Finale ligure italy may have been another ...

Trip Start Apr 01, 2001
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Flag of Italy  ,
Saturday, May 12, 2001

FINALE LIGURE

Italy may have been another country, but the bad weather knew not of borders - it was raining even harder by the time we arrived in Finale Ligure.

Tonya had been to this YH before and reckoned you could see it from the train station. Unfortunately it was dark, chucking with rain, with clouds so low we were lucky if we could see each other let alone the hostel on the hill. We waded through the town, up the 326 steps and arrived at Castello Wuillermin YH looking like two drowned rats... and people keep saying we are "On holiday"?!

The next day we were awakened by a 7:30am air-raid siren... announcing breakfast! It was still raining. We decided to take the sodden contents of our packs to the laundrette. It wasn't until we got to the bottom of the 326 steps that Paul remembered he had left some washing in his pack. With only 5 minutes until the hostel closed, it was unlikely that he could make it back in time, but he was willing to try. He bounded back up the first 100 steps, when his legs turned to jelly; limped up the next 100; and dragged himself along the handrail for the final furlong to the hostel. He made it just in time - but almost had a corenary on the way to his room which was on the third floor. We spent the rest of the day in cafes with Paul linked to a sugar and caffine I.V. in an attempt to revive him.

VALLEGGIA

A couple of years ago an Italian student called Marcella rented a room from Tonya's parents in London. With the generosity and hospitality typical of Italians, Marcella's family heard we were in the area and invited us to dinner. We are not accustomed to 5 star dinning, but tonight was an exception. After a guided tour of the Ligurian coast we were treated to a six course meal of home cooked local specialities... followed by a sampling of several local liquores. We could both get used to eating like this!

GENOVA

Tonya had passed through Genova several times, but never stopped due to her belief that it is an ugly industrial port city. However, on this trip several people have recommended it to us, pointing out that it has Europe's largest aquarium. The aquarium was good, if you don't mind hoards of screaming children, but the city was exactly as Tonya had imagined - not a place we would recommend.

CINQUE TERRE

If you go to Italy, make a point of spending a few days in Cinque Terre. We had read reviews on the Internet which indicated that the area had been spoilt by too many tourists, but this is not true... Yes, especially at weekends, the villages are invaded by middle-aged people in heavy hiking boots, brandishing Leki poles. But these crowds only follow the main coastal path between the villages. There are plenty other paths winding through the vineyards which are equally beautiful and much less busy.

Cinque Terre means "five lands"; the area being comprised of five villages pearched in the mountains over the sea. From North to South the villages are: Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore.

We spent 5 days at the Ostello Cinque Terre in Manarola and would definitely recommend it. The staff are exceptionally helpful, it has a great roof terrace, and L8,000 ($4) buys you the best Gnocchi al Pesto in Italy!

We took a boat from Manarola to Monterosso, for exceptional views of the coastline from the water. Then spent the afternoon walking back to Manarola along the coastal path. Other than the section between Vernazza and Corniglia (which is a series of steps cutting through vineyards) this is more of a "walk" than a hike and does not require any of the equipment the Italians carry. We wore Teva sandals and were perfectly comfortable. The only "equipment" required is a bottle of water, a camera, and enough cash for a Gelato from "Artigianato Gelati" in Corniglia. Their ice-cream was the best we've ever had.

The villages are tiny and linked by a railway which cuts through the mountains. The trains often grind to a halt in the middle of a pitch black tunnel. Pay attention - this could be your stop. The gaps between mountains and hence stations are so small that the entire train does not fit in. Several times we had to get off in a tunnel and walk along the track to the station.

To exit Manarola station you walk through a pedestrian subway - a long tunnel through the mountain running parallel with the train tunnel. We were walking through it when a fast-train came through the station and blew its whistle full blast. A tiny Japanese girl infront of us jumped 10 feet into the air and spun around with a look of complete horror on her face, expecting to find a huge locomotive in the subway careering straight at her. It would have made a perfect "Vacation Video"!
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