The beautiful Cinque Terre!

Cinque Terre was a really awesome experience. We took several trains from Siena to get to Levanto, a town on the northern tip of the 5 famous small towns in a row on the sea edge in the National Park of Cinque Terre, often seen written as simply as 5Terre. From the train station, we took a taxi (thank god-it was straight uphill)! to our campsite. It had taken a lot of research before hand to find a reasonably priced place as Cinque Terre is by no means a cheap place to visit. All of the towns’ accommodations were way out of our budget, and the site we ended up at was bare bones basic, renting a small two person tent as we did costed us 38 euro a night. On top of that, there wasn’t a place to cook, so our restaurant street continued. We arrived around 5pm and learned that the buses running into town (the campsite was up in the hills) had stopped already and we had to take the 10 min “walking path” down to the main roads and then walk another 15-20 into the town. We passed a pizzeria that the campsite owner recommended to us on the way down, and decided to eat there that night. Once in the middle of the town, we found a grocery store and stocked up on food that didn’t require cooking and settled with the fact that we would be eating PB&J’s for lunch, indefinitely. Along with that we got some jam filled biscuits, muesli, tuna and mayo. We had been carrying preparations for an oil based pasta along with our luggage from Roma, and figured we’d take a chance and bring it again to Florence, where we would head after Cinque Terre. We also grabbed some wine and headed back up to the pizzeria and took two pizzas togo. At least those prices weren’t too assured! I think it may have been that evening (or the next) that we made friends with two other couples; one from Germany, and the other France, but Soho was from Italy. We started conversation with them when we heard the two couples talking about their different university experiences and overheard Frederick say that she was in grad school and only paid 800 for the whole year!!!! We couldn’t help but interrupt and ask for her to repeat that! They pitied us and our absurd American education system and its cost. She even gets paid a monthly allowance for expenses! We were just a tad jealous, to say the least.
The following day we set out to explore Levanto, as we were told there was a beach! It was pretty nice, very crowded in the free beach areas, because more than 3/4th of the beach is covered with beach chairs and umbrellas that you must pay to rent from the restaurant that is in front of them, after of course paying just to get into that area. This was one thing that we found widespread over all the beaches of Italy, that really struck us as odd. Being from Hawai’i where it is seen as seriously wrong to charge anyone to go to a beach, as it is public and illegal to own a beach. We tried to not let it bother us, but we started to realized that we’re a bit snobbish when it comes to beaches… Hard to blame us though, ey? After getting some sun at that beach, we headed to the train station to check out the next town over, Monterosso, the 5th (or 1st, depending on how you look at it) town in the 5Terre line. This town was basically just a beach on the right and one street filled with shops and restaurants, and tons of men selling big beach blankets, which if they weren’t solely out to rip you off, I wouldn’t have minded getting one! It was in this town that Hoapili finally succeeded in finding a speedo (he’d been longing to tan his thighs where it was somewhat culturally more acceptable than at home, and to fit in with the locals, I think), but it was the short short type, not the full on tighty-whitey ones. Lol! Monterosso’s beach was no different that the other crowded beaches everywhere else, but it was really cute and a bit bigger. We found a good spot with a view of a bunch of Italian men playing volleyball trying to impress the girls sitting near them, who they eventually succeeded in getting to play with them. It was pretty entertaining. And speaking of tighty-whities, two of the more Italian looking ones (no surprise here), were wearing those exact type, but they were actually strikingly white! It was weird watching them play volleyball in what really truly looked like their underwear!! Cinque Terre is famous for its hikes, and we heard that there was one from Monterosso to Levanto, so after the beach, we grabbed more water, and set out on the hike that was to take 2.5-3 hours over a mountain. I’m not exaggerating here. It was a slow inclining hike over.a.mountain. Luckily I had my inhaler, which I proudly only used twice (my asthma has been getting progressively worse over that last few years-especially when I do anything cardio… I know that just sounds like a really good excuse not to exercise, but really, I would if I could do it without my throat closing!!) There was a family that was trying to find the trail at the same time as us and it was only their daughter who wanted to complete it, her parents were too tired from their day of nonstop hiking between the other towns. So we offered to find it together and accompany her on the hike. Her parents were really sweet and thankful, Dominique herself was really shy and quiet, but a very nice girl, around my age is my best guess. We all kept each other good company and we had some good laughs over Hoapili wearing only his short-shorts in order to get a good tan… The whole way was really hot and we were constantly drenched in sweat. The amazing views were really so so worth it all though. We were seriously impressed! It was so high up there too, that we could see all the towns. A very cool experience! Eventually, we started making our descent, and as we got closer to Levanto, we passed by a small B&B with the guests enjoying the really really really amazing looking pool. We pressed on, knowing we would be greater by the ocean once we finally made it. The water felt way warmer and I eased completely into a lot quicker than the morning when I thought it felt like ice water. After easing our aching muscles a bit, we all dried off and headed towards the train station, to show Dominique how to get home. Before we went back to camp, we stopped at a beach shop that sold floaties and grabbed two of the long skinny one person blow up ones that we desperately needed after our terrible first nights sleep on the hard rock ground under our tent. It was very clear that the campsite we picked was meant for serious campers, who drove there. I swear we were the ONLY people who didn’t drive there themselves and therefore we were way more underprepared than all of them. Since they all did drive (mostly in their own cars driven from mainland Europe, or rented cars), they could pack all the camping supplies they wanted! Most of them had ways of cooking, had nice blow up air mattresses with their own foot pump, and tables and chairs. We felt like the poor kids on the block with our tiny borrowed tent (which had holes and mildew), wimpy floaties to sleep on, and no way of making ourselves any food. Every morning we at least were able to order cappuccinos from the owner and even got croissants one morning. Anyway, we were on the way back to camp when we were asked from behind if we were going to Camping San Michele. I was just in the middle of telling Hoapili- in Hawaiian- that the couple behind us were also staying at our campsite, just one tent above us when they asked. I said yes and they asked if we wanted a ride up, they were just on their way to their car. We were SO thankful. I was really not looking forward to the trek back up the “walking path” which was actually more of a rocky inclined cliff, after our intense hike that day. I believe we ate tuna sandwiches that night for dinner, and stayed up in the wifi area chatting with our friends and using social media. The next day we took the train to the 1st town Riomaggiore and learned from the info station that the seaside hike between the 1st-2nd and 2nd-3rd towns were closed, but we could take the inland ones, over even more mountains!! We decided to say no to that, and grabbed a cone of tako and mussels and went to check out that towns harbor area where a few people were swimming. We ran into both the couples from the campsite there too! The next town over was Manarolla. It was rather small, but it was the town that I had read was the best. They had a really nice swimming area, and rocks to jump off of. Hoapili did just that before continuing on our journey. We decided though that we would come back to this town the next day to catch the famous sunset colors on the seriously colorful apartments that formed in a big chunk on the side of one of the cliffs. After Hoapili dried off, we went back to the train (ran into the two couples-again), to head to the 3rd town Corniglia. From there we decided to hike to Vernazza. We had purchased the 5Terre day ticket, which included unlimited train rides between all the towns, and also the entrance to the hikes. Our hike the previous day was considered apart of the famous 5terre hikes so it had been free but surprising lacking in other hikers. Anyway, the entrance fee would have been something like 7.50 each and trains were a good 4 euro each too, so the day ticket for 15 was worth it if you were going on a lot of train rides too. We had been told that this hike was relatively flat and along the coast the whole way. Oh how we were lied to. It wasn’t the worse thing in the world, but when you are expecting something easier (and still tired from the day before) and are greeted with hills and stairs upon stairs, going uphill, you aren’t that happy! Also, for most of the hike the ocean was blocked by trees! It wasn’t exactly what we were expecting. Anyway, once we finally made it to the next town (about 1 hour 45min with breaks), headed to their beach-more like just ocean access, there was no sand or anything, with intentions to get in and cool off. It was really crowded and the only place we could put our stuff was up on a slanted rock. Hoapili was already down by the water as I finished undressing and tried to scale the rock down to get to where he was. I unfortunately snubbed my toe pretty good and quickly didn’t want to get in the water bleeding and with a flap of skin hanging off my toe… Instead, I cooled off in the fresh water spicket where I cleaned out my toe. Hoapili and I sat on the edge of the water while he contemplated getting in too, but also decided to just rinse off as I had. I walked barefoot into the town, and got napkins to wrap around it before putting my socks and shoes back on, at the little gelato shop we stopped at for a snack. Hoapili was also contemplating doing the next hike, onto Monterosso, but I had refused-one because I was exhausted, and two because of my toe!!! But, we had made plans with our couple friends to meet up and go watch the Germany vs France (yea, pretty good rivalry between the two couples!!) Euro16 game together and wanted to be back in time to shower. So we just went to the train station and headed back to Levanto. This time no ride came to our rescue, but I made it up the path in one piece. We made it back with just enough time to clean up and change and then we all headed down the path to the same pizzeria and sat in the really really hot dining room (due to the pizza oven) and enjoyed the game together. They had ordered the plain marinara pizza, which we hadn’t yet because a pizza with just tomato sauce was not customary to us… But they shared a piece with us and it was really delicious! It’s also always the cheapest one-obviously haha. France ended up winning, but everyone was a good sport about it!! We all got along really well, and loved their company. We also learned that the French/Italian couple had gotten engaged the day before us! Our German friends had been married almost 4 years though, I believe. Everyone was full of congratulations and the married ones told us how much they really loved married life and how truly excited they were for all of us. The following day, we did laundry and I caught up on the last blog I posted about Roma and Tivoli, before my computer fully died with no reviving from my somehow busted charger. We purposefully wasted a good part of our day, know that if we wanted to last until sunset to get the colors on the colorful building of Manarola, we needed to keep some energy and out of the beating sun. We had too many cappuccinos, and definitely had enough energy!! We spent the afternoon by the water in Manarola, Hoapili jumped off a few times, and we enjoyed people watching for a while, then when more people left, we found a good spot to lay out enjoy a beer while waiting to eat dinner somewhere in the town. Towards the later afternoon, there were rumors of a jellyfish in the water, and when most people had gotten out of the water, we went to look from above. It was a huge one, biggest I’ve seen outside of an aquarium, bigger than a basketball I’d say. It was really beautiful, but I felt bad for the few people it managed to sting. Hoapili was bummed we forgot the GoPro so he couldn’t dive in to get photos… I wasn’t so upset about that… Soon after, we dried off and went in search of a place to eat. As I mentioned, Manarola is a really small town, and there weren’t many options. Since they were all way out of our price range, we just went with the one that had the nicest view and sucked it up!! There were no pizza saving graces here, so we both ended up with a seafood pasta (I swear its better to get the same pasta because there’s chances, like this time, that they’ll combined both portions on one big plate and you serve yourself the pasta. I think this way they might give you a bit more, but that may all be in my head…). They were soo busy that it was taking forever to get their attention to get the bill, and the sun was setting. So I sent Hoapili with the Camera to grab the photos before the sun set. By the time he came back, I still hadn’t payed! That’s also another culture shock for us. Italians (and all of Europe) are in no hurry to give you your bill, you could sit there all night for all they cared, and to us it seems like pulling teeth to just get our bill and go. I mean we wanna give the people money for goodness sake!!! We eventually made it, and luckily made the train we did. The trains between towns get really scarce the later it gets and we could have been waiting there almost an hour for the next one. It was pretty late when we got back so we just went to bed. We had to check out by 10am the next day, but were welcome to stay in the lounge area. We did that for a while and took the 11 something bus down to the train station (there’s no way I’d take all our luggage on that “walking path”)!! The tickets that were cheapest to get us to Florence (about three trains I think) didn’t leave for over an hour by the time we got there, so we bought some postcards and magnets and settled to wait. Spending the entire day just traveling somewhere that would take only 2-3 hours to drive to, is definitely something we won’t miss! Anyway, we really really loved our time in Cinque Terre, despite our roughing-it camping experience. I would highly recommend visiting there, but save a bit more just for it, so you can have a bit more of an upgraded sleeping experience than we did!


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