch is. Despite looking straight down four floors from our windows onto the plaza below, the door on the other side of the apartment was even with the hill, and we had to climb further up to get out of the apartment. So the hill our apartment was built into rose over 40 feet in just the width of the apartment.
I am amazed anyone thought they could build a town on these cliffs - again, check out the pictures. But these building have been here for something like eight centuries! And the buildings aren't the only structures in precarious places. Riomaggiore's ferry dock is at the base of 30 feet of boulders that tumbled down the cliff over the centuries. Where the rocks meet the water, someone brought in a 10 foot wide slab of cement, anchored it to the boulders, and called it a dock. That a boat could pull to withing 10 feet of the rocks and not worry about hitting its bottom tells you how steeply the cliff descend. Naturally, the way to get to the dock is a set of stairs carved into the rocks. This arrangement is so tenuous that the ferry doesn't come into Riomaggiore unless the water is calm enough. During our five days, the ferry never made it and my guess is that it rarely does.
I have not mentioned the other four towns in Cinque Terra, but they are equally amazing with their own unique approach to living on the edge of a cliff. Debbie climbed up and down between Vernazza and Corniglia, a feat I did not appreciate until the next day when we took a bus to the top of the trail between Manarola and Corniglia and "only" hiked down to Corniglia. If I had had to climb up, I would still be laying on the side of the cliffs.
Luckily, the towns are connected by a train (the one we missed), which runs level but only because more than half the track is in tunnels they cut through the mountain sides. In the case of Riomaggiore, the tunnel goes through the town; you walk under it to get to the seaside and walk over it to get to our apartment four floors up.
We had a wonderful time at our first stop in Italy, and of course, great food! I don't think Italians know how to cook poorly. The only downside was the heat that once again traveled with us. Each day was in the 90's. We've already decided we won't be coming to southern Europe in the summer again - but then, with Chesirae in college, we can arrange that. Meanwhile, Cinque Terre was every bit as wonderful as we had been told.

Posted by randjb 10:59 Archived in Italy Tagged trains italy terre cinque

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