Genoa, birthplace of Christopher Columbus, is our port for the visit to Cinque Terra (5 lands). The weather continues to behave although there are some clouds and a little cooler than we have had in the past. There also exists the possibility of rain later in the day. Best to bring the umbrellas.
Off the ship at the unfriendly hour of 7:30 AM. Mix that with a small challenge in finding our 3 mini-vans for the trip and it becomes an uneasy portent of things to come. Time will tell. Oh Look!! Batman is in port today. 😊
After about an hour of driving the clouds become very low lying in nature. They remain light and fluffy, however their relatives up above seem a little more ominous.
Another half hour and we are back in La Spezia. Wait…What? We were just here yesterday. Hmmm…
Our original plan had been to port in Livorno yesterday, then go north to Lucca for the day. Today’s port in Genoa would give us a southern jaunt to Cinque Terra. Just due to distance between locations, the best choice (had we known about the change in ports from Livorno to La Spezia) would have been Cinque Terra yesterday and Lucca today. But we didn’t know, months ago during the planning stages, what weather might do. Part of the cruising adventure so always be prepared to make adjustments. Still not shoveling snow so I don’t care. 😊
We have arrived at the commune of Porto Venere.
This commune has been in existence since mid first century BC. Through its history, like so many towns and villages in Europe, it has had its challenges, takeovers and successes. In 1998 it was recognized for its ancestral heritage and declared a UNESCO site. The castle was built in 1113 AD, the date of which can be seen over the 4 doors which have reduced in size and stature over the centuries.
Our time travel down ancient streets takes us further into town.
This short trek eventually brings us to an old church/fortress. Down below the wind whips waves onto the cliffs as it has for thousands of years. Now that view is also shared with a beautiful little marina.
After a brief nature break, naturally combined with a little Prosecco, we continue on our way to Cinque Terra.
Cinque Terra is a group of 5 small villages perched along the rocks of northern Italy. Given the sheer hills that are primarily navigated by foot, it’s a wonder how people live and work here. If you want to test your stamina, it is possible (and done by many especially in the spring and summer) to walk between each of these 5. However, be warned. Walking will take you easily up to 2 hours. Between each village. It is not an easy route at all, but certainly doable. I use that term loosely. I won’t be doing it. 😊 If you take the train, which runs between each every day, it will take less than 5 minutes to get from one to another. Literally. There is another setback. At this time of year, the trains only run once an hour…ish. In more tourist-likely times they run every half hour.
This impacts our overall experience immensely. It also emphasizes why doing this yesterday, from Le Spezia, would have allowed more time as it would have been much closer just to begin with.
The first village is Riomagiore. We arrive there at about 11:30. Our tour needs to leave by 3:00 in order to get us back to the ship. So…do the math. Visiting all 5 villages that are at least an hour apart (given train times) is clearly not possible. If we wish to spend ANY time at all, we are limited to this one, one in the middle (12:30) and the last one (1:30). Even that will only give us around an hour in 3 out of the 5. On the plus side, the last one is marginally closer to the ship.
Acceptance and decision made, we make our way down the main street in Riomagiore. This is one…steep…street! Downhill all the way to the shore. Yet locals make this trip both ways many times a week. If you do it all your life your leg muscles would likely be like iron.
The town again represents the wide variations that have almost become an expectation now. Artistic elegance is everywhere you look retaining its maturity but never succumbing to its age. Even the tunnel we traverse to get to the train station has its own flair.
Above ground again, a dryness coats the mouth. Over the course of this cruise, we have become very adept at curing this particular problem. 😊
The train has arrived and, with us on board, a quick 10-minute trip allows us to get off in Vernazza. It took longer due to the fact we stopped at Manarola first, then Corniglia. Remember we can only do 3 out of the 5. 🙁
Vernazza greets us with clouds dissipating and warm sun beginning to show itself once more. With only about 45 minutes before the next train arrives, we make our way down from the station to the shoreline. Its the pausing along the way created by all the visual distractions that eat up the time. To Really experience Cinque Terra properly, come in the spring when the flowers are out. Plan to spend at least a day in the immediate area and take in all that is has to offer.
As we are walking, a person passes by with what, at first glance, seemed to be a waffle cone…but not quite. A closer, but very discrete, inspection led to the discovery of what turned into the Best quickly deep-fried calamari I have ever had. These are a Must if you are here and you happen to like this type of golden treasure.
Back up to the train to carry on to our next and last stop – Monterosso al Mare. The feet are beginning drag a bit given the ups and downs of this particular tour, but that really is part and parcel of visiting all these wonderful corners of the world. Some people feel that cruising to various locales must include trips to a beach. That’s entirely their prerogative, but it is one I do not understand. Having said that, fingers can be easily pointed in my direction for yielding to the overly plentiful food and beverage diversions that have been constantly present. As true as that may be I also do my best to shed some of those calories by making an effort to investigate the territories that change almost on a daily basis.
This pause in our day, before our journey back to the ship, is again relatively short. It grants us a little insight, however, into its own scenery. Time, that commodity that even Elon Musk cannot buy, is sorely needed to really do justice to all these locales.
Another day, another port, another visitation. It never gets old. Tomorrow, with no surprises apparent, we will be in Corsica. See you there.