With very little food in the apartment, first order of business after showering and getting dressed was to find breakfast. Being a Sunday morning, and not quite sure when things would open, I was a bit worried we wouldn’t find anything to eat and have to wander for hours while hungry. Fortunately, the cafe practically underneath our apartment was open.
We both had omelettes, mine without ham, and Glen had a coffee. We discussed again our plans for the day, setting high expectations of being able to knock off all Cinque of the Terres and spending time on the trails between the villages. When we went down to the train station to purchase our Cinque Terre Cards, it was to find out that all the trails were closed because of impending bad weather. It was like Antelope Canyon and Grand Canyon all over again. Nevertheless, we bought the pass (mistakenly buying only a one-day pass instead of a three-day one) and then caught the train up to Monterosso.
Monterosso al Mare
Monterosso al Mare is the northernmost of the five villages. Being up as early as we were, it meant we weren’t yet forced to meander with the horde. Within minutes of getting off the train, Glen had bought a slice of focaccia/pizza from one of the shops underneath the train station. We munched on this as we walked north towards the Giant (Il gigante), a large sculpture of a crouching giant holding up what used to be a bowl but is now mostly empty space.
The beaches were yet to fill. The umbrellas were down but the deckchairs were out. The sea looked rough and not all that warm, though there were a couple of people who braved it at 10 in the morning. We walked past them up to the giant, took our photos, then went for a walk up the side of the hill to find the house of a writer. We passed it, we think, not knowing we had, then after we’d gone up high enough, decided it was time to come back down again. All this walking…
We walked back through Monterosso, along the cliff, past the tower and then around and up to the monastery on top of the hill (the churches take all the best locations). A statue of St Francis of Assisi and a dog (or was it a wolf?) gestured down to the water below. I figured the monastery must be full of Franciscans, considering that Assisi is some way away. We then went up to the top where the ruins had been converted into a cemetery. Lots of dead people, lots of crypts.
Down at sea level we attempted to walk the trail between Monterosso and Vernazza along the coast but everybody else had this idea and the National Parks people had taken the approach of blocking it off. Considering the sun was out and it was a nice day, we couldn’t quite figure out what the problem was but, not wanting to fight the system, we returned to Monterosso, walked through some more streets, went back through the tunnel and bought an ice-cream before catching the train to Vernazza.
Vernazza had a lot more people in it, and a lot of tour groups. Glen said he didn’t mind the hordes as he felt safer. I said it was just easier for pickpockets to hide in. How cheery. We found the restaurant that had been recommended to us – Belforte – which was built into the side of the cliff. It wasn’t yet 12, therefore, wasn’t yet open, so we followed all these other people going through narrow alleyways and up steps until we reached the castle at the top.
There was a view and a tower. The tower had a spiral staircase that was only wide enough for one and a half people so that was an unpleasant experience trying to navigate people coming from the other direction. We got to the top and then Glen somehow managed to take charge, gauging when the way would be most clear going down again, and then leading everyone down with relative ease. I was so proud.
By the time we’d wandered down the way we’d come, Belforte had opened and we managed to nab the last table for two on the higher platform. Glen was keen for the single two-seats that were perched on the balcony but when I asked if it was free, the waiter said it was reserved. This turned out to be in our favour.
The waiter turned out to be ‘family’ which was nice. And apparently I look Italian enough (or sound it enough) for it to be remarked upon. We ordered our meals – I had the squid ink taglioni followed by a plate of mixed grilled seafood, and Glen had the salata caprese and veal scallopini – then drank our wine, ate our bread, and watched the massive rain storm roll in towards us across the sea.
The food was delicious, the wine was nice and the company pleasant. We got chatting to the Melbourne couple seated next to us. The rain came in, we watched the lightning, and then the wind made it a bit cold. We were in shorts. Luckily we’d brought a jacket with us. Being seated in the middle of the restaurant, we were relatively protected but after a while it just became time to go. We skipped desserts and then went down and paid.
What with the rain, I was less than thrilled about doing much else but seeking shelter back at the apartment. We went to the train station, then ended up catching the wrong train and going back to Monterosso. We then waited with an ever-growing horde for the train back the way we’d come. We bought more supplies before heading into the apartment and relaxing for a little while.
Jet lag started to creep up on us, urging us to lie down for a nap at 4 in the afternoon. But we resisted and headed out to explore Riomaggiore now that the rain had stopped. We went up, walking less busy streets above the town, visiting the castle (and seeing one of the views that you see when searching for photos of Cinqueterre), then back to the water and around winding streets and up narrow alleys and uneven stairs. The town isn’t big but the side streets would confuse anyone who’s not a local. I love it. It reminds me of Venice and its maze of streets.
Satisfied we’d explored enough of the town, we returned to the main square and bought a slice of pizza each (and I bought a local beer) and sat on a bench, eating and drinking and watching the tourists go by. For some reason we made a point of interest for the people who passed us; perhaps it was the slice of pizza as big as my head, or just our ravishing good looks.
Back in the apartment, we lounged. I read a new book, having finished the other one earlier in the day. Considering I’d only started that one on Friday, I’m pretty chuffed. Let’s see how many more I’ll get through by the end of the two weeks. Glen made some pasta with a dried mix of stuff he’d bought from the shop. It looked like pot pourri. The sun has set and the streets are quietening down. It’s been a pleasant Sunday. Two more villages to go and it’s only Sunday!