The Cinque Terre

Our train out of Nice was one of the few dozen that were affected by the Italian train strike. We had to wait a little bit longer for our first train, wait three hours just inside the Italian border in Ventimiglia and then wait again in Genova but we finally made it to La Spezia around 8pm.

Still lacking accommodation, we managed to randomly bump into a guy that Kate had met during her last stay at Riomaggiore, the town we were intending to stay in. He called ahead for us and organised the infamous Mamma Rosa to meet us at the train station. She led us to one of the hostels in town and took us up to what we called “the cave”. Most of the other rooms in the hostel were quite nice and clean, even newly renovated. Ours was like a remnant of the old world but it at least had that flea-ridden, rustic charm that people like to read about but not actually experience.

It turns out the hostel was actually great fun and was packed with other young folk. We met Aussies, Canadians and Americans from all different areas and made the most of the cheap wine whenever we could. We even scored some email addresses to keep in touch with a few lucky people.

The Cinque Terre is made up of five towns running along the coast and Riomaggiore is one of them. It’s quite popular to hike from one end to the other, so we did. Well, we kind of did. Jibby, Kelly (a girl we met who tagged along with us) and I stopped at the fourth town and didn’t feel like progressing on foot after we felt the effects of pizza and gelato at lunch. The three of us took the train and looked around the fifth town before returning but Kate and Alex soldiered on for another 2 and a half hours on foot. The weather was swelteringly hot and the walk was damn hard work. This, of course, means that it felt rewarding, sweaty, dusty and gross reaching each town.

After four nights we decided we’d visit Parugia, a town inbetween La Spezia and Rome. Trying to be sneaky as it was only one stop, we hopped onto the train without a ticket and within 2 minutes had a ticket inspector enter our carriage. We tried putting up a bit of resistance and playing the confused tourist card, but he fined us 50 euros (even though he wanted 100 originally) then pocketed the cash.

Confident our terrific train karma would continue, we reach Florence and had our connecting train cancelled after we sprinted to our platform from the other end of the station. It took another hour before we were on our way to yet another train swap and finally we arrived in Parugia.