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Relaxing in Riomaggiore

Thursday, October 10, 2013 @ 06:44 pm from Italy Italy
Day 106

The forecast was calling for a pretty high chance of rain all day so rather than get soaked or deal with more closed trails, I just stayed here in Riomaggiore for the day.

After breakfast I used the wifi of a bar to upload all my photos from the last few days then walked around town taking some more photos. Since the weather was sketchy and the seas were really rough, the ferries between the villages were shut down which meant there weren't many tourists walking around. It was nice to explore without dealing with crowds.

I bought a pepper and some green beans and cooked it up with pasta, spices and olive oil for lunch (and also dinner). I enjoyed lunch on the balcony at the hostel overlooking the village with a glass of wine.

After that I just kinda lounged around on the balcony watching the views and taking in the sights. I went back and looked at all the photos from this trip as well as the motorcycle trip Ryan and I did last summer. It's crazy how much I've seen on this trip so far.

Without having any real connection to the internet, being the only one in the hostel today (aside from the long term guy who has his own private room) and the town basically shutting down after around 7:00pm, there really isn't much to do at night. It would be the perfect place to read a book but unfortunately the last couple hostels I stayed at either didn't have any books or all the books were in Italian.

Tomorrow I head to Florence where I'll spend a few nights. I think I'm going to try to do a day trip down to Siena to see that town. I was originally planning on staying the night there but couldn't find a cheap place to stay. I'd still like to see the town though.
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Rough seas at the Riomaggiore marina
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Cloudy in Riomaggiore
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Riomaggiore
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Lunch I made in Riomaggiore

Hiking the Cinque Terre

Wednesday, October 9, 2013 @ 04:55 pm from Italy Italy
Day 105

It was overcast when I woke up which I was fine with. It meant that I wouldn't be burning up like I would have been yesterday in the full sun. The train I was waiting on to take me to the next town of Manarola didn't leave until around 10:20am so I wasn't really in a rush.

When I got to Manarola I walked to the start of the coastal trail but saw that it was closed for whatever reason. Since that trail was closed I had to take the much more elevation intense #6 trail up to Volastra and then cut over to Corniglia. What should have been a 30 minute hike had the coastal trail been open turned into a 2 hour adventure to go to the same place.

It was a pretty intense hike up the steep side of vineyards but awarded me with some spectacular views that I wouldn't have seen if I was closer to the coast. I passed through the small town of Volastra and then cut down to Corniglia.

During this part of the hike I started to run into a lot of other hikers. There were huge groups of people slowly hiking and trying to pass them on the extremely narrow trails was a challenge. It also made for slow going when you came across people going the other direction because you had to find a spot wide enough for both groups to pass. At one point I ended up getting stuck behind a group of about 30-40 french people who weren't the fastest hikers. Of course it was also on one of the steepest parts of the hike so I really upped my heart rate jogging past them when I had the opportunity.

Eventually I got down to Corniglia which is situated at the top of a cliff and is the one town that doesn't really connect directly to the water. I had a pressed sandwich here for lunch and took a little break before continuing on.

When I got to the start of the next part of the trail there were a bunch of people all lined up. It was a bit frustrating being stuck behind these huge groups or chunks of groups because all you feel like you're doing is passing slow people or moving over for oncoming hikers. The weather was also turning a bit for the worse here and some light rain started to come in and out the rest of the hike.

After Corniglia was Vernazza. This is where I spent some time yesterday and seeing the town from the south side was really nice. The town was packed with tour groups from cruises who take up the entirety of the tiny streets when the tour guide stops to say something. It's a bit frustrating when all you want to do is get around them and they seem to have complete disregard for anyone other than themselves or the group.

The views around Vernazza were the best of the whole hike though in my opinion. The town is very picturesque and there are some great viewing areas on the hiking trails around the city. All of the towns sell these little spice mixtures that are great for pasta, fish, meat, bruscetta, etc so I bought a couple packets and I'll try to recreate them when I'm back home. I'm going to try one of them with my pasta tonight.

Continuing on, next up was the final town in the Cinque Terre of Monterosso. It took about an hour to get between the towns, mostly because of the huge amount of people also on the trail and the trail being at its narrowest and least passing-friendly. Monterosso is definitely the most resorty of the five towns. It's the only one with a true beach and everything built up around it is geared more toward vacationers it seemed like.

I was planning on hanging out at the beach with a beer but didn't really want to deal with all the tourists. I saw there was a train due to arrive in about 10 minutes so I went to the train station and waited for it. While waiting, two giant tour groups also came up and were waiting to board which is a pain since the age demographic of the tour groups means it takes each person a bit of a struggle to get on the train.

I was also overhearing a group of ladies talking about similar experiences to mine hiking today. Very few people at the beginning but the farther north you got the more people were out.

I'm back at the hostel now and I'll probably have a beer before showering and having dinner. The hike was good but didn't really wear me out the same way hiking in Snowdonia or Breckon Beacons did. That being said, I'm sure I'll sleep well tonight.

Unfortunately for my last day in the Cinque Terre tomorrow it's supposed to rain all day. Depending on what the weather forecast says in the morning I might try to get out for some more hiking. If not, I'll just hang out here and enjoy Riomaggiore.

All in all aside from the massive amounts of people on the trails, the views of the cities and coastline were fantastic. This is one of the most beautiful areas I've been to the entire trip (tossed up between the Cliffs of Moher, Snowdonia and the Breckon Beacons). The photos for today are amazing and once I have a true wifi signal again I'll upload them all for everyone to see.
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Manarola from above
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The hiking trail between towns with Corniglia in the distance
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Corniglia
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Monterosso - the more resorty of the Cinque Terre towns

Exploring the Cinque Terre

Tuesday, October 8, 2013 @ 05:02 pm from Italy Italy
Day 104

We slept with the windows open in the hostel last night. It got a little chilly but after I got another blanket it was great having the fresh air coming in at night. In the morning I got up and had breakfast downstairs at the bar where the owner of the hostel works. I had a marmalade filled croissant and a cappuccino.

Since I didn't want to spend the next several days buying beers at the bar across the street to feed my need for internet connectivity, I bought a 2 day Cinque Terre card that gives me unlimited access on trains between all the Cinque Terre towns as well as the ability to hike between the cities.

With my pass I went to the big city that isn't really part of the Cinque Terre called La Spezia. They have all of the big shops and phone stores there that I'd need to get another SIM card. Last night I was talking to Oliver (the guy who lives here 5 months out of the year selling his paintings of the Cinque Terre to tourists) and he mentioned the phone company WIND and told me where to go to get a SIM card.

I showed up there and tried to get a new card but their internet was down and they wouldn't be able to do anything for a couple hours. Bummer. Next, I headed down the main shopping area and found another shop. Unfortunately they were all out of SIM cards. Bummer #2. I went to the 3 Store (the company of my prior SIM card) but they were closed for some reason. Bummer #3. I walked around some more and found another phone shop. The guy didn't speak any English but between my very very limited Italian and a lot of pointing and repeating of basic needs, we were able to get things figured out. The SIM I'm using now is from a different company and seems to be a bit spotty in the Cinque Terre towns (not that my 3 SIM was much better).

After getting that taken care of, I boarded a train to the town of Vernazza. I walked around there for a while, paid to climb up a big castle tower for some amazing views, had some lunch and then got on a train for the town of Manarola.

Manarola is the next town up from the one I'm staying at (Riomaggiore) and it's the starting point for all the hiking between the cities. I went on some of the paths to get some shots of the town but I'll leave the full hikes for tomorrow and Thursday. I think of all the towns so far, Manarola is probably the most beautiful. Like most of the towns, it's surrounded by cliffside vineyards and the town is nestled in the cliff side working its way down to the sea. In Manarola people were swimming around in the marina. It was very tempting to get in since it was pretty warm today. I might get in tomorrow or Thursday if the weather stays nice like this.

I hung out there for a while and looked through some of the shops. All of the towns sell their locally produced wine, soaps and spice mixes for pasts. I'll probably buy a few packages of the spice mixtures. One of the other guys staying here used it last night in his pasta and it smelled amazing.

Now I'm back at the hostel on the balcony working with some wine and amazing views all around me. I think tonight once it gets dark I'll head down to the marina and see if taking any photos of the city at night look good.

Since I have a limit on the amount of data I can use for my SIM card, I won't be uploading my photos until I get to my hostel in Florence. If you want to see some of what I'm up to, check out my Instagram feed at the top right side of my blog.
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Vernazza from the marina
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Vernazza
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Manarola
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Manarola and vineyards

Cinque Terre!

Monday, October 7, 2013 @ 07:36 pm from Italy Italy
Day 103

I had a few options to get to Riomaggiore today but I opted to take the first train which left at 10:30am. I had two different connections but I finally made it to Riomaggiore in the Cinque Terre around 12:15pm. After arriving in the train station you have to walk through a tunnel to get to the main part of town. I checked into the hostel and then walked around town for several hours.

The check-in experience is the weirdest so far. The guy who owns the hostel (which is basically just an apartment with a bunch of beds in the living room and two private rooms that can be bought) also owns a bar where you have to go to check in.

All of the beds were full in the main room so for the first night I'm sharing a private room with a guy named Oliver. He lives and paints here for 5 months out of the year and speaks about 4 different languages. A really cool guy!

The town is amazing. It's situated on the cliffs that lead down to a marina. I walked around all over town for a couple hours taking quite a few photos. I came back to the hostel around 3 to shower and met a guy named Adam from Australia who has been here a few nights.

All of the markets close down for a few hours in the middle of the day for a siesta so I couldn't actually buy groceries for dinner until around 5pm. Adam and I talked for a bit about our travels (he's currently living and working in a hostel in Edinburgh) and this has been his first real trip in the last 3 months since he got there.

I got some pasta, sauce, a big bell pepper and some wine at the market and then came back to cook it. I also made a huge mistake. In order to charge my phone quicker, I turned it off and put it on the charger. After dinner I turned the phone back on only to be prompted to enter the PIN code I was provided when I bought it. This wouldn't normally be a problem but I threw the pin card away this morning when I left Lucca. I didn't think I'd have to use it again after entering it the first time. It's a real pain because the hostel here doesn't have WiFi either. I think tomorrow I'm going to head back to La Spezia and get another SIM card. Not having any connection for the next 4 nights isn't really an option due to CCB emails and stuff.

On Wednesday I'm planning on doing some hiking between the towns in the Cinque Terre. Unfortunately a few of the sections are closed due to landslides so I'll have to figure out which ones are open and hike on those.
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Riomaggiore from the marina
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Riomaggiore from above
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More cool lights. Plaza del Salvador in Seville. #sevilla #europetrip2013
Jamon! #europetrip2013 #jamon #valencia
Beer on the beach. #barcelona #cervesa #europetrip2013
The Victory Column. #berlin #europetrip2013
Arc de Triomphe in Parc du Cinquantenaire. #brussels #europetrip2013
Back in the Brecon Beacons. #europetrip2013
La Mezquita in Cordoba Spain. #mezquita #europetrip2013 #cordoba
Scottish Highlands. #europetrip2013
Cabot Tower on top of Brandon Hill in Bristol. #europetrip2013 #bristol
#amsterdam #europetrip2013

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Where I've been:

Good Evening… Planet Earth
All the countries I visited on this trip (in yellow).

What's this about?

Traveling is something I've loved doing for as long as I can remember. I've been lucky enough to travel out of the US a few times but never longer than 2 weeks at a time. I decided that I should go see the world and experience all it has to offer. I booked a one-way ticket to Dublin, Ireland to depart on June 26, 2013. After I get to Europe I'll let serendipity take hold and see where I end up. No schedules and no itinerary… just go with the flow. That's as close to a plan as I'm making.

Who am I?

My name's Brandon O'Brien and I'm a travelholic. Before this journey I've been to 11 countries and put over 17,500 miles on various motorcycle trips through the USA and Canada. I'm a self-employed web developer so I'm fortunate enough to be able to work anywhere there's an internet connection. That's what truly made this experience possible.

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