Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Day 7: Cinque Terre

My mom had bought me a 800 page book for my birthday.... thankfully. The train from Interlaken down to the Italian Riviera was quite long, and the book was a welcomed treat. Italy was drastically different from Switzerland. You can immediately notice when you leave one country and enter the next. For years I thought I'd love Italy. I had always wanted to visit, eat the food, bask in the sunlight, and enjoy the Italian way of life. But as I looked out the window, I felt slightly disappointed. Maybe I had set my expectations too high, or maybe I shouldn't have gone to Switzerland first. But whatever it was, my first impressions of the country were slightly negative. It didn't help that we were drowned in a sea of people at the Milano train station as we waited for our connecting train, or crammed like sardines in a can once we boarded for our last leg of the trip.
However, like the old adage says, you can't judge a book by its cover. --One would think I'd have learned that by now, with the number of bad books I've bought.-- Once we were freed from the horrors of what the Italians call a train, I immediately started to appreciate Italy a bit more. (Even with the sweltering heat that enveloped us as we ventured out of the train station in La Spezia). But the appreciation I had gained was still very minute. I continued to be skeptical as we went across town to our hotel, and walked up the hill to a building that didn't look very impressive. My mom, however, was excited and said "ooh, this is going to be a great hotel!"

She said she could tell by the run down surroundings, as odd as that may sound. -I'm sure I gave her a strange look.- Sure enough though, the hotel was adorable once we entered the gates. It had a beautiful courtyard, with a vine covered pergola which gave shade to a few dining tables. The hundred-or-so year old building was a recently renovated from a restaurant into a hotel and rents 5 different rooms. Needless to say, I was becoming more impressed, and less disappointed.

Cinque Terre is made up of 5 separate villages along the coast, connected by a walking path. La Spezia isn't a part of Cinque Terre, so after dropping off our suitcases, we took the last boat ride of the day up to the farthest village. During that boat ride up to Monterosso, my initial disappointment with Italy completely disappeared. The view of the coast was breathtaking. It's hard not to fall in love the Italian Riviera. Each of the villages has a different charm about them, which you can see even as you're sailing by.

We thought we'd see at least two of the villages that day, but once we docked in Monterosso, we knew we'd spend the rest of the day there. Although the weather was starting to cool down, it was still quite warm out... so we waded in the water for a bit before walking around. Our stroll around the village turned into a quest for my mom to find some sandals. While she spent what felt like hours in a shoe store, I went across the street to get my first "made from italy" gelato - a scoop of chocolate and caramel, yum.

Unfortunately we had only booked one night at the hotel, and we were starting to regret it. Our hotel was already full the following day, so after my mom got her shoes and some gelato of her own, we stopped at an internet cafe to see if there were any hotels available for the next night. We found a few, but decided to make our final decisions later, since we had reservations in Rome for the next night either a fall back.

We later had dinner at a cute restaurant, watched people dancing to a live band playing right next to the coast, and then sat and listened to the waves crash against the rock lined coast. It was a really enjoyable and relaxing evening... and an even greater motive to try to stay one more night.

No comments: