Friday, September 25, 2015

Arriving in Cinque Terre

The train trip from Bolzano to Cinque Terre does take a while, reminding us that we are traveling from the Alps to the Mediterranean, from a chilly, foggy, rainy, with-some-slight-snow climate to pleasant late-summer weather (we can still swim in the sea!).

The Trenitalia website doesn’t want to give me the best connections, I suspect the wait time in Verona is too long for the system to consider it a valid connection.  So, I link together three separate trips, Bolzano to Verona Puerta Nuova (1:29 for 9 euros), Verona Porta Nuova to Milano Centrale (1:23 for 9 euros), and Milano Centrale to Monterosso al Mare (2:53 for 9 euros), a trip stretching from a 7:11am departure from Bolzano to our 3:03pm arrival in Monterosso, for a total of 27 euros ($30.15).  I’ve printed the tickets from the Trenitalia website and we’re good to go.

We get to experience the long connection time in Verona and sit and wait as other trains come and go, back and forth between Venice and Milan.  One train for Milan pulls in and leaves – we’re booked on the next one that connects with our train to Monterosso.

 Waiting in Verona between trains, 1.5 hours

Another train comes and goes

Finally, we get to Milan around noon and head off the platform to the great food court in the station.  We get two baguette sandwiches to go, tomato/mozzarella and prosciutto, along with two diet cokes. 

Trains lined up at Milano Centrale station

If it were later, we would purchase a bottle of wine to share on the train, but we want to stay awake and enjoy the scenery as the train winds through the hills to Genoa and then down the Mediterranean , stopping at the coastal cities of Santa Margherita/Portofino, Rapallo, Chiavari, Sestri Levante, Levanto, and, finally, Monterosso al Mare.

The train platform at Monterosso al Mare is packed with day hikers and people on tours who are finishing up their day and heading back to La Spezia, Pisa, or their cruise ships.  The train station and the street outside are full of people who have hiked, shopped, or just sat with a glass of wine and watched the incredible views of the hills, the beach, and the Mediterranean.

Monterosso train platform, early, before the crowds

As we get off the train, we meet a couple from New Jersey, in Monterosso for the first time.  They have directions to their hotel from the station and we reassure them that it will not be hard to find.  They ask if there will be live bands in the restaurants at night and we think, “Uh oh, they’re in the wrong town!”  At least the street musicians will be playing at the tunnel entrance between the old town and the new town.   

View of the beach in the new town as we emerge from the train station
(pay to rent lounge chair/umbrella)

The tunnel was closed for a long time by the mudslides that devastated Monterosso in 2011.  Then, for a while the tunnel was open only to pedestrian traffic, but now it has been repaired and pedestrians and the few authorized cars compete for space.

Coming out of the tunnel into the old town

 View of the Beach in the old town (free)

We wheel our suitcases out of the train station, head down the street past the beach and the people relaxing at the restaurant tables on the sidewalk, through the tunnel, emerging in the old town (and another beach), and stroll over to Hotel Villa Steno, about 15-20 minutes.  

Coming up the path to Hotel Villa Steno

Walking from the train station is a great way to reacquaint ourselves with the town and to see people we recognize, although we do have to wade through a few cruise boat tour groups on their way back to the train station.  It is uphill at the end to get to Villa Steno, but the up part is worth it for the views from the room and from the public areas of the hotel.

 View across Monterosso from our room at Villa Steno

View from the terrace at Villa Steno

 Night view of Monterosso from Villa Steno

We can’t say enough great things about Hotel Villa Steno.  We’ve been coming to Cinque Terre for seven years and keep returning to Villa Steno – the combination of the beauty of Cinque Terre; the high quality standards maintained at Villa Steno; the friendly, attentive, attention-to-every-detail focus of Matteo and Carla, the owners and hosts; the great breakfast buffet - everything comes together for a truly wonderful experience!  It’s a lot of hard work to keep this up and they do it year after year. 

 This time we’re staying for 6 nights, long enough to settle in and enjoy a lot of what Cinque Terre has to offer.

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