No surprises. We were lost yet again. This time on a trail in Italy. It all started as it usually starts. We both mutually decide to climb to the highest point in the town in the hopes of getting the best views while burning calories from the food intake from the night before. If only we could stop stuffing our faces or be less guilty about stuffing our faces, we could actually spend our time enjoying the town and not being lost in the wilderness.
A few moments before.. when we were contemplating to go down the mountain or tracing back our path to the ‘right’ trail
A very quick history and cultural lesson — Cinque Terre is a UNESCO world heritage site and it means ‘five lands’ . The five lands comprises of the five villages – Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore, from north to south, on the Italian coastline on the west. The mountains are terraced and have been used to grow olives and grapes for ages.
We arrived in Cinque Terre from Switzerland the night before. We stepped into a different world in the span of 5 minutes as we crossed the Swiss border. It went from new to old, from orderly to chaotic, from sterile environment to old world charm. It wasn’t a change from good to bad. It was just different.
We decided to stay in the southernmost village, Riomaggiore, and do day trips to other villages in the north. You can take quick and cheap trains between the villages or hike from one village to next. There are several hiking trails that go from one village to the next..one goes along the coastline, the others through and over the mountains. We picked the one that goes to the top of the ridge. We figured that we’ll get the most amazing views of the coastline and the terraced mountains from there.
So, our plan was to hike from Riomaggiore to Corniglia on the trail 01 (Riomaggiore to Sella la Croce) and then, walk across on the red trail until we hit Prato del Monte, after which we would pick up the 7a trail down to Corniglia. Sounds simple, eh? We thought so too.
I mean we had climbed thousands of feet in a day on real mountains in Switzerland, these were after all little, puny hills in Italy. How bad could they be?!
This is probably where we should have stopped to take in the views and then, gone back to the town.
But no, we went FURTHER!
When we first got on the trail, we could visibly see the path but soon it disappeared under the overgrown bushes and weeds. Dan marched along the invisible trail while I focused on not stepping on something that I didn’t mean to. Thanks to my innate fear of snakes. I swear every step I took, I heard leaves rustling..I thought a snake would be curled up, waiting to attack me. If it wasn’t the snake, I feared the poison ivy. Dan has severe allergy and last time he had poison ivy, just a few months before, lets just say stuff leaked and oozed, without going into gory details… At this point, I was questioning our decision to go up in the mountains rather than walking along the coastline. Overachievers!!!
It is interesting to note that when you start questioning your decision, you start questioning EVERYTHINGGG like why didn’t we see any people on the trail? Did someone tell them not to take this trail? Why didn’t we stick to the coastal trails like everyone else? What is wrong with us? and then, you start justifying your decision…Why would we want to follow the herd? We are burning a lot more calories. It is quite and peaceful here on the trail. What a great adventure we had dodging poison ivy and snakes! (By the way, the cause of rustling that was driving me mad was the little lizards all over the place…I didn’t see a single snake)
Soon after this self reflection we realized we were lost. We hadn’t seen the red trail markers for the last 10 minutes. At this point, instead of tracing back our steps, we decided to go down the mountain..we knew we would hit the road at some point (based on the map)
After 10-15 minutes of scaling down the mountain, we were on the road. If a snake bite didn’t kill us on the trail, I was sure to get killed by the Formula -1 like drivers racing down the steep mountain curves. After 20 minutes of dodging the crazy drivers, we joined a trail (according to a sign we came upon). We were still confused as to how that sign came to be there as our map didn’t show this trail but we could see a village down that mountain so we figured we will follow it and hopefully end up down the mountain.
As we were ready to go down, we finally saw a family coming our way to go down the same trail too. We were ecstatic! We were on the right track!
Or NOT. We all started walking on the trail when it abruptly ended into an olive farm. We turned around and walked in the other direction, hoping we missed something. But no. At this point, we were running out of options, so we just started going down the mountain through the bushes. Trail or no trail, snakes or no snakes…no one was going to keep me away from pizza and limoncello in the village! Enough already!
Overall, it wasn’t a shabby day…actually it turned out to be fun. It started off strange and a bit miserable (mostly on my part with imaginary snakes and all) but soon we both got a hang of going off the trail and carving our own path down the mountains and the overgrown weeds. This is the thing about traveling that we both had enjoyed so far. Every time we got lost, it threw us off for a few minutes but then we found something else more interesting along the way. If nothing else, it made us realize that life is too short to waste on getting stressed about things you have no control over. If you got lost, you got lost. You could either complain and make yourself more miserable or go with the flow and create an adventure for yourself. Choice is yours!
Some more pictures from Cinque Terre
Getting to Cinque Terre: Cinque Terre is well connected via regular Italian trains. There is no direct train to any of the Cinque Terre villages from Milan. Most of the trains from Milan towards Cinque Terre will go to either Genova, La Spezia or Sestri Levante stations. Worry not, the connections are regular. From these stations you can take a quick local train to any of the villages, Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, or Riomaggiore. You can buy all the tickets online at Italian Rail site: http://www.lefrecce.it
We bought the Milan to La Spezia leg online since it was a longer trip so we wanted to make sure we get the seats (cost: 18 Euros per person) but we bought the ticket for La Spezia to Riomaggiore at the train station. It is a quick and a cheap trip (2 euros per person).
If you are coming from Switzerland, Spiez and Zurich can provide direct connection to Milan. You can enter your start and end locations at the Italian and Swiss rail websites to see all the pricing and connection options. Swiss Rail: http://www.sbb.ch/