Our first two stops were fairly uneventful. We had a nice time, got a little lost finding hotels, but otherwise, no drama. Well, Cinque Terre was full of drama. Hold on travel lovers!
Getting from Venice to Cinque Terre is not easy or quick. I knew we needed to go to Florence, but did not see a ticket option to Florence at the train station. I finally spotted someone in a Trenitalia sweater (hee hee) and found out we needed to buy a ticket to Rome, then change trains in Florence. The train to Rome left at 12:25 p.m. Once in Florence we caught a train to Pisa Centrale at 3 p.m. We were tempted to hop off and check out the leaning tower, but decided that would be for another trip. Instead we stayed on track (pun intended) and looked for a train to La Spezia Centrale, which was scheduled to leave at 5:20 p.m.
We found the right platform and boarded the train. One more ride and we would be at Vernazza, where I had made reservations at a farm house. Almost there! While sitting on the train waiting for it to leave, I heard someone behind me mention a north and south train. My ears perked up. I walked over and asked them if they were going to Cinque Terre. She replied that the north train went there, but we were on the south train. Turns out these trains were backed up next to each other on the same platform. Aghhh!!
We grabbed our bags and ran to the north train. After we settled on that train, Julie asked me where my personal bag was. $#%^!!!! I immediately jumped up and ran back to the south train, grabbed my bag, which was still sitting in the seat, and made it back to the north train. While I was gone, Julie was sitting there thinking, “What if she doesn’t make it back? She has the tickets. How will we find each other?” Luckily, both trains were a little late. Whew!! That could have been a disaster! (Note to self: not only do we need to find the correct platform, make sure the train is going in the correct direction.)
Now on to our next drama…
As I just mentioned, our hotel was listed as being in Vernazza. Julie had come over one afternoon and we picked out a few hotels online. We thought this one looked nice and it had a great view. It did mention that public transportation was not available to get to this hotel, but I had called ahead and talked to the owner. I told him we didn’t have a car and asked if that would be a problem. “No problem.” He told me to call upon arrival and he would pick us up at the train station. At this point, I will also say for the record, a friend had traveled to Cinque Terre two years prior and mentioned her hotel owner picking her up, so I thought nothing of it.
Let me take a break from the drama to say coming into to that area by train was breathtaking. You’re in a tunnel for a while and you come out of it, and it’s just ocean and sunshine. Amazing!!
Now back to the drama. We arrived in Vernazza around 6 p.m. We dragged our luggage down the stairs to the town and found a pay phone. (We had both put our cell phones on airplane mode to not be charged any costly roaming fees.) I couldn’t figure out how to use the pay phone so finally asked a woman sitting on a bench next to the phone how to use it. She asked where I was trying to call and I told her Locanda Valeria. The man sitting next to her told me that the owner of Locanda Valeria was his cousin! Awesome! He called on his cell phone and relayed to us that the owner couldn’t pick us up right then. He also said we needed to take the train back to Corniglia and go to a restaurant by the bus stop. Sigh. We dragged our luggage back up the stairs and got on the train to Corniglia, which we had already passed through. Luckily it takes about a minute to get from one town to the next.
At Corniglia we got in line for the local bus just outside the train station. I thought we needed to buy a bus ticket at the train counter, so ran back and did that. Then we found out you can buy a ticket from the bus driver. We crammed on the bus and drove on the winding road up the hill for a few minutes and stopped in a central part of town. The restaurant was right there. There is no way we could have walked from the train station to the restaurant.
It was around 6:30 when we arrived at the restaurant. I saw some people inside so knocked on the partially open door and said my usual, “scusi?” They told me they opened at 7 and to come back. Ok…
We sat on a bench overlooking the sea until 7 p.m.
I knocked again and talked to the owner. He said he could take us to the hotel any time. We decided to eat dinner there – it was the least we could do since they were giving us a ride. I had another seafood special pasta, this time with crayfish, shrimp (still in the shell), mussels and calamari. Oh yeah, and one squid. This one was a little more garlicky. I also had swordfish. The last time I had swordfish was in Portugal. Soooo good! The special was 19 euros.
After dinner we walked around town more and got our gelato. Corniglia is a very medieval looking, quaint town.
Now it was time to ask for our ride to the hotel. Lorenzo, one of the waiters, was our “driver”. We squeezed our luggage into his tiny car (another good reason to pack light!) and then squeezed ourselves into the back seat. We then had the ride of our lives. This ranked right up there with a New York cab. It was pitch black. Lorenzo took off, cigarette in one hand, steering wheel in the other, driving up another winding, hilly road. Did I also mention narrow? When he came to a hairpin turn, he’d tap on the horn, which we realized was his signal that we were coming around the corner and anyone coming the other way should stop or something. Luckily no one was ever coming the other way. We sat in the back seat with our hands over our mouths (well, I was, anyway) trying to stifle our giggles. To top it off, at the near top of the hill I thought he was going to follow the road, but he turned at the last second into the hotel driveway. My stomach kept going the other way. More giggling. I wish I could’ve seen our faces!
We couldn’t see much of the hotel grounds. Lorenzo didn’t speak much English so we followed him inside and he gave us a key and showed us our room. Buonanotte, Lorenzo! Our room had a small balcony that overlooked the ocean. It was so dark we couldn’t see anything and we were so high up on the hill we couldn’t hear the ocean. Nonetheless, we arrived at our hotel in one piece. The Lord was with us! I’m pooped!