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Does it get much better?

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Where to start.. where to start, lets start with Cinque Terre is the most amazing little city in Italy. So from Florence the bus left at 8am and was meant to arrive in La Speizia around 12.15. We got on the bus and shortly after we had one of those ultra long stop overs again. This time at the Leaning Tower of Pisa – btw did anyone actually know that was in the town of Pisa?! Anyway we got off the bus and made our way to the tower. As soon as you get off the guys on the street target the tourists and just come at you with basic market crap. It was a bit funny because there is possibly the worst souvenir selection there and just the week prior a petition had been passed to get rid of all tacky souvenirs in Pisa. Yeah they were still there. Aprons with naked bodies, bart simpson farting on the tower on a t-shirt – you will see it all there! So we walked down to the tower. John our guide had explained on the bus that there would be a prize for the most imaginative photo in front of the tower. I wish I could say I did something cool but there was so many people that it was slightly embarassing to do anything other than ‘the lean’. I didn’t think anyone elses’ photos would actually be that cool anyway but there were some rippers!

We had an hour there which was ridiculous. It’s kind of annoying having long stopovers when you would prefer to be on the bus getting to your destination. We took a few photos at the tower and then walked around aimlessly. There was nothing cool at the markets. We weren’t particuarly hungry as we had thought ahead and brought bananas, muesli bars etc for the bus. So that was about all for Pisa. I did feel very sorry for anyone who actually booked accomodation in that town – what does one do in Pisa I ask?

So back on the bus finally – next stop Cinque Terre. I had thought we were staying at the Bus About drop off/pick-up point which is always convenient but discovered this was not the case on the bus. It really didn’t matter here though. Cinque Terre does not allow any traffic in – kind of cool – so we were to be dropped in ‘La Speizia’ and we all had to catch trains from there. Most people were staying in the 1st town. There are 5 towns in Cinque Terre, we were told they are all cool in their own little quirky way. John had said that there was an express bus which stopped at 3 of the 5 towns but not ‘Corniglia’ which was where Sarah and I were staying. We went and purchased tickets but this was pretty much the only station that I was not good with. Mainly because there was no direction, it was more like ‘pick a platform, any platform’. So we got on number 7 with Chloe and co. As they had been told it stopped at their town. As soon as we got on we made a friend with one of the locals, boy was he up for a chat! I am pretty sure he just hung around the trains waiting to speak with tourists as he knew every details about Bus About – how often the buses came, where you could go, people he had met etc etc etc. It was a little scary and screamed scam but we all had a little chat with him. Sarah asked if the train went to Corniglia and he said no but he would be getting off at the first station and catching the 1:36 train there. We were kind of scared to take this strange man’s word, but really, what choice do tourists have when they know nothing of a city? So we got off the train with Chloe, Sam etc and sat down on the platform where strange foreign man instructed us to sit. He showed us on the board which train we were to catch and went to meet his friend for coffee.

Sure enough our train came and Sarah, strange man and I got on. He helped us with our bags and then we had a chat on the train. Alarm bells were definately ringing when he started stating how badly he wanted to go to Australia – NO, I will not marry you!! But he was really cool, showed us to our station, helped us get our bags off, showed us how to get to our shuttle bus and wavved us off. He said we woul have to help him if he came to Australia and set off to the water. We saw the shuttle was already there, much to our delight but were immedietly let down when we discovered there was pretty much no room for us, let alone the friends on our backs. So we decided to wait for next bus and just make sure we were at the front then. You could walk up the steps to the town but it takes approx. 15 mins and is all steps – not cool when you have 20kgs on your back. The bus returned in about 10 anyway and I pushed my way in and was first on the bus, wooo. I have learnt to be pushy since arriving in Italy, funny that! You seriously get nowhere if you’re not.

So we made it to the town of Corneglia. We got off the bus, John had told me it would be ‘just in front of the drop off point’, but we seriously had no idea in which direction! We must have looked lost as the couple next to us, who did look very similiar, asked if we were as lost as them. We explained that we were looking for ‘Ostello Corneglia’ and funnily enough they had been on Bus About with us and were looking for the same hostel. We asked a lady in a nearby shop for direction and she had no idea but knew it was near the church which was up yet more steps. We went up there, could not see anything so asked a shopkeeper up there for further directions. Apparently it was back down the steps and pretty much where we had been standing but around the corner to the left, how could the lady in the shop not know it was basically opposite her?!! Anyway we all found it but dilemma #2 – they have a ‘lock out’ from 1pm – 3pm and it just so happened to be 2pm! Annoying, yes. BTW it is a given, anytime you have been on a bus and walked around a hot city with no idea of your destination – you will be ready to murder. So yes, this was how we were feeling. We found a shady place at the back (which was the front) of the Hostel and started to talk to Robyn and Jeff – a newlywed couple from Melbourne who were backapcking around the world for 4 or so months as their honeymoon, how romantic! They were really nice and we decided to ditch our bags there and go in search of food. Sarah and I went to the nearest mini-market which was literally below our hostel. There were a few random items so we asked if she could make us a roll with the fresh bread behind the counter. This was fine apparently and she made us this amazing Procuitto and goats cheese roll. Nothing but carbs and fat but lord did we need it! Tasted so great and we could actually cut it as Sarah had stolen a sharp knife from the restaurant in Florence the night before! Although then Robyn came back with Pesto foccacias for them and it suddenly didn’t look so appertizing. Cinque Terre is the home of Foccaccia..and sardines (pretty sure you are the only person in the world that eats them mum!).

So at 3pm the hostel owner walked sternly past us. Actually we figured it was him but really he didn’t welcome us at all..or look at us for that matter. There were two guys who walked in behind them and we all got chatting. Apparently they had checked in just before 1pm and the staff had kicked them straight out for lockout! They had to fill in 2 hours just walking around, how stupid is that rule??

So we all checked in and got some more ‘ultra friendly’ service. Our room was pretty cool though – more bunks, lockers etc but we had an ensuite and a big window with pretty views. So we dropped our stuff off, jumped in the shower and decided to go for a tiny explore. Vic and Tom who we had just met had pretty much the same plans as us for the next 2 days so decided to tag along. They showed us down heaps of steps to the waters edge where many crazy locals were jumping off cliffs and rocks into the water. I hadn’t put my bikinis back on and was very dissapointing as everything in this town in amazing, including the perfect blue ocean. I pretty much did go swimming in my dress still though! I chatted to Vic more as he is a Medical Science student so he is the 2nd Med student who I have met and referred to Medic Oncall. Anyway Tom is studying Engineering science and equally as nice. We sat down there for ages and then attempted to walk back up the steps – what an effort that was! They bagged me a bit as I have a habit of walking 10 metres in front of any group – always keen to get to a destination I explained! So Sarah and I were desperately craving champagne and strwaberries by this stage. John had said wine was dirt cheap on the bus, cheaper than water mostly. Maybe we were just in an expensive town but our Prosseco (Italian version of Champagne) was 15 euro for the bottle – approx. 23 AUD. Not exaclty a bargain as it was no moet..
It was kind of funny as Vic is quite loud and straight forward and asked immedietly if we were taken. I of course said yes straight away so now he is all over Sarah, phhewww thanks Craig x

But that was fine, got the champagne and the guy at the bar even donated plastic cups (that’s how we do atm!) and we bought strawberries from the lovely lady in our local shop. We tried to decide on a place we could sit that we would have to pay for. Sarah pointed to a concrete ledge in between shrubbery and I was like ‘oh hell no’ but it turned out to be a pretty cool drinking spot for us. We sat on the side of the road and hung our feet over the ledge while watching the amazing ocean. Not too shabby Corniglia. We sat there for quite a bit and then I think we must have decided to go and find some dinner. Intead we ran into Robyn and Jeff and we decided to go to a restaurant and have dinner altogether.

We found a cool place which had upstairs also and asked for a table of 6. The guy started doing the Italian thing and talking to us in a very fast and irratated manner. He seemed to be saying that only 5 could go in! Sarah followed him and got us our table, she is good at that! Turns out they had a table for 5 but one side was a bench seat so Vic, Sarah and I crammed onto that. All the meals were amazing, there was no way I was getting anything but seafood here due to it being a fisherman’s village so Sarah and I shared swordfish with vegetables which was pretty damn good I have to say! We all shared a bottle of white wine which was also nice.

After dinner we went to a town lookout and looked out over the ocean to the towns either side of us. The views here are to die for. Pretty much the only thing to do here is to hike though the nature parks. I think it takes something like 10 hours to get from the first town to the 5th town and we are in middle so we tried to decide which way to go. Apparently the nice beach is in the 5th town and the 2nd town below us had a landslide the previous day and it would take 2.5 hours to walk around it, so that didn’t make the decision particuarly difficult – up it is. We all decided to meet up at 9am for a day of hiking. We knew it would be a massive day so we went to bed pretty early – Sarah and I actually slept! The only downer is that our hostel is near a church and for some reason they ring the bells at every single hour – so in the middle of the night, at the crack of dawn you are momentarily woken by the sound of church bells.

So that was day #1 of Cinque Terre – Corneglia.


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Cinque Terre - the town of 'chillaxed'

la spezia, Italy