Saturday, May 7, 2011

Friday, May 6th, the Cinque Terre

After another great night's sleep, we got a late start to drive to the Cinque Terre.  Following the suggestion in Joe's book, we drove to the first town, Riomaggiore.  It was hectic driving through the larger cities (Beth is constantly "breaking" in the passenger seat), but I am getting used to having my friends on motor scooters, and motorcycles sharing my space in the lane.  I am not sure how any of the teenagers on scooters survive to become adults after watching their riding style around much larger vehicles.

We arrived in Riomaggiore and looked for the ramp mentioned in Joe's book.  We found it and got a ticket from the friendly guy in the ticket booth.  He said to go to ramp 5/6 and raised the bar so we could enter the ramp.  The parking spaces were sized for a Fiat 500, which is smaller than a Mini.  Some of the spaces were like garage stalls with solid walls.  I could not believe I could get this Renault into these spaces.  It is hard to see out the back and it has the turning radius of a aircraft carrier. With Beth's help, I finally got the car into an end space but had to fold the mirror and climb out the passenger door.

We went off down the hill to see this town and then to find our way to the other four towns.  We finally found the tunnel leading to the path to the next village.  We bought our Cinque Terre Cards that allowed us access to what is termed a National Park.  The people in most tourist offices are nice but not what you would call overly helpful.  They will answer a question but do not seem willing to add suggestions or comments to aid in your journey.

We walked on the Via dell' Amore to the next town, Manarola.  Many statements of love have been left on this walk including padlocks, carvings on plant leaves, marble plaques, etc.  We then saw a bunch of broken, cut, padlocks in a pile.  Were these from relationships that did not last or just were in the way of path maintenance?  We took many pictures and enjoyed the flat path.

The path from Manarola to Corniglia was under construction, so we had to buy a train ticket.  There was a sign on the ticket office that the train workers were going to be on strike between 2 PM and 6 PM .  This would not help in our visit to the Cinque Terre.  We rode the train to Corniglia and were fools to not know enough to take the bus into (up) to the town.  Instead we walked (climbed) the 400 steps up to the city center.  There must have been 40 switchbacks on this stairway, like going up the stairway in a 20-story building.  That's okay since we do need to keep exercising! 

We bought a pannini sandwich in a small shop mentioned in Rick Steve's book.  I had the lady sign the page in the book where her name appeared.  She seemed to like that.  The sandwiches were very good.  We then toured the little town and tried to decide what to do next.  The walk to the next town seemed too far and too much uphill.  We wanted to take a boat and followed the signs toward the marina.  But half way down we stopped and talked to a couple from Boise, Idaho.  We learned that no boat came to this city, so back up the hill we went.

Time for some ice cream.  Found a small shop where the owner was friendly and the gellato was delicious.  We went to where the bus stopped and we took it to the train station, where we learned that the trains were still running even though they were supposed to be on strike.  We took the train to Vernazza and toured this little town.

We bought a boat ticket back to Riomaggiore since we had to get our car out of the ramp before it closed at 7 PM.  We watched the local kids jump off the rocks into the sea, even though there were signs saying in was not allowed and it was dangerous.  The boat ride provided the opportunity to take some nice pictures of  4 of the 5 towns from the sea. 

We got our car out of the ramp without problems after paying our 17 euro fee and headed home.  We had another fun drive in traffic, but without incident and there was no one in the toll booth where we exited so it was free.

Atter a light snack at home, we were ready to update blogs, write emails and recharge batteries.  How did we ever get by without so many battery powered devices?

We're thinking we will go to Carrera on Saturday and go to the marble museum and see the quarries.

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