Following our experience with the pickpocket on Pisa public transit, we were once again aboard the air-conditioned Trenitalia, heading northwest towards France. We had learned firsthand the dangers of a pickpocket. Sure we had read about them – and various other scammers – and it turns out the warnings are not simply fear mongering. They’re true. A traveler needs to keep a weary eye out for them at all times.
Dianne suggested we get off the train on a whim if the mood struck us. I grumbled back an answer, neither agreeing nor disagreeing. I suppose I still had a bit of a taste in my mouth from the young thief. Our train skirted the Ligurian Sea, heading towards the famous Cinque Terra (Five Lands) area. Five villages – Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore -linked together by a spectacular walking trail. With the brilliant Italian sun sparkling on the sea, the panorama was really quite something. Before long the train was winding its way through countless tunnels. With each new snapshot being more breathtaking than the last. We soon forgot about our Pisa experience. We were riding through scenery more beautiful than any postcard, our noses pressed to the window like excited puppies waiting to get out of the car. As we snaked through the coastal mountains through the Lands that make up Cinque Terra, the urge to get off the train grew stronger. When we stopped at Monterosso, I took Dianne up on her idea. After we sat there for a moment staring at the sea and village just outside the window, I said Let’s do it!
As soon as we were out of the station and on the street, the air hit us like a hot wet blanket. It was the end of June, and it was probably 35 degrees celcius in the shade that sunny Saturday afternoon. Thankfully it was about 5 o’clock and shadows were growing longer. We walked through a small crowd of locals offering us a pensione for the night. I suspect we are not the only travelers over the years who’ve gotten off il treno on a whim since locals are here offering us shelter. For a hefty price of course. We gladly would have stayed the night to discover this beautiful village on the Mediterranean, but the people we talked to weren’t willing to let us rent their room unless we stayed multiple nights – this being Saturday night I suppose. We had no fixed plans, but we weren’t sure we wanted to be tied for more than one day. After all, we were going where the wind blew, and we knew the wind needed to blow us to France soon….maybe we’d find a hotel or a hostel. Or a park bench.
So we heaved our packs onto our backs and walked the short distance along the Strada Provinciale towards the center of town. Most of the traffic here along the water is bicycles and scooters. Beaches were crammed elbow to elbow with bronzed bodies – many not wearing much at all. As a rule, people along the Med don’t seem particularly hung up about showing off their bodies.
Monterosso Al Mare is a beautiful village. Colorful buildings in reds and yellows and blues (there are laws here concerning which colour you can paint your house) and wonderful smells emanating from the countless small restaurants undoubtedly geared for tourists. Although crowded, the atmosphere was festive yet relaxed as we walked narrow streets looking for a spot to rest our tired feet. Seemingly, every flat surface was occupied by yet another tourist taking a break. We finally found a ledge to rest on before walking back to the train station. It had become obvious we wouldn’t find a room here tonight, so we needed to keep rolling westward toward the French border. Hopefully, there would be another train this evening.
Back at the train station, we sat in a small outdoor restaurant. We had some time to kill before continuing west. We could have walked around and discovered more of Monterosso but with the weight of our packs, and this heat, we decided to stay here on this breezy, shady outdoor patio with the tracks just a few feet away. As always, a “Coke Light” for Dianne was five euros. A pint of beer for me was two euros at best. I was saving us all kinds of money. The train eventually arrived and we boarded for an evening trip to Genoa, this side of the French border. Ciao Monterosso, but we’ll be back.
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Dianne & Mike