The rain had finally stopped. We seized our chance to venture out in a cloudless sky and off we popped to the Unesco protected Cinque Terre. This is the area’s big draw by all accounts.
The Cinque Terre literally translate to 5 towns, all perched perilously on cliff tops seemingly slipping into the Liguria Sea. After getting off the train at the wrong place we spent the first of many hours waiting for bloody trains. We planned the day train hopping between the 5 towns as advised in the increasingly useless Lonely Planet guide book, bought the unlimited train travel ticket and eventually got to the right place on an overcrowded train full of people with the same idea. Along with the train connections you can hike between the villages, which seemed to be a popular choice with backpack, hiking boot wearing Germans and Americans.
So first stop, the furthest of the five. A tiny place with a fishing harbour the size of your average garage all steep winding staircases and narrow paths. Absolutely jam packed with tourists and this is the low season. Hmmm…
We walked along the footpath to the next stop, as it was only about 20 minutes by foot and all along the sea. Nice views but if you have any fear of heights like me then at points it was a little heart racing. The next village was nicer than the one before but much of a muchness in all honesty and packed once again and there were a few rumbles of thunder so we thought we would train it to the next one.
Now considering how popular this is and being Unesco protected train travel is advised and encouraged. There were only two trains an hour but not every half hour, sometimes 20 minutes apart, sometimes 40, sometimes more, sometimes less. And you know which ones we always seemed to have to wait for. Anyway the trains got busier to the point of it being more crowded than I have ever experienced on the London underground, and that is saying something. It was stifling hot, with bodies all pressed together, sweaty and just gross. Some of the footpaths were shut due to recent landslides so the walkers had to get the trains too. Their backpacks and poles just added more obstructions making for an increasingly unpleasant experience.
Now I am, it may be described as slightly neurotic, but I am of the opinion that no-one should be in my personal space, also known as “my fuck-off circle” so you can just imagine how much I was enjoying all this, especially at one point when some dodgy German woman was pushing me onto the train with her boobs, then once on the train was pressing herself onto the front of my person, she was in full walking gear but we saw her and her rotund husband on every train so they clearly had no intention of walking some of that rotundness off!
I digress. Now the villages were very quaint and prettily perched in a sea and wind battered way but the sheer nightmare of the trains made the experience a bad one and in all honesty I think they looked better once you were in the next village looking back along the dramatic coastline, as whilst in them because they were so small and narrow and crowded you did’nt really get to see much. We spent more time in the train stations than the villages and really it got to the point when once you had seen one…………….
But just when I thought it could get no worse, I really needed the loo. We were all coffee’d out so thought we would go and wait for another train and use the toilets there as there were no other options. But you know when you are getting to bursting point and then find out there is only one loo, and there are two men in front of you waiting? Well that was me, the very kind American man in front said I could go next as I looked more desperate than him but said he thought by looks of peoples faces coming out it was not a pleasant sight in there. All I am going to say is that I do not think I would ever have been busting enough. Not ever, ever. I took a brief look, hid my eyes, squealed and flew back out and fled back into the village for a café, which coincidently meant we missed that train and had to wait 50 more minutes!!!!
So my advice to anyone embarking on this little adventure (?????) is wait until July, when the boats run day trips, as I am sure it is a much better view from the sea or make sure the weather has not closed the footpaths and walk the whole 9km linking it all together. And buy one of those weird portable weeing cups!!!