On a beautiful day we took the train back to Monterosso and walked down from the station to find a ticket office for the ferry – and, of course, had to queue. We did manage to get near the front, though.
Tickets purchased, we mooched around until it was time to leave. It was a very different place to the one we’d visited a few days before. We passed by a long line of people filling the pavement just above the beach – and it finally dawned on us that they were waiting to pay to go to the beach. You hire one of those umbrellas and a beach lounge for however long. Pay! To go to the beach! Jeez. Further along the markets were in full swing, offering clothes, souvenirs and food. We settled for a cup of coffee in the same little park near the square where we’d gone on our previous visit. This time the sun was shining and the umbrellas were out. And I found a statue of the great Italian hero, Giuseppe Garibaldi. There’s one of him in the park near the port at La Spezia, too. An interesting man. For years I’d thought he’d landed somewhere to rescue his wife but that was dead wrong. Anita Garibaldi didn’t need rescuing. She was quite a lady.
As soon as you see a ferry come in you understand why the service is absolutely dependent on the weather. There’s no place for the quite large boats to tie up. The skipper brings the boat in nose first, they drop a couple of ropes from the bow mainly for show and they roll a ramp out the front onto the stone wharf. Everybody files off, then everybody files on, while all the time the skipper holds the vessel in place with the engines.
The trip itself is gorgeous. You get to see the majestic scenery and the way the villages settle on the hills like limpets. Roads are carried over deep valleys on viaducts and the railway was carved through the hills. Much of the track is in tunnels. The ferry stops at Vernazza, but not at Corniglia, which is too far from the water, going onto Manarola, and Riomaggiore before it stops at Portovenere. We got a lovely view of Portovenere from the water as the ferry came in.
We had an hour and a half to wait before we caught another ferry to La Spezia. No prizes for guessing why we didn’t even consider catching a bus. We went for a stroll and then found a place to drink coffee and watch the people doing their thing. It was… shall we say entertaining watching three boats unloading and loading passengers for the Cinque Terre. I was so glad we weren’t in that mix. Our boat to La Spezia wasn’t packed and we enjoyed the ride past the Italian naval base and the posh houses overlooking the water.
For our last night in La Spezia we opted to go up market. We’d found food service in the town’s pizzerias was pretty bloody ordinary. One evening Pete’s ‘appetiser’ arrived a nanosecond before the main course, and the ‘appetiser’ was bigger than the main. The following evening, having taken our order, the girl came back to tell Sandy they’d run out of ravioli. Our food came, but not Sandy’s. Meanwhile, we watched plates of food being delivered out of another door to the outside patrons. Sandy’s food came when we’d all finished ours. But at least we weren’t charged for it.
The Ristorante Roma was directly opposite our hotel. We knew it would be more expensive, but the cost wasn’t exorbitant, the service was impeccable and the food lovely. We finished the evening with a complimentary glass of limoncello or agricanto. Agricanto is yummy, yummy stuff. Morello cherries and almonds in a drink. Check it out here.
That’s it for the Cinque Terre. In my opinion they’re overrated. They’re typical Italian villages perched in easily defendable locations. We’ll be seeing quite a few more as we tour Tuscany. Their charm is because they’re near the sea – and because they’re colourful. Given my choice, I’d pick Portovenere. But I will acknowledge that the Cinque Terre are best appreciated by younger, fitter people who can handle the steep climbs and the narrow passages. And the crush of too many people.
Next time we take the trains to Tuscany.