I arrive fairly late in Cinqueterre, get checked in to my “hotel” which appears to be more of a “hostel”, my “double bed” is… a bunk bed. Well, at least I have my own room. I go out for some dinner and am delightfully surprised to be served something I have not seen more than once or twice since leaving the states – ice water! Despite the heat here, they never seem to use ice, but this particular restaurant appears to cater to Americans. The “Milanese cutlet” (chicken fried steak) is also very good.
Cinqueterre translates as”the 5 lands” – it is 5 little nearby towns in a very rugged area. My hotel is in the first of the towns, Riomaggiore. There are trails connecting all of the towns, and I hope to hike to a few of them, so I get up early, check the weather, see that it’s supposed to rain all day, and bundle up for a long hike in the rain. It is very nice being up and about the town before the tourists arrive or are out themselves, and the rain is refreshing, at least at first. I grab a focaccia for breakfast and wander through the town, seeking the trail head that will bring me to the next town.
However, the rain starts really picking up, and after an hour of (very scenic) wandering I decide that I have walked down literally every street in this town and have been unable to find the trail, and I’m also completely soaked down to my toes (apparently what I thought of as my “light rain coat” is more of just a windbreaker, and this is much more than “light rain”), so I decide to retreat and regroup.
After taking a break, drying off a bit, and waiting in hopes of the weather calming down, I set out again, grabbing a snack made of chickpeas, and heading down to the tourist information office, which is now open. In theory I need a permit/pass to hike on most of the trails, as this is a national park, so I ask about getting one of those and am informed that all trails are closed due to the rain. Well, perhaps it’s good I couldn’t find the trail head earlier! Luckily, trains will let me see some of the rest of Cinqueterre, so I go to the train station, get a ticket, am informed they are recommending people avoid Vernazza due to possible flooding, hop on a train, and hop off at Vernazza. I wander down to the beach, get some nice, if very wet, views.
Having seen some sights and now thoroughly drenched again, I retreat to my room and decide to not leave them unless I see some blue sky. In the late afternoon the rain stops for short periods, and by the early evening I see a hint of blue sky, so decide to make one last attempt at some hiking. I had marked where I thought Montenero Sanctuary (a church) was on my map, figuring it was about a mile uphill from town on a path, and it seemed like as good of a place as any to try to hike to. I start heading up the steep hill to the end of town, see a little trail, and quickly realize I’m going to be hiking into the clouds. Fun!
Because of all of the rain in the past days, there is a lot of water flowing in the creek that runs along the trail. I pass the point on the map where it looks like the trail ends and I assumed Montenero was at, but the trail continues a bit (no church in sight) and brings me to a highway. The air is clearing a bit and I can see the Mediterranean from here.
On the other side of the highway I see the trail continues. I suspect this is one of the park trails that is “closed” today due to the rain. It actually looks a bit more like a creek than a trail, with water flowing down the steps of the trail like a waterfall. Onward I go, to even better views over the town through to the Mediterranean. Though there’s no blue sky above me, I can see evidence of it in the distance with the sunlight reflecting off of the sea.
Continuing hiking up, I pass just one other couple; they let me know that I am, in fact, on the way to Montenero (in not so many words, and with smartphone assistance, since we don’t speak the same language). I soon enter the clouds, visibility drops, but I enjoy the feeling of walking through a mist-shrouded forest. Along the way, now far from any road as far as I can tell, I come across a few private dwellings and gardens. Maybe there’s some road not on my map, but I imagine these people might hike the miles up this trail to get to their homes or vineyards, which seems a daunting task. Perhaps they’re just vacation homes, though I hear voices from at least one that must be currently occupied.
After going much further than I originally intended, I finally arrive at Montenero Sanctuary. It’s not much to see, but it has a nice bench looking down towards the sea (just clouds now), and I sit and rest for a while. As I’m resting there, the clouds slowly begin to lift and I get a magnificent view down to Riomaggiore and the Mediterranean. The sun (not visible from here, as I’m still in most of the clouds) sparkles as it reflects off the Mediterranean – it must be clear skies out at sea and down in Riomaggiore.
I eventually head back down, finally getting some blue sky during my descent.
That night, which I realize will be my last night in Italy, I decide to eat a few things that I think of as often in Italian food that I have not yet on my trip – garlic and pesto. Luckily they have a pizza with exactly that. The dessert of Panna Cotta is out of this world. It was so good that I just left the whipped cream on my plate, it’s taste being so bland in comparison.
In the morning, I prepare to leave Italy by discarding the remnants of my Rick Steves Italy 2016 travel guide. Along the way I had followed the book’s instructions and ripped it apart, so that I only needed to carry the chapter on Florence with my on my day trip to Florence, etc. I’ve found the book incredibly useful, and highly recommend his books if anyone else is traveling in Europe. Though his audio walking tours (free app, even without the book) are better than the written tours, the book had great practical info that saved me lots of time and money (e.g. in Orvieto it recommended I buy a cheap pass that got me into all of the sights and public transit, which was sold at the tobacco shop next to the train station, which I would have had absolutely no idea even existed otherwise).
I have some time in Riomaggiore before my train leaves, but not much to do, and I have my luggage with me, as my crappy hotel would want $15 to store the 3 bags for me, so I stop at a couple of cafes for breakfast and second breakfast while taking advantage of their WiFi. After some final, beautiful views of the Mediterranean right from the train station, I board the first of three trains on the 9 hour trek to Marseille! That train ride has some stunning views which starts me falling in love with the Mediterranean coast, however I dodn’t get any pictures due to the two layers of dirty rain-speckled windows between my camera and the sights.
Now, I just wish my shoes would dry out soon…