This was a very different trip for me. Instead of going to a big city, I settled on the Cinque Terre, a collection of five villages on the Italian Riviera connected by a coastal hiking trail. Monterosso was where I decided to base myself, and it ended up being my favorite of all the villages, and one of my favorite places in Europe so far. I decided to do separate entries for all five towns.
Getting here and leaving were the only stressful parts of the trip…more on leaving later. I flew in late to Pisa, which is a very convenient airport for seeing this side of Italy. My flight was delayed due to weather, and I ended up getting to Pisa after one in the morning, and settled into my hotel room for a very restless six-hours of sleep. But when my train stopped in Monterosso the next morning, I stepped out of the station and saw a brilliant view of the water and all was well. The train ride was great, every now and then showing a ‘tease’ of the coastline through the tunnel.
I stopped into an Italian cafe in town for lunch, as my breakfast was very limited. Salad with bread, and a side of vinegar and oil for dipping…I love this about Italian food! I checked into the B&B I was staying at…very laid back, no reception but everything else you’d need like A/C, private bathroom, etc. Walking the town I loved the little streets, and the overall community feel of the village.
I hiked up to the top of one of the hills in Monterosso, and there was this great statue of St. Francis with a dog overlooking the bay. I know he was from Assisi, never knew any other Italian town gave him any love but Monterosso clearly did. Trekking up higher I saw a somber looking cemetery, a convent, and some great views of the water.
Monterosso was a seaside town with very little sleaze. I’ve been to the tourist trap places on the French Riviera, as well as seaside areas in Montenegro and Croatia, and here it just seemed more laid back. I did some shopping, looking for a straw hat for my Cinque Terre hikes. I’ve always had a remarkably large head, physically, so I found the one hat that fit me in the entire town and bought it for 18 euros. A few people on Facebook already commented that it looked good, so score one for me!
The food and wine here was amazing. I found a restaurant I loved the first night, where I ended up having three straight nights of meals. Again, I’m a creature of habit, I find something I like and stick with it. Adjacent to the restaurant was a cool wine bar, where they served local wines with olives, and let you chill using their free WiFi (which was hard to find around here).
Leaving here was a different story. Italy decided to have a nationwide train/bus strike for the 24 hours when I was planning on leaving. This led to a chaotic scene at the local train station, as tourists were trying to get back before the trains shut down. Many thanks to a woman named ‘Nelly’, who I think called her own personal driver and procured a ride for me, as many of the taxi companies were already booked because of the sudden strike announcement. It was a very clandestine deal, I was to meet the driver at 6:30 in the morning in a traffic circle about 200 meters from where I was staying. I prayed he’d be there, and he was, so I was able to make my flight. You know you’re in a small town when there are literally no options to leave when a train strike happens…no taxi stands, no rental car companies. My last night here when I was pissed about the strike, I actually met a couple Austrians, a woman and her mom, who had a few drinks and chatted with me…that made me feel better (thanks, Belinda).
Monterosso was amazing, and the Cinque Terre hike was incredible…more to follow with those pictures from the other blogs I’ll be posting. This was one of those trips where I had to stop, think and question how it was I got here…I’m very lucky to be living this right now.