Saturday, November 17, 2012

cinque terre

cinque terre, or in english - five towns. it literally is five towns along the coast of italy: monterosso, vernazza, cornelia, manarola, and riomaggiore.

i'm sure you've all seen it all over pinterest. it's everywhere. have you seen the pictures of beautifully colored buildings on the edge of a cliff? well then you probably saw cinque terre.

most people go to cinque to hike between the towns. it is an 11 mile hike along the edge of a cliff that goes straight down to the mediterranean sea. sounds hard, but not too bad... right? well chelsea and rachael (being the very adventurous, non-logical people of the group) thought it would be fun to hike both ways, so a total of 22 miles in two days. we would hike 13 miles the first day and 9 the second. i never really agreed to this but figured they would realize it was a stupid idea and cave to my logical senses eventually when we got there and got started.

the day started of with a nice 2 mile walk from our house to the train station at 4am. yes. 4 in the morning. we boarded our train and tried to get a little sleep so we wouldn't be quite as tired all day. the last 15 minutes we were excited to see such a beautiful view of the cliffs and the sea which gave us a nice boost of energy. when we got to monterosso, we stopped to get some hot chocolate and croissants then started on our hike to vernazza! 

.....until we were stopped by the trail guard saying the trails were all closed. awesome. you mean to tell me we woke up at 3:30am to catch a train to come here for the hike only to not be able to do it? sweet. so happy about this. i mean, maybe we had climbed over a fence that said the trail was closed due to dangerous conditions, we didn't think anyone would actually stop us and we figured "how bad could it be? we are unstoppable!" well clearly we are stoppable.

we headed back towards monterosso and found out there was a second trail we could take that was longer and not right along the coast, but we decided to try it out. we started walking and came across a vineyard that seemed to be a shortcut. mckenna and i get really bad allergies and hives when we go through nature things like that but we decided it might be a good idea to take a shortcut now since we were going to be taking a longer trail. we started heading down into the vineyard and got to a point where there was literally nowhere for us to go. in front of us was a barbed wire fence, down was a muddy disaster, and above was a steep hill leading nowhere. we didn't want to turn back because we had already gone so far so we started heading down the hill... at the last second we saw a tiny opening where we could go through and the trail continued so we decided to take that and see where it led. we aren't really sure what happened, but we somehow ended up on the main trail. we were right along the edge of the cliff and had the most beautiful view of the mediterranean. until our view was obstructed by a cat haven. like seriously? what is up with europe's obsession with those devilish creatures? if i weren't afraid of them biting me and giving me rabies, i would have punted them off the cliff. just kidding. kind of.

two and a half hours later, we were in vernazza. we had heard vernazza was famous for their focaccia so we set out on a hunt to find some for lunch. the pesto and focaccia were so fresh and delicious! definitely as good as people had told us! after taking a short break and a quick look around the town, we were on our way to the next town!

we found the entrance to the trail to cornelia and there was a trail guard there, but he didn't try to stop us. he just kind of looked at us and laughed but let us go past. along the trail, we found a cute little bridge with a waterfall and stopped to look around and take some pictures then kept going. this was one of the easier hikes, so we figured it would get easier and easier and that the worst was already past. a little under two hours later, we were in the next town.

we had quite the friendly welcome when we got to cornelia. we were greeted by a very angry man who questioned why we were on the closed trail. we tried to explain to him that the guard at the beginning let us go and he said it was not possible (every italian's favorite phrase). we told him "um.. it is possible. we just did it." as he continued to get mad at us and we just walked off and ignored him.

the other girls from the group that had gone to cinque a few weekends before had told us about the best frozen yogurt place and said we had to go. they said they had gone five times in the two days they were there and we didn't understand how that was possible...until we tried it. it suddenly all made sense. maybe we had two in one sitting. no shame. no regrets. except for maybe when we started hiking to the next town and realized how horrible of an idea it was to put so much dairy into the lactose-sensitive stomachs of three out of the four girls there.

i honestly wished death upon my self on the next hike. multiple times, actually. we found the trail and started up the mountain. not a hill. a mountain. we went up the steepest hill with no flat break for two miles. throw in the dairy problem, heat, lack of water, lack of previous exercise, and minor asthma and you've got the party of the century! it was so much fun i could have died! just kidding. about the first part. i'm surprised i didn't die. chelsea of course just powered through with no problem. mckenna wasn't far behind. then there was rachael and i almost out of sight from them, literally crawling up the mountain. seeing flat ground was possibly the happiest moment of my life. we SUMMITED a mountain. literally went from the very bottom to the very top of a mountain. but then we realized we had to go all the way back down... and it was just as steep. why the italians feel the need to do things in the most impractical way possible, i will never know. but since the main trail was closed, summiting a mountain was our only choice.

going up the mountain was hard on my entire body, but going down the mountain was a killer on the knees.. seriously, i am an old woman. my bones and joints are comparable to a 90 year old woman. seeing manarola was one of the happiest moments of my entire life and i was so excited to finally be there and be able to rest my knees. they have never hurt as bad as they did in that moment.

three hours later, we were finally in manarola. we stopped down on the rocks to take a quick swim then headed up another hill to our hostel. when we checked in, the man at the hotel handed us four coins for the showers.. yes, the shower in our room was on a timer and we only had five minutes to shower after all that hiking. oh and not to mention, when we got to the room we realized they did not provide towels so we would not be showering after all. awesome. i love being sweaty and gross for two straight days! we cleaned up as much as we could and went to grab dinner down by the water. kenna, chels, and rach enjoyed a...lovely seafood dish and i had a pesto pasta. we headed back to the hotel and were passed out by 7:30.

the next thirteen hours were spent sleeping. getting out of bed was possibly one of the hardest and most painful experiences of my life. i was so incredibly sore and wanted to die, almost more than i did the day before. and we still had to get to riomaggiore. we tried to walk along the via dell'more but of course the gate was locked. we found another route there and walked around town for a bit then decided to go back to cornelia for more yogurt. chelsea thought it would be fun to hike between all the towns again.. still. even after everything, she thought that would be a good idea. we convinced her it was best to go by train and she finally agreed. the only problem, though, was that after we got off the train in cornelia, we realized we had to hike up a gigantic set of stairs. we had to take a few breaks along the way... so pathetic. i'm ashamed to admit that. but it was all worth it because we got to eat two more yogurts :) after cornelia, we went into monterosso and tried to rent a paddleboat only to find out everything was closed since it's not the main season. we ended up finding two blow-up alligators so we bought those and swam out to sea with them. 

kenna and i really wanted to go paragliding cause we had seen some paragliders earlier in the day. we went out looking for where to do it and sadly couldn't find anywhere, so we went back and laid on the beach for a little bit then headed back to the train station to go home.

on the way home, we stopped in pisa and went to the leaning tower! honest opinion - it was not that cool. it was much smaller than i expected and it was very difficult to get a picture. none of ours even turned out that great. basically, we wasted our time running to the tower to see it and get a picture and run back in order to catch our train back to siena, but hey it's all a part of the adventure! 

once we were back in siena, we still had to walk the two miles back to our house from the station. i have never been as exhausted as i was the next day at church. walking there was nearly impossible and staying awake was just as bad. we had a great weekend though so it was all worth it, even though it was very very hard!

sunrise in monterosso

the vineyard we crossed

sitting on the bridge

first view of vernazza

first view of cornelia

hardest hike of my life to manarola....

view from the summit of the mountain.....

our first look at manarola

maybe i had to take off my shirt cause i was dying on the way to manarola...

kenna chickened out...

our hostel

rachael locking her love onto the via dell'more


in close, lets just point out a few things:
1. i haven't worked out in any shape, sort, or form in at least six months
2. the path that was supposed to be 11 miles ended up being 26. 
3. i hiked the distance of a marathon to the top of a mountain in less than a 24-hour time period (most of it in one day).

i am still proud of myself for doing it and keeping up the whole time! i even led part of the way :) really though, it was one of the cooler things i've done in my life and i'm so glad i sucked it up and did it! if you ever have the chance to go, it's a must see!! well worth it!!