I spent my last morning enjoying the town of Riomaggiore. I sat on the rocks and had some lunch (back to cheese and salami sandwiches) while enjoying the sun, water, coloured houses and people all working and holidaying around the place. I loved Riomaggiore and will definitely be going back there. I used blablacar to get to Venice and arrived at night time. It was definitely the right time to develop my first impression of Venice. It wasn’t crowded and all the lights, the faint glimpse of the detail in the buildings, the reflection of lights on the water made it very romantic.. Despite my hungry and tired self. I made my way to the Venice Fish hostel where I would stay for the next couple of days.
This morning I set out to hike all the trails but wasn’t sure how to go about it all. I decided to catch a train to the end and then hike back. I met up with Guillaume, we both missed the next train so decided to start walking from here. The first hike was from Riomaggiore to Manarola, supposedly a 20 minute hike. It took us 40. The first part is just directly climbing up stairs and it is so steep you kind of feel like if you stop you could fall backwards. My remarks evolved from “oh my god” to “bloody hell” the more we kept walking. We finally reached the top and the view was spectacular. The water is beautiful, and you can look back at the town and behind at all the vineyards. Manarola was a very cute little town. I really loved it, more quaint the some of the others I ended up seeing. We skipped corniglia (sorry!) it was really hot so we got the train to Vernazza – after waiting an hour for a train. That was just bizarre. These 5 towns and there is meant to be frequent trains but they are nearly always late and always so packed. Vernazza was also very beautiful, although a bit more touristy. We strolled around and found a place to swim. I forgot my swimmers so jumped in my clothes. The water was a bit cold but felt so good. As long as you ignored the fact boats pull in close by so it wasn’t the cleanest spot we could have chosen. We climbed up onto a rock and sunbaked for a while, saw some jellyfish then dove back in. I’d like to point out the fact that Guillaume was always the last to jump in (he’s a bit precious).
We set off again for the next 2 hour hike, Vernazza to Monterosso. The walk was fantastic, beautiful and invigorating even in the heat. The best part of the walk was the view of Vernazza and as we got closer to Monterosso being able to see the water up close. Monterosso was probably my least favourite of the towns. It is a resort town, very touristy and doesn’t have that quaint local vibe like the others (although in the middle of the day, weekends and in peak season even the others get weirdly crowded). We got gelato, laughed at how a guy who was busking/begging had his dog playing dead and relaxed a bit before heading back to Riomaggiore. We said goodbye and I went back to the hostel to relax a bit and plan how I was getting to Venice. I finished the night with some wine and pizza on the rocks looking out at the water and town. Spectacular
We said goodbye to Mattia’s friends and left for Riomaggiore to check me into my hostel. Once I was settled in we went down to the beach. Ok the beach at Riomaggiore is very different to Australia. There is no sand, just rocks. Big and small pebbles. Lots of people make towers by stacking the pebbles all on top of each other. When we were there some little kid came and started to knock them all over so I protected my stack. We laid in the sun for a bit before going into the water for a swim. The water was really nice, a tiny bit cold as it wasn’t quite summer yet. Getting out of the water wasn’t my best accomplishment to date, I stumbled on the big rocks underwater on my way out and cut my feet and legs (nothing bad though).
After the beach I had some time to myself so planned to find somewhere nice to watch the sunset and write in my journal… That was my goal at least. I started walking up a windy steep road but decided it wasn’t safe with the cars zooming past. So I walked back down with no idea where to start a walk. Eventually I found one path out the back so started up it, it was very beautiful up in the hills, vineyards and farmland. But I had no idea where I was going and just kept going further inland when I wanted to see the sunset over the water. And then it started to rain. I hid under a tree to wait for the rain to stop and decided I should just go back down to the town. I later found out I had begun the two hour up hill trek inland.
I hung out with Mattia a bit longer and went down to the rocks to see the sunset and relax. Later at the bar two annoying Italian guys starting talking to me, one of them spoke English and the other Italian, and the one who knew English said “my friend thinks your beautiful but can’t speak English” and then later “ill leave you two to chat”. Haha oh yeah cause that sounds possible. I spotted somebody I knew and quickly ran off. I ended up hanging out with friends of Mattia and tried Limoncello for the first time.
Once I left to go back to the hostel as I was passing by the bar one of the people from my hostel (A man from Croatia who spends every summer there painting) introduced me to two Australian girls and a French guy. I sat down and spoke with them for a bit, but they were all talking passionately about acting and writing and directing and my interest in those topics made it very hard for me to keep up a conversation with them, so off to my hostel I went and finally to bed.
Today, despite a gelato hangover, I managed to get on a train from Nice to Genoa. On the train I met two American travelers, Shane and Allen. They seemed like fun, so we all exchanged email addresses and discussed possible travel plans together in the near future. Eventually they hopped off the train, and I continued on.
My entire life had been leading up to this moment. This was the reason I endured the humiliating act of busking year after year. From a lifetime obsession over spaghetti with my equally obsessed best friend Jenna, to my favourite song from ‘The Wiggles’ being ‘Balla Bambina’ because it was Italian… Today was the day I arrived in Italy.
One of the main things everyone warned me about was Italian men.. Italians even warn me about the Italian men. So of course it was only fitting that within 5 minutes of arriving in Italy I would already have a story to tell. I got off the train at Genoa, and needed to catch another train to Riomaggiore. I wasn’t sure what platform I needed to be on for my next train so I found an old train conductor man and asked him where I needed to be. He helped me out, and then helped me get the elevator working, asked what my name was, pinched my cheek and walked off. A couple of minutes later I was standing on the right platform and there he was sitting on the platform opposite. He sees me, smiles and waves. I wave back then continue messaging Jenna. I look up 5 minutes later and there he is walking straight across the train tracks over to me! He comes over and starts talking to me in Italian, making sure I knew what time the train comes and just general chit chat that I somehow understood (maybe it was his hand gestures). He asked what my name was again, and I asked his to be polite. He walked off for a couple of minutes and then came back. He asked me if I remembered his name and laughed in disappointment at me when I didn’t. I asked him if he remembered my name and when he couldn’t remember either I laughed back at him. I asked to take a photo with him, knowing this would be a funny memory. And what does he do? SMILE!! is what I said to do.. but KISS MY CHEEK is what he actually did!
He then proceeded to get his wallet from his pocket, and take out some ancient looking photos. He showed me a photo of a teenage boy and then pointed back to himself, saying ‘me’. He asked me if I thought he was handsome when he was younger, then pointed to his bald head and laughed saying he was a bit old now. He said I was beautiful and that he was too old for me… I made my agreement for that last bit UTTERLY clear. I have to say. It was the introduction to Italy I had been forewarned about but still didn’t expect.
Message to Dad: Don’t freak out! Hahahahahahaha
My train then came and off I went to Riomaggiore in Cinque Terre (a place that I had put as my laptop wallpaper for 2 years!). I had gotten in contact with another host on couchsurfing named Mattia. He met me at the train station at Riomaggiore and introduced me to some of his friends from France. We all went to the rocky beach to eat pizza and drink white wine. On our way back into town we heard somebody singing and playing guitar, and of course Mattia knew him! So we climbed up the rocks and sat with him and listened to him play and those who knew the songs also joined in singing. Afterwards we collected our stuff and drove to La Spezia to his family’s house to have dinner, chat, and get ready to go out 🙂 While waiting outside they asked me something about fireflies, and I said I had never seen one, so into the garden we search and they catch one! It was so beautiful looking into the bushes you could see them faintly glittering.
In the car Mattia played his cool Reggae music and off we went into town. We found this cool little bar decorated with lots of mirrors and frames on one wall and different artwork on others. Outside was packed with italians (and their dogs) all hanging around. After a drink there we went in search for a place to dance. We got in for free thanks to Mattia convincing them we were all foreigners here for one night only. At first when we were inside the dance floor was too empty to be able to dance, but soon it filled up and we all danced to a mix of 90s english songs, and random italian songs. After we’d had enough dancing we made our way back home, had something to eat and went to sleep.