Friday, April 25, 2008

Italy, part 3

Got up earlyish and it had mostly stopped raining. Had my first real go at coffee with the traditional Italian cappucino (too bitter, even after 3 sugars, however Ryan would insist on them the rest of the trip.) Then we began our epic trek to hike the five towns of the Cinque Terre.

It was pretty misty as we left Vernazza for Corniglia, but the views were still spectacular. The trails were pretty empty minus a few French people. Every person we met on the trail that day we'd say "buongiorno", and without exception people replied in their native language. I don't know if this is reflex, to revert to your native tongue, or people just figured we were tourists as well.

Corniglia is perched high above the rocky shore, and cute if not particularly memorable. From there we descended a long set of stairs toward town 3, Manarola. We were about halfway down the coastal trail when we came to a closed tunnel. Because of the rain, this part of the trail was closed. We sullenly retraced our steps back to Corniglia's train station. While waiting for the train we witnessed a spectacular argument between an elderly American couple. It went something like this:

Old lady: Where did you go? You just wandered off and I didn't know where the hell you were!
Old man: I went to get train tickets.
OL: Well you didn't tell me that, we could've missed the train.
OM: Well we didn't, so just calm down. You're getting all upset over nothing.
OL: You clearly don't care about my feelings.
OM: I went to get train tickets, what was I supposed to do?
OL: You don't want to hike with me, then let's just go our seperate ways. I'll see you back at the hotel.

Their volume involuntarily included everyone at the tiny train station, and the OM walked away from the OL and came and stood by Ryan and I...awkward. The Cinque Terre isn't very big and we continually saw this grouchy couple the rest of our trip. Is there something about vacations that make couples go at each other, or are all vacationing couples crazy?

We had lunch in Manarola, and I was eating a delicious spinach and cheese tart with my hands when an old Italian man walked over and handed me a set of silverware. How embarrassing! It was an easy walk from Manarola to Rio Maggiore down the Via dell Amore, which is paved and level, and full of teenagers scrawling their names on every surface. Rio Maggiore was nice, but they were beginning to all look the same. Beautifully Meditteranean, but very similar to each other. We took the train from Rio Maggiore (town 1) to Monterosso (town 5) and enjoyed some gelato. After a bit of a rest I decided that we should do the last leg of the hike, from Monterosso back to Vernazza. I failed to remember that Rick Steves wrote that this was the most difficult part of the hike.

We climbed a million billion stairs, and high fived at the top, only to realize there were actually a million billion more stairs to go. I almost gave up and started a new life as a hermit in the woods, but Ryan promised me a foot rub and we persevered. Along the way we saw a cat sanctuary and a sign that asked hikers not to poop there. Two hours later, knees aching, we reached Vernazza.

After a shower and a nap we walked to the shore for a fancy dinner at Belaforte, a restaurant in the medieval lookout tower. It had great atmosphere and delicious food, but once again we were surrounded by loud Americans. One table spoke humiliatingly slowly to a waitress who spoke perfect English. The other was full of Californian doctors who discussed childbirth and how we are all covered in a "thin fecal film." Try saying that 3 times fast, actually don't, its disgusting.

No comments: