We said goodbye to Julia, the team, coaches, and friends at the Milan airport Monday morning, June 2nd. We had a wonderful tour with them. Then we found the Europecar desk and picked up our rental car, an Alfa-Romeo Guiletta. We headed southwest to the Cinque Terre (5 Lands/villages), located on the cliffs overlooking the Mediteranean north of Pisa. We found our hotel, Il Due Gemelli, after a three hour drive. It was located about 600 meters above the village of Riomaggiore. Nice room with a great view, free parking, but four floors down with no elevator.
There was a handy public bus service right outside the hotel that got us down a steep and scary road to the village of Riomaggiore, the first of the Cinque Terre villages (from the south). Since we had three nights booked, we took it easy, explored the town, and had a nice supper outside in sunny weather. We took a ton of pictures this first day at this extremely picturesque town.
The next day, we headed back to Riomaggiore, determined to take the commuter train between the towns of Riomaggiore, Manarola, and Corniglia. The villages are only about four to six minutes apart on the train. June is peak season for Italians and Germans visiting this region, and the trains were packed to standing room capacity.
Well, I finally met my match in Italy. I have been travelling for 49 years in Europe and never had my wallet lifted, until that day on the train. With the packed train and people pushing, they got it out of a zippered front pocket very smoothly. I lost 200 Euros and one credit card. The rest of our cards and passports were in neck wallets.
The lesson learned is: keep all your money and cards in a neck or belt wallet. I cancelled the card before they could use it. Ces’t la vie!
After the shock treatment, we made the most of our day, exploring the villages of Manarola and Corniglia. The Cinque Terre was famous for it’s beautiful hiking trails along the seacoast between the villages. Flooding has closed all the paths except one, the most difficult one between Monterosso and Vernazza to the north. We used the trains this day, and the boat service the following day.
Manarola was pretty too, smaller and not quite as photo friendly as Riomaggiore. After some awesome Gelato, we headed back to the train station and a short trip to Corniglia. This village is located high on the cliffs overlooking the sea. There was a three block walk from the train station to the base of steps leading up to the village. It looked like a long way up. Kathy decided not to make the trek, but I wanted to check out Corniglia, so up I went, all 360 steps. The village was small, with another 40 steps or so to get to the top. On the way down, I learned that there is a shuttle bus to take you up and back. Es la vida! We caught the next train back to Riomaggiore, went back to our hotel, and had a nice meal there.
The next day we had breakfast and took the shuttle bus to Riomaggiore. When we arrived, I looked up the Federal Police, the Carabinieri, and filed a police report with them regarding the wallet loss the day before. It won’t do any good, but at least they know it happened again. Then we bought tickets, around 12 Euros each, for the boat trip between Riomaggiore and Monterosso, the fifth village north. On a hot day, the boat trip was really relaxing, and gave us some great views of Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, and Monterosso as we traveled along. The boat does not stop in Vernazza.
Monterosso is the biggest of the villages, easy to explore, with two major sized sand beaches (not the usual rocks). There are lots of shops, bars, and restaurants, so we had a good pizza and beer lunch along the way. Finding the train station was a bit tricky, but we finally did and took the shuttle train to Vernazza.
Vernazza was more like Riomaggiore or Manarola for scenery. We did find a small stretch of rocky beach with some surfer type waves hidden away behind a small cave. It was too rocky for safe swimming, but Kathy took off her shoes and got her feet cooled off in the Meditteranean sea.
We took the train from Vernazza to Riomaggiore, and had supper at our favorite little restaurant there. Then we went back to the Due Gemelli Hotel for a nightcap, and got ready to leave the next day for Arezzo. Two and a half days was the right amount of time for us to explore the Cinque Terre.