Tuesday, September 6, 2011

(Port Review: La Spezia Pt I)

The port of La Spezia
While many cruisers choose to use their stop at La Spezia to visit Pisa and Florence, we instead opted to visit the gorgeous Cinque Terre. The prospect of having to travel 2-2.5 hours by train to Florence made our decision easy - and I believe that it was the right one. Just one look at the pictures to follow, and you'll see why.

Cinque Terre, meaning Five Villages, is a national park and UNESCO World Heritage site along the coast of the Italian Riviera. Built atop high cliffs, visitors to the Cinque Terre can choose to hike from village to village, or take a very convenient train.

The Village of Riomaggiore

This particular port requires a tender boat, which means that the cruise ship docks as close to the port as it can get, and smaller boats take cruise passengers to the dock. My advice, if you choose to venture out on your own as we did, is to get to the Buena Vista Theatre (where you line up for the tenders) as early as possible. The earlier you get there, the less people there will be (we were the first crazy people there!) and the sooner you can get off the ship and start your day.
It's a short walk through the center of La Spezia to the train station. It's a beautiful little town, and the walk goes quickly as you have much to look at. There are many shops along the way, and the locals hustled about during the early morning hours.

the port of La Spezia

When we got to the train station, we requested two Cinque Terre tickets. While many of the clerks do not speak English, don't be intimidated; just tell them where you need to go and they will get you on your way. There are a lot of signs telling you which train you need to take, and the time of the train's arrival. This train station in particular was very crowded, and the woman who sold us our tickets gave us a map of the Cinque Terre as well as information on which train to take to the first village. Your Cinque Terre ticket, which costs an affordable 10 euro, is basically your key to the world. You can use it at each train stop along the way, and you must show your ticket at the beginning of each new village, even if you choose to hike it.

The first village was Riomaggiore. Dating from the early 13th century, this was in my opinion the most quiet of villages, and probably my least favorite. It may have been due to the earlier morning hours, or simply due to the fact that I was incredibly grumpy that day, but our visit here was quite short.

One thing of note from Riomaggiore were the fragrant lemon trees. We saw many villagers out in their gardens tending to the trees, and it was fun to imagine what it would be like to lead their seemingly peaceful lives.

The Via Dell'Amore, connecting Riomaggiore to Manarola

Whatever you do, don't take the train from Riomaggiore to Manarola (the next village), or you will miss out. The most charming of paths is called the Via Dell'Amore (Lover's Walk), and it's a must-do. Connecting Riomaggiore to Manarola, this is an easily walkable path, with virtually no up or downhill climbing. It's definitely my kind of walk - mostly because I'm lazy, and incredibly non-athletic.

Along the way, you will see beautiful cliffs, clear-blue waters, and many many padlocks. And zipties. And anything else that visitors to Manarola choose to leave along the path. The path is called the Lover's Walk because it really is meant for lovers; from all over the world, folks in love place their locks along the gates to immortalize their love. Along the way, there is also a lot of graffiti and such, with names and dates etched into every possible surface.

Jess loves Pete...and perhaps Ruby is their dog?

While it was all quite sweet, my favorite remains my new little buddy here...

much love for my man the dinosaur.

A friend of ours told us that her and her husband didn't have a lock, so she left a hair tie instead. I really wish that I had thought of that, and then taken a picture. Instead, we just observed. After the half-hour walk, we reached Manorola.

Another beautiful village, I liked this one a bit better than the last. Again, we mostly just walked around a bit and took in our surroundings, and didn't do anything of note on our visit. I honestly think that if you try to do too much, you'll just tire yourself out too quickly. Just have a seat, take it in, and enjoy the gorgeous views.

the viewe of Manarola.

The path to the next village was actually closed due to some construction. Created on steep cliff sides, I am comforted to know that the paths go through maintenance every now and again! We took a walk as far as we could get on the path anyways, and the view of the village from this side was easily the most breathtaking.

ah, such beauty!

During our short time on the path, something jumped out of the bushes and bit my arm. I had a welt the size of a golf ball for the remainder of the week. While I have no idea what it really was, I spent the rest of the day insisting that I was bit by a snake. J kept saying that I was exaggerating, but the way that whatever it was popped out of the bushes, I couldn't think of a better explanation! On a serious note though, be careful!  I really don't know what it was that got me, but it hurt and it came out of nowhere. You just never know what kind of bugs/animals can be lurking out there in the bushes. Maybe don't get too close, yeah?

Corniglia in the distance.

The next village up is Corniglia, but you'll have to wait til next time to hear all about it. We actually spent a good amount of time in this village, and I have lots of great things to share with you. Until next time!

Happy Hiking!

No comments:

Post a Comment