Hiking the Cinque Terre and learning to listen to track announcements

This is the morning we learn something more about taking the train. We head off to the train station, where we buy tickets on the Regionale train from Lucca to Riomaggiore. Sara suggested we go to Pisa, then take the faster train to LaSpezia, and on to Riomaggiore. We think it is going to be easier to do it this way. Little do we know!

The train is scheduled to leave at 10:31 and arrive at 12:30. We have to change trains in Viareggio. At Viareggio, I go to see if my raincoat, which I left on the train yesterday, was found as Viareggio was the last stop for that train. The woman at the ticket window doesn’t speak English. I have to try my Italian, “Ho perso mio cappotto in treno ieri”. She asks something and I figure out eventually that I need to tell her the train was the one from Firenze at diciotto ore. She shouts to someone in the back about cappotto and answers “Niente”, nothing. So no raincoat for me for the rest of the trip.

We leave the station knowing which track the train we need to catch is departing from (there aren’t very many tracks) and when a train arrives, we hop on. We should have listened to the track announcements and should have been suspicious because the train departs earlier than scheduled. On the train, the conductor tells us we have the wrong tickets. His English isn’t that good but he says this train is an InterCities. We get charged an additional €13.30 and the conductor and Scott go through a ridiculous debate in trying to get the correct change. The woman in the same compartment gets an additional charge as well and she’s incensed and calls on her cellphone to complain to a number of people. We have to get off at LaSpezia and buy tickets for €1.10 each to Riomaggiore. We get on that train and have to stand because it is packed. We later realize that we are now on the train we were supposed to have caught in Viareggio. We have spent €15.50 for our failure to pay attention to the track announcements.

We arrive in Riomaggiore at 12:30 as scheduled. We buy tickets for the Cinque Terre path and head to the closest restaurant with a view of the sea. I don’t even know the name of the place we had lunch (no receipt because we had to pay cash) but the salads we ordered were quite good despite the fact that it is clearly a place for tourists. The Chianti, of course, was perfect as we looked over the water and gazed up at the houses on the mountainside.

I described this as hiking the Cinque Terre, but that’s an exaggeration. We walked from Riomaggiore to Manarola and onto Corniglia.

The first part was suitable for nonnas with their canes and more than one person was pushing a baby in a stroller. The Via Dell’Amore was like a pedestrian mall with a bar along the pathway.

The path was crowded all the way and at Manarola, we could barely move through the area with restaurants and shops.  Manarola:

The second part was supposed to be as easy but parts were rocky and narrow with plastic fencing between you and the sheer face of the mountain. My acrophobia was not at rest during this part of the path. However, there was no strenuous elevation, just uneven footing at times and a little suspension bridge that I did not like. The views are unbelievably beautiful, especially because the sun was making the incredibly blue water sparkle.

Above some dog getting taken for a ride. Below the rocky beach.

When we reached Corniglia, my need for il bagno sent us to the train station where I had to stand in a long slow queue for a toilet with no seats, no toilet paper and nothing to dry your hands on. Luckily, my packet of kleenex was available. (Keeping a packet of tissues handy was one of the best tips I was given.) By this point, we’re roasting hot, dusty and sweaty. There’s a landslide on the sea path between Corniglia and Vernazza so you have to walk the upper path, take a little green bus run by the park or take a train. The final part of the sea path between Vernazza and Monterosso is supposed to be the most difficult. We decide to head back homeward.

This time we are wiser. We return via Pisa this time as it is faster and this time get to enjoy more of the scenery instead of arguing with a train conductor who can’t do basic arithmetic.

Above some Carrera marble.

We roam around the streets of Pisa until we figure out where the bridge over the Arno is but there’s not enough time to walk to see the Leaning Tower. We only catch a glimpse of it from the train.

Passage way through the Lucca walls

Back in Lucca, we get rid of the dust then go looking for somewhere to eat which is open on Easter Sunday. We wander until we find All’Olivo [Piazza San Quirico, 1 Lucca, tel. 0583/496264 fax 0583/4931] It was not yet 7:30 p.m. and we were the first people in the door, in fact, some of the staff are still having their dinner. While we were unfashionably early, it meant we could get a table without a reservation. Later in the evening, they were turning people away. The interior looks fairly small but we opted for the outside area which was enclosed in a tent as the air was fairly cool. (A few days later, we saw that the sides of the tent had all been pulled back.) The tables are set with linen and the service is more formal restaurant style, although, we notice a young woman who must be the owners’ daughter getting pressed into helping although she is wearing a hoodie and not the black vests or blazers that everyone else is wearing.

We ordered a bottle of Brunello. Because we hadn’t eaten much that day, I ordered Tortelli Lucchese as a primo and roast lamb leg for secondo. This is an insane thing to do unless you have a huge appetite. The traditional tortelli in Lucca is pasta filled with meat, chard, and ricotta topped with a meat ragu which is more meat than tomato. Unbelievably rich, unbelievably delicious. I gave Scott two of the tortelli but ate all of the rest and finished off the sauce with the bread. The lamb was two fist sized chunks of lamb leg stuffed with whole garlic accompanied by roasted potato. I managed to eat most of that as well. All the walking in Cinque Terre must have created an appetite. Scott had the thick Tuscan vegetable and bean soup followed by a roast loin of pork with roast potatoes and a puree of beans. For dolci, Scott has panna cotta with strawberries and lemon custard, I have charlotte gianduia, which is like a chocolate and hazelnut gelato.

So good, not expensive, and I keep thinking about the tortelli for a long time.

While we were eating, we heard what sounded like fireworks. Never did figure out where that was

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