We left Florence at around 10am for the three hour journey to Cinque Terra. I wasn't really sure what to expect, everyone had raved about this place but I hadn't really done my research into it too much and the guidebook gave pretty limited information. Upon arrival, Elissa and I were lucky enough to be given a day pass by a couple of girls that were on their way out which granted us unlimited travel on trains between the 5 towns along the coast and access to the hiking trail for the day (and saved us from having to buy one for that day).
I don't even know how to describe Cinque Terra without photos. It is a coastline of mountains and cliffs covered with bush and vineyards with five small towns situated along it in Northern Italy. Its possible to train through to each of the five towns or you can hike through the mountains on some pretty solid trails. There's also snorkeling/kayaking and those kinds of watersports available, and boats between the four towns, but I didn't take part in any of that.
We stayed in a hostel in Riomaggiore, the first of the five towns. It was basically a converted apartment but felt like a sleep over at grandmas house. There were only 2 rooms that had a few beds in each with a shared kitchen and bathroom. Its all pretty run down and old but it was tidy and clean. I say grandmas house coz of the old linen they had that was pink and lacy, and because of the religious paintings on the wall. The staff were pretty unfriendly and the only exposure we had to this old Italian man and some young guy who showed us to the room was on check in and check out. Later that day we met a chick from Toronto who had had a bad enough argument with him that she moved hostels. So yep, not the friendliest guy. In our room, there was a double bed taken so we made the assumption that it was going to be a couple and thought, oh fantastic they're gonna bang right there. We met the two girls from Geelong later that night who luckily were certainly not a couple.
We were pretty hungry so grabbed a couple of focaccias, basically various pizza kind of toppings on focaccia bread. This seemed to be the norm for snacky snacks around cinque terra.
We followed the signs to the "beach" with great excitement, until we realized that it wasn't our idea of a beach. There were lots of slabs of giant rocks that people were tanning on beside the ocean, and a rocky beach around the corner. I think a woman we saw with sand buckets and spades had the wrong idea too. Nonetheless, we found ourselves a spot on these stone slabs overlooking the cliffs and the ocean, it was awesome. This is where we met Toronto and California and had chats for a while. At around 5pm we have decided we needed to get ourselves sorted if we wanted to hike today so head back to the room and met a couple of brothers from South Carolina and Miming from China who was a strange character.
The walk from Riomaggiore to Manarola only took 10-15 minutes along a boardwalk. The trail between Manarola and Cornigli was actually closed so there is a 2 and a half hour detour to get from the 2nd to the 3rd town. Finding this trail took some time, and we had to backtrack back to the info centre to work it all out. The guy rushed through some directions, but with little bits remembered from both Elissa and I we managed to find our way to the trail. The guy told us it would take 2 and a half hours and kept suggesting that we could always take the train - but sunset is at 9pm so doesn't even get dark until a bit after then. It was around 6 more or less I think so we had plenty of time. The trail was along the coast, sometimes through vineyards and consisting of a lot of rough stairs. We stumbled upon a lot of cats around some houses we passed by, some that were going at it in the middle of the pathway. The whole scene had shocked us so much at the time that we froze and were like .. What is that?! The whole experience was awkward as we rushed past them. The walk ended up taking us somewhere between an hour and a half -two hours so we were pretty happy with ourselves. we arrived in Cornigli just in time for dinner, not after taking a wrong turn and going down 300 and something stairs and then having to head back up them, and back down them later on to get to the train station. We trained back to Riomaggiore.
We woke up at 7.30 to beat the heat and tackle the trail from Cornigli to Vernazza (3rd-4th towns) and then to Monterosso from there (the 5th). The train ended up being pretty late, could've slept in! We started our hike at about 8.50am, the first part is predicted to take two hours but we arrived just after 10, (10.02am to be precise). This was pretty funny because Elissa had said that should be our goal, to get there by 10am but I had thought that was impossible and to aim for 10.30am, especially considering we also had a hard time getting started and finding the track from the town. We had snacky snacks at Vernazza and then continued on at around 10.20am. The trail from Vernazza to Monterosso is meant to be the most challenging but again, we arrived at 11.30am so only took just over an hour.
In fairness, the predictions are likely given to people who are older or slower. We didn't rush any of them, just went at a continuous pace and didn't really stop except to take photos. First stop in Monterosso was obviously the rocky beach! We changed out of our sweaty clothes into bathers and spent a couple of hours on the beach, generally napping. We shared a cheese focaccia and a margherita slice which was a rookie error when we felt gross afterwards. Badly in need of some shade, we sat in some until we decided what our next game plan was, which was to head back and shower. We wandered around the small town of Riomaggiore to kill some time, I picked up some fried calamari and shrimp for dinner which was awesome but way too filling. We picked up our 4 euro bottle of wine (the place selling them for 2 euros had closed). They even corked it for us and gave us plastic cups- this is all that young people in Cinque Terra can do, the bars are filled with older Italian men. The guy who sold it to us said he was open until 10.30, but for us - midnight. We head back to the room with the intention of making people from our hostel get a vibe and drink with us. We put avicii on, put the vibe ears on and started drinking. When a couple of them got back, they were happy to join us and we went back to the bottle shop before the 10.30 close to get another bottle (wearing our flashing vibe ears). On the way back, some sleazy young Italians tried to buy them off us and come drink with them. Very clearly - no chance. We walked down to the rocks by the ocean and sat there in the dark looking at the stars, and talking and drinking (and had arguments over where the big dipper and little dipper is - America vs Canada... I was just wandering where the southern cross was! I miss it!). It was a pretty random but really cool night. Seems kind of dangerous looking back, being drunk climbing on rocks in terribly lit areas besides the ocean trying to hold onto our bottle of wine, but it was awesome. Cinque Terra was one of the highlights of Italy so far.