Monday, May 26, 2014

La Spezia to Vernazza May 26

                                                           Current Day                               Trip to date

Distance walked- miles                           14.8.                                           166.6

Gross climb- feet                                    1490                                          12,875

Net climb- feet                                            65                                            2283

Song of the day:  Gloria, written by Van Morrison, performed by Shadows of Knight, Van Morrison, Patty Smoth, others:

G.L.O.R.I.A (Gloria

G.L.O.R.I.A (Gloria)

I wanna shout it ev'ry night (Gloria)

I wanna shout it ev'ry day (Gloria)

Yeah-yeah-yeah-yeah, all right (Gloria)

When we checked into our hotel in La Spezia yesterday, a friendly young woman named Gloria checked us in.  We explained to her how we were walking the Via Francigena and decided to take a few days off to explore the Cinque Terre.  She asked if we had considered visiting Porto Venere?  No, we haven't heard of Porto Venere.  "Oh, you need to go, it's a hidden gem of the area."  Ok, but how do we get there?  We are walking and do not have a car.   "Not a problem! it's a lovely 90 minute walk from the hotel.  Plus, they have a ferry from Porto Venere to Vernanzza where you are staying tomorrow night."

Famous last words- "it's a lovely 90 minute walk..."   First, it was almost 4 hours and 9 miles.  Second, not sure "lovely" describes a death defying walk along a curvy, narrow, incredibly crowded highway, with speeding, crazy Italian drivers.  When I say along a highway, I actually mean, on a highway, as there were few if any sidewalks along the way.  We were constantly dodging cars, trucks, motorcycles, etc.  Truly a stressful, miserable morning.  

By the way, Porto Venere is in fact a lovely place and we had a terrific lunch of grilled fish and burata cheese by the sea.  We were able to catch a 2:00 ferry to Vernazza.

Gloria gave us one other piece of advice about going to a famous pizzeria that is 150 years old in La Spezia.  A true must do experience.  So we faithfully set out last night in search of this restaurant.  When were finally able to locate the restaurant, it was closed!  That should have set off alarms about Porto Venere....But once again, we were able to locate another restaurant that turned out to be very good, and we had a great evening in La Spezia.  

When we left for this trip, my top 4 concerns about stuff that could go wrong were:

1.  Personal health issues- one of us gets sick, problems with feet,etc.  While we have indeed had a few blisters (I think it comes wth the territory when hiking 100's of miles), we have done very well in this regard  so far.

2.  Getting lost- from what I had read, the trail is not as well marked as say the Camino in Spain. And indeed, this has proven to be the case.  However, every time we got lost, we were able to react and adjust relatively well.  

3.  Logistical errors in planning of hotels, reservations, etc.- this part has gone relatively well so far.  Other than one of our hotels having new management and another being a few miles further off the trail than anticipated, all has gone well.  And importantly, we are able to adjust pretty easily.

4.  Mental health issues-  certainly on an undertaking like this, you worry about having a mental breakdown from stress, fatigue, etc. Or having to spend 24 hours a day for 7 weeks with your spouse! (This is probably more of a concern for Linda than me....).  In any case, we are doing great so far, and in tremendous spirits.

What was not on this list is getting run over by a car!  I have to say, after 11 days of walking, this is by far my biggest concern now.  While today was the worst we have encountered, we have had several other near death experiences with cars on this trip.

One very nice thing about being in the Cinque Terre:  no cars!

The boat to the Cinque Terre is one of the great boat rides in the world.  Fantastic views of the 5 villages on a beautiful sea.  The boat was packed with American college students and young people.  Linda had an opportunity to do what she does best- play Mom by helping several of the girls out with directions, how to use the trains, etc.  Linda is extraordinarily talented at this stuff.

Here are three of the villages as seen from the boat:

After arriving at our hotel around 3:30 this afternoon (great little hotel in Vernazza), we decided to take a walk to the village of Montorosso, a little over 3 miles away.  It is a very challenging hike, very rocky, with lots of stairs and climbs.  On the first 9 days of this hike, we have seen exactly one other hiker.  On the little 3 mile walk this afternoon, we encountered 100's of walkers from all over the world.  This place is jam packed with tourists.

Vernazza (where we are staying) as seen from the trail

Monteroso (village 5) as seen from the trail 

On the trail, we would greet people with "Buon giorno" or "ciao" or later in the afternoon, "buon sera."  The response from everybody, independent of where they are from is either "buon giorno" or "ciao" or nothing all.  100%.  No other responses............uh, well, there were 27 exceptions to that rule.  That would be the 27 (but who's counting?  Well, me for one) French people who answered with "Bon jour"!  What the hell is it with the French?  It was the same last year on the Camino.  To be fair, not all French answered with Bon jour.  Several did in fact say nothing at all and a few even answered with buon giorno.

In one situation, we greeted a woman with Buon giorno.  She responded with Bon jour.  Linda smiled and looked at me with a look that said "can you believe these people?" 5 seconds later, the woman fell down on the trail, darn near fell over the edge.  I rushed to help her up before she went over.  Do you think there was any karma involved here?  Or perhaps Linda put a curse on her?

Today's walk ended up being much longer than anticipated.  We thought this would be a fairly easy day.  Probably penance from God for taking that taxi the other day....

Tomorrow we plan to hike much more of the Cinque Terre.  However, it is supposed to rain, which may cause a problem.  Several years ago, there were some extreme rains here that washed out many of the trails.  When it rains these days, they close many of the trails for safety reasons.  We will keep our fingers crossed that the karma we have built up (including helping a French woman up!) continues to payoff for us...


  1. Wishing you a fabulou mini break

  2. I believe there are two or three levels of trails on the Cinque Terre; all overrun with tourists but some are less frequented than others.