We were sad to be heading to La Spezia, where we were dropping off our rental car. It was as if we were inadvertently relinquishing a bit of our newly found freedom along with it. In an effort to delay the inevitable, we decided to stop by the famous “Leaning Tower of Pisa.” I am glad it was on the way, because if we had wasted excess gas on this tourist trap, I would have been sorely disappointed. It’s not that the tower wasn’t cool, it just that it was the only attraction of the entire city, and the “tourist mongers” were in full force for three square blocks; eager to sell you anything from a fake watch to overpriced postcards.
When we reached our room in La Spezia, the launching point for Cinque Terre, we almost yearned to be back in Pisa. Our room had the worst plug in air freshener that either one of us had ever smelled. Even after we unplugged it and placed it outside, the odor lingered like an evil, unstoppable entity. It forced us to quickly pack a make-shift picnic and head for the pier. Megan used the bathroom towels as our table cloth and napkins (see picture), as there was no way we were going to use the shower……the room was far from accommodating. Good thing we had only one night there before heading north to the five villages.
Luckily, our next three nights were spent in a four star luxury hotel that, due to the offseason, was only slightly more expensive than the malodorous room in La Spezia.
Our first day consisted of getting our bearings and exploring our town; which was full of the friendliest people in all of Italy. It was a refreshing change from the past two days. We even stumbled upon a beach fire that we used to warm ourselves as we searched for beach glass and tiles.
Eager to explore the miles and miles of trails, we set off early the next morning. We were equipped with rain gear, as there was a slight chance of showers. The trail from our town to the next one, Monterosso, was supposedly closed due to the weather, but we didn’t see any gates or warning signs, so we happily continued. We did see an old worn out sign, at the actual trailhead, that said, “Monterosso, 2.5” For us, two and a half miles should take an hour at most. As we were trekking through the mountains, with the sea roaring hundreds of feet below, the sky slowly began to turn dark and ominous. As the rain started to fall, we had been hiking over 45 minutes, so we knew we had to be close to the town, and more importantly, shelter. As the weather worsened, our pace was dawdling as the trail slowly evolved into an ever increasing river. We tried to keep a steady tempo as the temperature dropped and the thunder clapped above us. After an hour and a half, we had the scary realization that the sign that read, “2.5” meant hours, not miles!
At this point we weighed our options; try to find shelter on the edge of the cliff and hope ride it out, or continue forward and hope we’re not too far away from town. The flash of lighting that cracked through the black sky at that very moment made the decision for us, and we moved as quickly as the terrain and our soaked clothing would allow.
At long last, as we finally started heading down hill into the town, the trail was nearly flooded. If we had been 15 minutes slower, we would have been in a very precarious situation, as I don’t know if the trail would have been passable. Luckily, we made it to the town and found refuge in a Pizza Café. We took turns going into the restroom to ring out our clothing, and ordered some wine and pizza, for nothing else but the warmth they were sure to provide.
As we were shivering and eating, a group of Americans came in and sat beside us. We quickly struck up a conversation with them and learned that that they lived outside of Palm Springs and were on a “retired group” vacation. As we chatted with our sociable newfound friends, they noticed that we were both still shivering. After I gave Megan my only dry garment, one of them shed his jacket and insisted that I put it on. They even offered to let us use their hotel room to clean up and get warm…… and we had only known them less than an hour. People like this restore our faith in humanity.
We finally thawed out enough to catch the train back to our city, and warmed ourselves in the hotel spa until our core body temperature finally returned to normal.
Ironically, our next day was total sunshine, even though it called for showers. We took advantage of the favorable conditions and explored three of the five villages. We even did some hiking on the open trails…..granted, we had to wear our flip flops because our shoes were still wet, but it was definitely worth it.
We ended the our final day in Cinque Terre by having a lovely lunch on the beach, listening to the waves, enjoying the scenery and the famous pesto; all while the Giant of Neptune was watching our backs (see picture). It was a wonderful way to end our time here.
We both decided that we would come back here before we did the Amalfi Coast again. This region is more appropriate for the type of person who would rather have on hiking shoes than loafers……..Cinque Terre was definitely suited for the Clark’s!