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Cinque Terre view of seaside town buildings oceanside cliffs and boats

European Adventure Cinque Terre

Cinque Terre

I finally arrived in La Spezia, my first stop in Italy and my home base for exploring the Cinque Terre and the northern Italian Riviera. I can’t really say much about La Spezia. I chose it because it was cheaper than the other towns nearby but other than this, nothing really all that special or noteworthy to mention. If I had to do it over, I would choose a town like Levanto instead. It would serve as my quick indoctrination to Italian lifestyle, however.

I quickly learned how Italians did laundry and realized that hardly anyone owns a washing machine and certainly not a dryer. Instead, they use an intricate system of clothes lines connected and shared between each apartment. I saw this unfold on early mornings when someone would be retrieving their clothes. So everyone’s underwear, panties, bras, etc. are on full display and yet no one cares. It’s just part of everyday Italian life.

I also learned how expensive it could be to eat out at some Italian restaurants, especially after they tack on things like cover charges and service fees. Most establishments won’t let you use their restroom unless you’re buying something and the public toilettes can cost up to 1 euro to use. I also learned that most Italians who work in the service industry couldn’t care less about providing good or friendly service and the food while very fresh seemed to lack taste or flavor. Yeah, I thought Italian food was a bit overrated. There I said it. I know this probably goes against popular opinion but so be it.

Onward to the quaint and colorful little towns of the Cinque Terre! These five towns were definitely beautiful without a doubt but honestly after you’ve seen one, you kind of seen them all. They tend to look the same after a while. Throw in plenty of tourists, no such thing as a low season here and after a bit of exploring you start to feel a little claustrophobic, overwhelmed and just wanting to get away. On top of that, when I visited, the seas were rough and it had just rained a few days prior so this led to not only the cancelling of boats but also the closing of foot trails. The only mode of transportation left was the train and everyone packed onto those trains like cattle.

My plan was to hike the blue trail and maybe go for a swim here and there along the way. Well, so much for that idea. Bad timing I guess, even though it was still mid-September. I learned later that these towns are prone to very bad mudslides. In fact, Vernazza suffered a really bad one a few years back. It took them a really long time to dig themselves out of it and get back to some sense of normalcy. There was a sign depicting this unfortunate event in the town center. Bad weather and timing aside, the coastal views and scenery were amazing and each town had its own picturesque quality.

On my first day, I explored a couple of the towns until I grew tired of the cramped trains and decided to venture off as far away as possible from the crowds. I found out where most people were headed from talking to someone who worked at the train station and decided to head in the opposite direction. So I took a train to Levanto and was glad I did. Levanto, even though it’s not one of the Cinque Terre, is another beautiful coastal town on the Ligurian Sea with a proper beach and beautiful mountain scenery in the background.

The people there were friendly and it wasn’t as overrun by tourists as the other towns. It even had a cool looking medieval castle and a church. After my day of exploring Levanto, I headed back to La Spezia and that evening on the train I briefly met a Dominican guy who was on his way home from Cinque Terre. We didn’t get to talk much so I wasn’t able to find out much about him but he would soon prove to be someone significant to have met.

The next day I’m off to explore another town in Cinque Terre, this time Vernazza. I disembark the crowded train and start walking around Vernazza taking pictures like all the other tourists when after a little while of exploring, I run into that same guy I met on the train the night before. Turns out he works in Vernazza and lives in La Spezia. He addresses me as Cubano and then introduces me to another Cuban who also works in Vernazza, Diancy. And so there you have it. I met another Cuban in Vernazza of all places.

Diancy and I quickly hit it off. We start getting into a very involved conversation about working in Cinque Terre and living in La Spezia and adjusting to life in Italy. He jokes about how he knows the exact number of Cubans living in La Spezia, I think it was something like 17 and 10 of them were his family members.

Diancy works as a delivery guy delivering food and goods to local restaurants and establishments. We carry on with our involved conversation and I tag along as he makes his rounds. I quickly learn that most of the food in Cinque Terre is not as fresh as people think it is, especially the pizzas, pastries and pastas. Turns out most of it is frozen and of course overpriced and sold to unsuspecting tourists as fresh. Diancy suggests visiting other places besides Vernazza or Cinque Terre and recommends Porto Venere.

He’s now the third person who’s recommended Porto Venere. So I take his advice and his offer of a ride back to home base and off we go in his delivery truck. He takes me through a crazy winding road that goes through the mountains high above overlooking the tiny towns below. I end up being treated to views that few visitors are able to witness. He leaves me at the bus stop to Porto Venere in La Spezia. We exchange numbers, take the obligatory selfie and say our goodbyes.

Onward to Porto Venere

Trip photos

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