Friday, August 23, 2013

Hiking to Monterosso

Tuesday morning we wanted to hike some of the trails between the five towns in the Cinque Terre. Being the gluttons for punishment that we are, we decided to do the most challenging segment: from Vernazza, the town where we were staying, to Monterrosso, the resort-y town with the biggest beach.

The trail to Monterrosso started within a few yards of our front door. There was just an arrow pointing up an alley off the main street of Via Roma. Just like that and you were on your way.

Thankfully, there was a sign posted on the trail warning us not to wear high heels for the hike. (Phew! Close one.)

We started out by going up a narrow alleyway and then up stairs, more stairs and even more stairs. Before long, we could see beautiful views of the Vernazza waterfront behind us.

Then the trail wound upward even more--with stairs, more stairs and even more stairs, interspersed with some some steep hills for variety. Vernazza became smaller and smaller beneath us and we saw more sweeping views of the Ligurian coastline.
Oddly enough, there were several little houses we passed on the trail. You couldn't argue with the beauty of the location, but wow, that would add a whole new level of difficulty to grocery shopping. You'd have to reaaallly want something badly to carry it up the trail to your house.

We were treated to some amazing views, as long as we could wipe the sweat out of our eyes enough to see them. It was a brutally hot day, even with hats, shorts and any other heat-repellent device we could think of. We tried to focus on the scent of the rosemary and Meditteranean foliage instead of, well, us.
When we finally started descending the hill (which amazingly, still required us to go UP stairs), we were counting the minutes and then the seconds until we could try out the beach at Monterrosso. In true European form, it was jam-packed with beach umbrellas and people of all ages sunning themselves.
Beachwear was a bit different in Italy. Out of all the women we saw, there were maybe two in a one-piece swimsuit. Bikinis were definitely de rigeur, from the youngest to the oldest. I never thought I would see so many old pudgy ladies letting it all hang out in bikinis. It was a little bit disturbing but also refreshing, (after all- you can't have anything interfere with your 60-year-old tanline, you know). It was often difficult to tell girls from boys among small children, since either would usually only be wearing speedo-style swim bottoms. There was even one adult woman contentedly sunning herself sans top in the wall-to-wall crowd of people. People seemed most concerned about absorbing maximum sun and minimum tanlines. Apparently sunblock and skin cancer aren't hot topics in Italy (yes, I'm defending my glow-in-the-dark whiteness). Speaking of speedos, the only men who weren't wearing them were foreign tourists. I am sure they are practical attire for swimming, but they still are not generally attractive.
After our sweaty hike to Monterrosso, the water felt amazing! The "beach" was actually a shoreline of rocks and gravel. At first this seemed pretty lame, but the upside was that the water was crystal clear-- and you didn't get dirty and sandy. I could become a fan of that, especially with kids. We swam from the beach through the lake-like calm waters to a rocky shorebreak. I should say Dave and I swam out there while Megan took about 10 years to get in the water. (I can say this because I took about a year to get in myself but as long as there is someone slower than you then you seem fast. Right, Meg? ;) Eventually Megan caught up with us and we sat out there and chatted until we felt like swimming back. Which unfortunately meant having to get back in the water after drying off and warming up. But there wasn't really any gradual way to get off the rocks, so Megan and I were forced to abandon our habit of getting in as slowly and painfully as possible and just jump.
After a break for lunch, gelato and wandering around the town, we took a boat from Monterrosso, the northenmost town, to Riomaggiore, the southernmost town of the five.

 As we stopped at each port on the way we enjoyed vistas of the tiny towns snaking their way up the rocky hillsides.
We walked around Riomaggiore and had more gelato (surprise!), then we took a train back to Vernazza.
We finished the day with dinner at one of the little restaurants lining the waterfront. We even decided to sample the local specialty of tegame alla Vernazza- a dish of potatoes, tomatoes and fresh anchovies. I have never been a fan of anchovies, but they actually weren't half bad. We ate our meal under the stars, sitting at one of the umbrella-covered outdoor tables on the waterfront.

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