While I was jealous that some of my friends were going to be sitting front row for Easter Mass at the Vatican, I was still excited to spend my Easter weekend in Cinque Terre. The Cinque Terre (or five lands)* is a set of villages in southern Italy that border the Tyrrhenian sea. You are supposed to be able to hike from town to town along various outlined paths, but that’s quite difficult when it’s pouring rain, which it ended up doing on the one day we allotted for hiking.
My first day there with my friends was spent exploring the northernmost village of the five lands, Monterosso al Mare, which turned out to be my favorite town. This was probably the touristiest village, as well as beachiest (since the name literally translates to “red mountain at the sea/beach”). But it was still nice to be back along the water again before the rain hit the next day.
Saturday morning, we caught a train to the southernmost village, Riomaggiore. Because it was kind of cold and rainy, my friends wanted to just sit in coffee shops from town to town. I figured that if I was going to be in these towns, I wasn’t going to let the rain get me down. So, that’s where we split. They went to find a café, and I, umbrella in hand, went wandering through the town. I started in the center and ended up at the train station eventually – but I can’t tell you how I got there. I remember the whole time thinking to myself, “If I don’t like this path, I can just turn around.” Honestly, I couldn’t have found my way back if I tried.
Once I got down to the train station, I caught the next locomotive to the next town up, Manarola. I wasn’t as daring with my exploration here as in Riomaggiore, where it had actually started raining harder as soon as I had started to feel most lost. I did, however, happen to find what seemed to be an easy path to walk, and I could see Corniglia not too far off in the distance. But before I could decide to try to hike to it, I found a fence that permitted me from doing so., and it wasn’t long before I was on another train.
Corniglia was probably my least favorite of the towns, and this is why: When you arrive in Corniglia, you don’t arrive – like most towns – in the center. You arrive at the bottom. And the bottom is 365 steps below the center; so I was forced to either endure them or wait an hour at the train station for a bus. I wasn’t wasting time, and since I’ve become a stair-master over the past few months, I decided to suck it up, start climbing, and count the stairs in dates to make it more interesting. It wasn’t long before I reached “December 31st” and I’d found the top. Corniglia offered a nice view, but once I got up there, it still seemed like to get anywhere else in town, there were more steps involved. Needless to say, I didn’t do much exploring here. 365 steps is quite enough for me. Cue the next train.
My next town was called Vernazza, which easily became my second favorite town. I think this was due in part to the fact that it was here when the rain stopped and the sun started to come out. But it just seemed cute and quaint. There was a giant clock tower in the center of town, as well as Castello Doria, originally to protect the land from pirates, that tourists could climb. Climbing the fortress was a pain, not because of the amount of stairs, but because of the fact that there was only one set of them, and it was only wide enough for one person. At the top, since I had none of my friends with me, I asked a girl in a purple cowboy hat to take my picture for me, and so she did happily. Her name was Grace, and she was studying in Arezzo (a Tuscan town) from Boston University. I also ended up meeting her friends from North Carolina, Indiana, and California. (It was a very touristy weekend, and there was actually a lot of Americans out and about.) After that, I found a tunnel-like passage that led me to the shore of the beach, but of course, I had to catch my last train back to Monterosso to meet up with my friends for dinner.
Easter morning, as we sat on the terrace of our hostel in the mountains of a nearby town called Corvara, my friend pulled out bags of Easter candy for each of us because “it wouldn’t be Easter without a chocolate bunny!” We spent the rest of our day on the shore of Monterosso in the sun before jumping on yet another train (several actually) – but of course not before I went swimming for the last time.
Though all of our trains back to Perugia were delayed (and we ended up exploring Florence for two hours waiting for one of them), this would be the last time I was ever on a train in which I would be looking forward to coming home to my Perugia.
*Some of the signs there read “5 Terre” and I always read it as “Five Terre” instead of “Cinque Terre.” That hadn’t changed by the end of the trip. #englishspeaker #tourist