Cinque Terre is the final stop on our Grand Italian Tour, and our final hotel is in Monterosso-Al-Mare. Want to read more about our trip? You can start from the beginning here in Milan!
Finally! A good night’s sleep! There’s no time to indulge in a lie-in this morning as we have a train at 09:53 to catch. We gulp down our breakfast, throw our last couple of things in our suitcases (no rolling or folding anymore…everything gets thrown and we hope they come out only slightly dishevelled at the other end) and report in to reception (a table in the lounge) to check out and call a cab. It appears that this morning’s inclement weather and the Monday morning rush hour = no cabs. It’s now 09:15, and unless our cab is also a helicopter we’re unlikely to make that train.
Luckily we know our way after walking to the station yesterday, but yesterday we were unhindered by two large suitcases and multiple puddles. We start off walking. This soon turns into a brisk trot, and them an all-out sprint. We get to the station with ten minutes to space, but the regional train is lacking in storage space for luggage so we end up stacking them near the doors. I remember as the train pulls out of Florence that we have failed to purchase a fridge magnet. I shall have to scour eBay when we get home. Or find a friendly Florentine local to send me one. (2016 update: my lovely friend Jen visited later in the year and managed to find me the heaviest, tackiest, bottle opener-fridge magnet that she could find :D)
Out of all the train journeys, this is the only one where we feel a little uncomfortable about leaving our luggage out of our sight. As we pull into stations, Mr Fletche goes to stand with our suitcases as we’re paranoid that someone will make a grab for them and run off down the platform. I’d like to see anyone grab and run off with mine, which is getting heavier by the day. Nevertheless, we’re glad when we finally pull into La Spezia for our connection into Monterosso.
Once again, in a repeat of our Pisa journey, we miss our train by a minute. We’re not too disconcerted but the man trying to overtake us and our suitcases on the stairs up to the platform clearly is as he throws his bag down on the floor and curses at us in Italian. At least we assume he is cursing by the amount of furious gesticulation. Still, we sit down and wait for the next Monterosso bound train. Which doesn’t take long to arrive.
We’re looking forward to this short leg of the journey, assuming the train track will hug the coast and we’ll have magnificent views of the Ligurgian Sea. It does indeed hug the coast, however it hugs the coast mainly from within tunnels. We get tantalizing glimpses as we whizz past stations until eventually we pull into the station at Monterosso-Al-Mare. If the view when we came out of the station at Venice took our breath away, this view squeezes every ounce of oxygen from our lungs, until we can only squeak “Wow”. The crystalline sea, the clear blue sky, the rows and rows of sunbeds and parasols. It’s just like Weston-Super-Mare.
(Disclaimer. It’s nothing like Weston-Super-Mare. There are no donkeys and you can actually see the sea).
It’s a bit of a slog up to our hotel, particularly as we’re not entirely sure where we’re going. We make a totally unnecessary detour when we ignore the handily placed tunnel and instead drag our suitcases up and round the cliff edge. Eventually we get ourselves pointed in the right direction and find the quiet road just off the main thoroughfare through the old town where Hotel Souvenir is located. It’s been a hot and sweaty walk, so we’re very happy that our room is ready, the air con is ramped up to the max and we can unpack our suitcases for the final time.
This morning, waking up to rain in Florence, we didn’t expect to be back into our summer clothes just a couple of hours later. But with suntan lotion freshly applied, we’re off out to discover our base for the next couple of days. Today Monterosso-al-Mare, tomorrow we’ll explore our neighbouring towns. That’s the plan anyway. But first, lunch.
We’re so hungry that we stop at the first ristorante we find, Al Pozzo. Our lunch turns out to be more expensive than last night’s meal, but it turns out to be worth it as our mixed seafood salad and plate of cold cuts is lush. Fully sated, we head down to the main beachfront. Monterosso’s beach is made up of private beaches, where you get use of a sunbed, parasol and changing/shower facilities for a fee; and areas of “free” beach. We stick to strolling along the flower-lined promenade, stopping here and there to enjoy the views and a gelato or two.
We return to our hotel and have a much-deserved Aperol Spritz on the terrace. They don’t skimp on the accompanying snacks either with tortilla chips, salsa and various pickles.
We wander down to the harbour. We spend a little time relaxing and listening to the waves crashing over the rocks. Dark clouds threaten, and there’s a light sprinkling of rain, but this just freshens up what is turning out to be a very warm evening. We retrace our steps back to town. It’s time for a drink at Bar Gio overlooking the beach and late sun-worshippers soaking up the last few rays.
We could survive here purely on the “free” snacks doled out with our drinks. But we decide something a little more substantial is called for so we head back to the Old Town.
We passed a pizzeria earlier which appeared to serve the HUGEST pizzas so we check out their fare. We pass on the family-size pizza, but we do share a good pizza and mixed salad. As expected in Italy, the red wine is excellent. And the whole caboodle comes to just over 20 euro. We’ve balanced out that slightly more costly lunch.
Monterosso-al-Mare doesn’t have a vibrant nightlife. Most bars close early so we head for the hotel and our lovely room, dreams of the seaside running through our head.