Day 2: Venice – Train – Levanto
Our second day of the trip started out a bit hectic, in such a cliche way that it’s pretty funny.
We woke up (in Venice) and thought we had plenty of time, and were getting packed up and ready to head towards the train station. Suddenly we realized it was only 50 minutes before our train was scheduled to depart, and we hadn’t even checked out of the hotel yet or bought train tickets. We hustled downstairs, and after some very odd directions from the hotel owner, we headed out. That’s where things got sticky.
You see, Ryan wasn’t a big fan of using the map in Venice. He was pretty good at navigating with his gut instinct, but we totally got turned around on the way to the train station. Eventually we got there. I was stressing out, the train ticket machine was having issues, and we literally had to run with our luggage and jump onto the train as the doors shut.
The train ride (Above) was gorgeous. First we rode west to Milan, passing through the countryside and the pretty lake town of Desenzano (top photo). Next we rode south past Genoa, through the mountains, and then found ourselves along the Ligurian coast. We passed Portofino and all these pretty coastal resort towns. Unfortunately the rain was totally gloomy and rainy.
Our hotel, A Durmi Guesthouse, in the coastal town of Levanto, was so charming and welcoming.
Our room opened onto a courtyard (pictured above).
That evening we walked around the adorable town before having dinner. Levanto, the first town north of the Cinque Terre, is less touristy and a lot more “real” feeling.
Day 3: Cinque Terre, Part One: Riomaggiore, Manarola, Monterosso Al Mare
Thursday brought another gray and rainy day on the Ligurian coast of Italy. There were patches of blue sky fighting to show through the heavy cloud cover, but an ominous gray storm hung over the mountain tops, shrouding them in thick fog. I tried not to let it dampen my spirits.
The German and British tourists were everywhere, as if the town had been taken over by a throng of unlikely Patagonia and North Face models. If you wanted to fit in around Cinque Terre, you would want to don a uniform of zip-off hiking pants, chunky shoes made for rough terrain, and a backpack.
In other words, I didn’t fit in at all in my carefully-selected “cute casual tourist” outfits. Or the opposite of anything you’d see on the uber-fashionable people of Milan or Rome.
And there I was, sauntering around town in the early morning, in my cargo pants from Anthropologie, a silky peach infinity scarf, and a little striped bag.
That didn’t stop me from wandering into a little coffee shop and successfully ordering a cappuccino and croissant in Italian. As Borat would say, “Great success.”
Time to explore! We took the train to the southernmost town of the Cinque Terres, Riomaggiore. The tiny town filled a ravine that sloped into the ocean, and the one main street was overflowing with tourists. Seriously, the crowd was ridiculous. And the tiny town wasn’t made for that number of visitors.
In an effort to escape the crowds, we just started walking up the main road, which climbed up the mountain. The crowds thinned until, at the top, only a few determined German tourists were around.
Ryan’s advice for exploring the CT: “Get off the train, find the street, and just start climbing up.”
When we got to the second town from the bottom, Manarola, the same situation happened with toursity crowds. Once again, we just started climbing up, up, up.
And then the skies opened up on us.
The townspeople had hauled their boats out of the water and up the street in preparation for storms. Apparently this is normal. Looks like a lot of work to me!
Finally, since it was nearing happy hour, we figured it was time to head to the third town of the day: Monterosso Al Mare. We decided to leave the middle two towns for the next day.
Monterosso was our favorite of the three towns that day. It was large and flat and not nearly as crowded. We enjoyed happy hour with wine and gelato on the town square. It was fabulous, that’s really all I can say about it.
A perfect lazy afternoon.