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Italy, Friday October 16, 1 pm-9 hours ahead of PSD

I am sorry I was not able to get a good signal the entire time we were in Riomaggiore. The Cinque Terre are beautiful! Everything you imagine and even more charming. Each town is built into the hillside and 4 of them have beaches, though the best beach is in the last town, Monterosso. The train ride from Pisa to La Spezia was really fun because we passed through Carrera and we could see piles of marble! This is where Michelangelo and so many other artists got their marble for their sculptures and the history here is really amazing. It is not so much a pretty town, being more of an industrial area, but I have never seen so much marble ever! Some finished slabs and tons of raw blocks. After that we hit La Spezia and changed trains to Riomaggiore.

It was only an 8 minute train ride, mostly through tunnels, and when we broke through we were next to the ocean and it was such a wonderful sight! We got in around 5:15 and found our apartments quickly. Mom and dad went up to find their landlady and we went up, one building away, to find ours. We had known there would be steps, it was a 4th floor walkup after all… but we had really no idea of these steps. Marble stairs, extremely steep and the actual steps were narrow. Going up was steep and when we finally got to the 3rd floor where our landlady lived we were out of breath. Sara took us up the rest of the stairs to our apartment at the top of the building. We got inside and we were looking at a tiny galley kitchen, and then a doorway to the bathroom which was crammed full with a single sink, bidet, toilet and shower stall.

Then there were more stairs up to a little table with 2 chairs on a landing. a few more steps behind us led to the platform bed with a narrow wardrobe on either side of it. Or we could proceed ahead up another flight of stairs to the rooftop patio, with spectacular views. Holy stair climbs!!! We decided to count: 86 steps from the front door to the apartment door; 11 steps up to the table; 4 steps up to the bed; 12 more steps to the rooftop patio. WHAT??? By the way Mark had the 4 steps to his side of the bed; I had a couple of drawers that doubled as steps, but they were super high, so it was hard to get up and down them, especially early in the morning! From our rooftop patio we could see mom and dad’s terrace and we waved to them, 2 stories down, as we enjoyed some wine with a view of the sea.

We all met downstairs (mom and dad had 60 steep steps to their door, and no steps in their apartment… but the strangest bathtub thing ever!) We went to the seawall to watch the sunset and really enjoy ourselves! We wandered up to the little restaurant that our landlady had recommended and stuck to the regional foods. Cingue Terre lies in the region of Liguria, and is known for it’s seafood, especially fresh anchovies, and for pesto and white wine. We enjoyed marinated acchiuge (anchovies) that were lemony and fresh and deeelicious! some trofie pasta with pesto, some swordfish and branzino (sea bass) and lemon sorbetto for dessert. It was really great and much lighter fare than we had been seeing in Tuscany and Umbria.

We hiked up to bed and had an early evening since we were all tired. The next morning mom and dad surprised us by coming up to see our apartment and they agreed: no description does it justice! You must see it to believe it!! Then we hit the hiking trail. You can walk a trail through all 5 towns and there are also trains and buses and a passenger-only ferry that helps with all the transit going on throughout the towns. We decided to walk the first 3 towns, which are the easiest, and then train to the last two. We also wanted to take the ferry back so we could see them all from the water.

The first bit from Riomaggiore to Manorola is paved and very easy. It is called the walk of love, and there are little benches along the way to enjoy the sea views from. Then entire trail goes along the side of the ocean and it is really a spectacular hike to do. We checked out the town a bit (absolutely lovely! There were shops and cafes and beautiful buildings filled with terraced apartments… Mom checked out the gelato and then headed down the trail to corniglia. This part of the trail was definitely more rough–unpaved, parts of it pretty steep, and a few times lacking a guard rail so falling to your death would be no problem. One mis step and you are a goner! As beautiful as it was, the ocean and rocks below us did not look very forgiving. There was one rope bridge to go over; it was not a long one, but that is something that I have serious trouble with so I got a chance to hyperventilate a bit before moving on.

We got to the bottom of Corniglia and you had 3 choices to get to the town up on the top of the hill: climb the 382 steps with switchbacks, walk up the road with switchbacks, or take a bus. Dad and Mark chose the staircase, mom and I chose the road. We got to the top at exactly the same time! Luckily there was a restaurant and we all collapsed into chairs at an outdoor table with views, of course! We enjoyed an abundance of seafood: octopus, anchovies, mussels, clams, shrimp, cuttlefish, and seabass. A bit of pasta and a salad and soon we were back on our feet. We explored the high, steep town and that was when we decided to take the train to the last 2. It was getting late and dad decided to walk the trail back. The rest of us trained to Vernazza, another impossibly lovely town with wonderful views and a little beach. Mark and I checked out the gelato there and I think it was among the best we have had, for sure.

Soon we were back on the train and going to Monterosso, with the best beach and the most tourists, I wasn’t sure if I would like this one or not. We got off the train and read a sign that was in Italian and we are pretty sure it said that anyone who got to see all 5 towns was required by law to enjoy a litre of wine at a seaside cafe. Of course we obey all laws so we found the nearest outdoor seating and enjoyed that wine! The sun set while we were there and so we explored at dusk. I saw a fisherman on the rocky shore with the longest fishing pole in the world! I swear it was 20 feet long at least! I don’t know what he was fishing for, we had to get back on the train to get back to Riomaggiore.

Sleeping was not so great: it is a very noisy town!

We got on an express and were back in 8 minutes! We picked up a few groceries and all met up at mom and dads for an al fresco meal. The goal was to finish all the food and wine that we had so we could travel back more lightly than we came. This was not fully to occur since we had 5 bottles of wine and none of us wanted to wake up with a headache! This morning we packed up and hit the trains again. Oh and we found a ‘back’ door to our place that was a much easier trip with larger, less steep stairs to the piazza! Nice to find it now as we are leaving!!

The next train directly to Florence was not until 1341 so we decided to take a train to Pisa and see if we could get there quicker. The train we got on was the nicest so far! We had our own little compartment with climate control and comfy seats, and even a little tray table to work on! We figured we would be tossed off since we were in first class or something and we were close to being right. The conductor came around and looked at our tickets. We were on the intercity train and we had only regional train tickets… we could either get off at the next station or pay 5.20 euro each to continue on. This was the most comfort we had traveled on so we paid up!! It was totally worth it!

We got to Pisa and sure enough there was a train to florence in just a few minutes: good plan! So this is where we are now and I know I owe you a few days back to fill in the blanks and you will get them. They were absolutely fabulous wineries and I will not leave them out! My battery is getting low now so I will finish later, perhaps even when I got home tomorrow. We have reservations for a wonderful dinner tonight at il Latini, my favorite restaurant in Florence, then we leave for Paris in the morning around 7, I think. We only have an hour or so there and then we are enroute home again.

This is a bittersweet time: I could stay here forever and I am ready to get home to my kitties, the cafe and our girls who we have missed so much, and into the familiar daily routine that we have so grown to love. I love this place and I have gotten to know it even better this trip than last, so I can hardly wait for next time. My dreams come true, I hope yours do too!!

Ciao for now. See you soon girls! I love you!!!