Making our way from Florence to Cinque Terre was a stunning train ride through the Italian countryside. However, we did run into our first travel blunder. We stopped at a small station to transfer trains so upon arriving to it, we checked the monitor and waited at the platform where our train would arrive within 10 minutes. A few minutes later a train arrives with no signage but we hop on anyway while trying to figure out which specific train it is. Within a minute or so, it starts moving. We quickly realize trains never leave early so we realize that crap, we definitely just got on a random train. Nearly all the seats were empty so that began the fun game of trying to find someone to ask “um, excuse me but where the heck is this train headed?” Luckily for us it was going to a nearby town and we learned we could then easily transfer to Monterosso, our final destination. Phew!
If you haven’t been to Cinque Terre, it’s a must-see when visiting Italy. The five coastal villages (Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore) are perched on the hillside one after another overlooking the ocean. They are connected by train and a series of trails you can traverse between them. What’s great is each town has its own vibe and they are so easy to get between so you can just bounce around all day.
We stayed in Monterosso and absolutely loved it. It was a quiet and less touristy feeling village but still had good food, drinks and lodging. Katie found us a modern studio apartment with a kitchen right in the heart of everything. It was run by a lovely Italian family who also owns a wine bar/restaurant. This meant each morning we could walk over and have free croissants and coffee for breakfast at their restaurant. The town also provided some great little purse shops which gave my mom hours of entertainment. It also had a killer fruit stand so my mom got herself at least a couple of bowls of fresh fruit every day so all in all, she was a happy camper.
We were in Cinque Terre a couple of nights so we spent each day bouncing around the villages, taking a million pictures and sampling the local bites at each. One of the main reasons we chose Monterosso out of the five villages was because it had a beach, but unfortunately the weather didn’t hold up and was off and on rainy. That said, we made the most of it and the rain itself helped create one of my most memorable experiences of the trip.
With a break in the clouds I headed out for a run, planning to run the cliffside trail from Monterosso to Vernazza. Before I even hit the head of the trail it started to rain again, but being from Seattle I pushed on. I thought it was odd I didn’t see many people on the trail, but after the run I realized the trail was actually closed due to potential mudslides and I must have missed the sign (oops). Either way, I kept pushing on. The rain continued to ratchet up in strength until it finally hit a point where it was stronger than the average shower. I was wet to the bone but having the time of my life running through the woods on the three-foot-wide mud trail. Before I knew it, lightning and thunder started to boom and with every few minutes it moved closer and closer. Each strike was 5-15 seconds apart and lighting up the whole sky. This was becoming one of the most amazing runs of my life but the “don’t be an idiot” part of me was saying it was probably time to turn around before I got killed. Luckily I was almost to Vernazza so I quickly hid under a tree where I managed to get my phone out of its waterproof cover and snapped a picture of the lightning before heading back towards home. The crazy thing though is the first half mile back was an uphill run and the rain was coming down so hard that it created a stream flowing down the trail a couple of inches deep. My enjoyment continued as this was now a giant obstacle and you could run to the beats of the loud thunder. At the top of the trail I found two older Australian women hunkered under a tree not knowing what to do about all the water on the trail. I helped them out of the worst of it and once the trail was safe again, I parted ways and continued my journey home. Safe to say, it was the best run ever and I guess I’m lucky the trail didn’t collapse under me. Winning!
After our time in Cinque Terre we were ready to head up to iconic Venice to see what those canals are all about.