We woke up around 7am today. We leisurely got ready for the day and decided to hike into town for breakfast. Since our AirBnB was in the middle of two villages we had to pick one to walk out to for breakfast. Vernazza was in the direction of our destination for the day which was Monterosso. We made the hike into Vernazza in about 40 minutes. The hike was mostly downhill/downstairs which was a nice change from the hike in the previous night. Once in Vernazza, we found a small shop where we got some sandwiches for breakfast and a large beer to split. Because we are on vacation! After a bit to eat we hopped on a train to Monterosso. Here we wandered around the town aimlessly until we decided to stop and ask for directions on how to get to Angelo’s Boat Tours. A kind man at a pizzeria gave us instructions to go to the opposite side of town and through the walking tunnel and then the boats would be on our right. We followed his instructions and quickly found the harbor. We located the boat we needed to be on and met Alessandro and Matteo, our guide and our captain, respectively. Soon we began our tour.
We started in Monterosso and made our way down the coast to the last village in Cinque Terre (Maggiore). We sipped on champagne and made conversation with our fellow tour mates. After we toured the coast we made our way back north and stopped in Vernazza for lunch. Here we enjoyed a multi-course meal complete with caprese salad, octopus salad, smoked swordfish, fried shrimp, calamari, anchovies, sardines, trofie with pesto, spaghetti with mussels and a delicious frozen mousse dessert. Oh and lots of wine. Spirits were high as we hopped back on the boat to head toward Monterosso. When we were in the little cove, the captain dropped anchor so those that wanted to could swim. We hopped in straight away, even though the weather wasn’t ideal. We’d waited so long to swim in the Med! After some coaxing, we convinced a few others to hop in as well. The water was much warmer than we anticipated, almost the same temperature as the air. After we’d had our share of swimming, we climbed back into the boat and headed to the dock. On the way, a light rain began to fall, but luckily we were only a few minutes away. Once we were on land, we looked for shelter.
We wanted to formulate a plan, but first we looked around. We realized we were in a pizza shop, and the pizzas all looked amazing. We took a slice to go, and while they heated it up, we decided to head straight towards the train station. When we got there, we waited for a train to Corniglia and got more wet as the large crowd forced us out from under shelter in the station. We got off the train in Corniglia and made the same hike as the day before. It wasn’t quite as scenic because of the cloud cover, but it was much easier going without carrying all our gear. We made quick time, and took showers to wash off all the salt right when we got in. We wanted to make it to the bar downstairs for dinner, and we knew it closed at 6:30pm
We walked down at about 5:00, and they were already closed. So no dinner. Defeated, we walked back up to our patio area, and chatted with our new neighbors. They were a pair of very friendly Australians and we had lots of laughs with them. They overheard our strikeout at the bar, and kindly offered us to share their food. We declined, at first, because we weren’t very hungry due to the big lunch. We mainly just wanted to eat because that’s what you do at dinner time, and because all the food here is amazing. They wouldn’t take no for an answer, so we shared bread, prosciutto, and buffalo mozzarella and some coffee. It was all delicious. We watched the sun set over the water and hopefully waited for the stars to come out. The clouds mostly prevented that. Eventually, tired, we all went off to bed.
We woke up unwillingly at about 6am. We showered and ate breakfast at the hotel again. We grabbed our stuff after breakfast and checked out of the hotel. We walked a few minutes to the bus station a couple blocks over, and waited. There were several buses already there, but none of them were the one we needed, which was a Flixbus. When one eventually arrived, everyone crowded over to it, and they all turned away at the door. Before we could get there, a woman asked us where we were headed, and then informed us it was not the bus we wanted. Okay then. We waited a while longer while chatting with the woman who introduced herself as Soraya. One minute before the scheduled takeoff, another Flixbus rolled in. The right one. So we piled all our gear in and hopped in line. Just before we got on, a woman threw a water bottle at a man she seemed to be there with, and started shouting at him in French. Luckily for us, they both decided to get on and sit right behind us. Soraya had grabbed a seat across the aisle from us and informed us that the man of the fighting couple had forgotten his passport and the woman of the duo was very angry about it and was not being very nice to him.
The bus finally rolled out of the station at 0800. It was due to leave at 0745. We had been told at the bus stop that these buses were notoriously late and that Italians “like to move at their own pace.” So we figured a departure 15 minutes later than expected was satisfactory for us. Rob fell asleep shortly into the bus adventure. While I probably also could have slept I forced myself to stay awake as I was enamored with the scenery. We travelled out of Geneva through the Swiss countryside and into France, winding our way through the towering French Alps. We drove right next to Mont Blanc which is the tallest mountain in Western Europe. The sheer size of these mountains was mind boggling and most still had piles of snow on the peaks. The lady at the chocolate shop yesterday said that there is skiing year round in the French Alps.
We started to make switch backs up the side of the mountain and entered Tunnel du Mont Blanc. So I guess we drove through the mountain. We exited the darkness 9 minutes later, travelling approximately 30mph. Do the math, it was long. At the tunnel exit, we stopped for Italian customs. Two polizei entered the bus and collected all our passports, then left. We were mildly uncomfortable, but they were carrying firearms, so we weren’t about to make a scene about it. Soraya shared the story of her ordeals getting her new passport which sounded exceedingly complicated. She was much more anxious about watching her passport leave her possession, understandably. Eventually, the officers returned and handed back all the passports, one by one. We were back underway shortly thereafter. Side note – the man without a passport presented a card of some sorts, I presume another ID. This must have been satisfactory for the border officers because he was not thrown off the bus.
The rest of the ride was fairly uneventful. We made a few stops along the way and fell increasingly behind schedule. We finally reached our destination in Milan, Lampugnano, and disembarked. Soraya was going the same way as us for a while longer, so she graciously lead the way since we had no idea what we were doing. We got subway tickets and got onto the platform as the doors of our train were closing. We stepped into the train just as the doors closed. Perfect. From there, we went to Cardona to switch lines. We said a very quick goodbye and thank you very much to our new friend Soraya, and bolted out the door. We found the next train we needed, which was headed to Milano Centrale. At the central station, we hopped on a longer-distance train which would take us to Levanto. We got off in Levanto to make another transfer onto the last train, which took us to Corniglia. Once we got into Corniglia, we just had a short hike up the longest staircase ever (perhaps – I also thought the Indian Nose hike in Guatemala was the longest staircase ever). At the top of the stairs, it was really unclear which way we had to go. Mandy asked at the pharmacy, but they couldn’t offer much help. We walked into Corniglia proper in search of tourist info. Unable to find any, we searched instead for the elusive “blue path”. We didn’t find the blue path, but we did find one with red and white blazes that appeared to go to where we wanted to be, according to maps Mandy downloaded for offline use. So we located the trailhead and started walking. The trail follows the coastline, more or less and it was approaching sunset, so the views were stunning. We had flashbacks to hiking in Guatemala although the terrain was somewhat different. The sun went down behind the mountain ahead of us, and we plodded on through the light of dusk. When we couldn’t go even one more step without dying (literally), we realized that we had actually overshot our destination by about 100 feet. Suddenly we had the energy to make it the last little bit, with the house in sight.
We arrived just as the host, Paolo, was walking up the path to meet us. We greeted him and the couple of other guests, and tossed our bags down. After a very brief orientation, we took a quick shower and changed out of our sweaty hiking clothes. Then we breathed a sigh, and began to actually relax. Holy crap, the views. So amazing here. The AirBnB Mandy found is a tiny bedroom built into the side of a mountain. It opens up to a small yard, just big enough for a table and a few chairs. In front of the yard, the land falls off sharply down to the Mediterranean Sea. We have a completely unobstructed view west out over the water. We watched the sun dip down into the water in a blaze of red while we chatted with our neighbors for the night, Jason and Liana. We went down a flight of stairs to the restaurant, to find that it was closed, so we opted for more German trail mix and Swiss chocolate for dinner.
"It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to."
- Bilbo Baggins
We're just an adventure-loving couple with a puppy looking to share our stories with the world.