We are en route from Firenze to Cinque Terre for a quick two day jaunt. You know the place- it’s probably what you envision when you hear someone chatting about the coast of Italy. It’s an incredibly picturesque little town composed of five wee villages replete with stunning views and landscapes. Strangely, though, it’s also home to some of the world’s ugliest Airbnb’s. Perhaps in the high season there are some nicer options, but at this time of year it was slim pickings for “Mern” and me (Welcome Marie-Nicole- also known as Mern, French American, Sassafrass glam babe, and my closest friend abroad in Firenze!! Xoxxoo muah)! One would think that an infamous location like Cinque Terre would have a plethora of boutique hotel and summer-flats available. Unfortunately, however, all the lodging options we found were over-priced and full of old school euro décor – not exactly ideal.
It’s a lovely Saturday and we are heading towards Riomaggiore by train! Despite Cinque Terre’s proximity to Firenze, the journey to Cinque Terre does require one train change after departing from the central train station in Firenze. We booked our Airbnb & transport last night, with the knowledge that it might be a bit chilly and rainy during our visit. Mind you, we are heading to a location that’s known for its long hikes and views from the water. All of the popular activities are entirely outdoors. But hey, we are going!!
The weekend is already shaping up to be an adventure. I slept through an hour of alarms. Leaving myself with less than thirty minutes to get ready for the day, pack, eat breakfast, etc. It was also in my morning schedule to bathe, so I’m sporting dirty hair and no make-up. I was late to the train station and we had to hustle onboard, sweating and grumpy. We finally find seats only to hear an announcement in Italian telling us that the train is out of service and to move to an alternative train. My fellow travelers and I competitively scramble to find a good seat with their travel buddy of choice, on our new train. The flurry of activity made for an exciting ten minutes of havoc to say the least, especially considering the fact that I’m also carrying two obnoxious tote bags. As we are shuffling through the train, desperately searching for seats, I am thinking for the hundredth time that I need to invest in a sleek Lululemon backpack for shenanigans like this. Somehow we found seats near, but not next to, each other and the journey finally began.
Have I mentioned that nothing really works in Italy? No?? Perhaps I can enlighten you. For instance, yesterday when I was moving to my new abode it took us 45 minutes to get a cab. One does not “hail a cab,” here in Firenze- you have to find a phone and make some calls. There are three taxi companies, no Uber, and a country full of people that have no sense of urgency. Added together this makes it nearly impossible for a taxi to be consistent. I do not find myself too flustered by this lag in progression, but it is something to be aware of. As in, what if there’s a flight to catch? You might want to give yourself more time than necessary. Additionally, try to compose yourself. Adapt. Get over it. It’s a different place where things simply run differently (or not at all, like the train we had to vacate).
Back to the weekend ahead- we are going to have fun! I’ve got a bag of snacks (including gluten free bread) so I feel aptly prepared. However, I also have some sort of sinus pressure, ear pain, running nose situation happening right now, so I’ve got to go find some tissues (aka toilet paper). Classic. Oh, and this just in! Mern just passed me her phone to show me the expected weather for Cinque Terre today. The little screen of her iPhone 5 gleams: “Sixty-eight degrees Fahrenheit, with gray skies and a solid chance of rain.” I am telling you, it’s always an adventure. Chat later ya boobs.
One Week Later
It’s been roughly a week since our return from Cinque Terre, and I am still in awe. Unfortunately, not the good sort of awe that leads to daydreaming and future trip planning- quite the opposite, actually. Let me explain: Cinque Terre can be best explained as hype.
According to Urban Dictionary, hype is “A fad. A clever marketing strategy which a product is advertised as the thing everyone must have, to the point where people begin to feel they need to consume it.”
My gal pal and I were greatly disappointed with the entirety of Cinque Terre. We arrived on a gray day with high hopes for a lovely weekend. We managed to find affordable accommodations with Airbnb in Riomaggiore, and our host was very sweet and hospitable. After we arrived and took a quick tour of our little flat, we promptly ventured out for sustenance. With approximately five restaurants in the town of Riomaggiore, we settled on the first one (I cannot recall the name, probably because I neither felt the need to recommend it, nor store it for later dissection on Yelp). The waiter cautioned that there may be cross-contamination, but thankfully I was left unscathed. My fish was fabulous, and the side of veggies was so-so. The day was soon dampened by rain… as was our weekend. Jokes, jokes! We made it an adventure.
We really did enjoy ourselves! We laughed, found nutella, and enjoyed being bloated due to our respective digestive issues. Yet, I must say, the gray skies and dewy weather did not help the looks of the decrepit architecture of Cinque Terre. Honestly, it resembled a Eastern European slum. The biggest disappointment was the lack of culture. To start, Cinque Terre is compiled entirely of tourists. I know we are visiting as well, but I did not spy one local roaming the town. The magic of Cinque Terre has been entirely stripped by the override of tourism. It goes beyond “a tourist town,” and I can say that confidently as I am currently living in Florence. It was like Disney world for adults- nothing more than an attraction (lines and bad food included). Isn’t this supposed to be Italy? It felt like a bad trip to Epcot.
On our second day the sun came out, so we set out to visit three of the five towns that make up Cinque Terre. We began the morning with Nutella toast, a recipe for success, and soon after caught the ferry to Monterosso; the furthest town from Riomaggiore. This venture allowed us to see the five towns from the sea, and let me tell you- perspective is everything. Riomaggiore looked quite lovely from the water, but was questionable when viewed up close. Sorry ‘bout it.
Starting our morning off in Monterosso was quite nice. We hopped off the ferry and right back into the sea! We cleverly changed into our suits, on the pebbly beach and dipped in the water for a morning swim. Apparently jellyfish have been a bit wild in Cinque Terre this season, so I was a little frightened. Nonetheless, this was the best part of the trip. The little beach was not overrun with tourists, so the experience was restorative. After lunch, we discovered the larger beach of Monterosso, along with the striped beach umbrella’s of your dreams. Monterosso really is much bigger than the other towns, and the images and blogs do not do its size justice.
We then pranced to Vernazza, which was strange and not as charming as Monterroso. We scooted away from the crowds to find an aperitivo on top of a cliff with a breathtaking view (the local vino bianco of Cinque, was actually quite lovely).
While the land and sea of the area are beautiful- truly stunning- Cinque Terre is best known for its towns, which have been ransacked by the masses and stripped of their appeal. Once upon a time- in the seventies- Cinque Terre was a hidden gem. A lustrous, beaming, secret, spot for holiday. And I apologize for letting you down, but in 2016 Cinque Terre was nothing more than a beautiful disappointment.
Oddly enough, it remains immensely picturesque when viewed through a lens- especially with solid editing skills. So here is a little mind F for you. Enjoy these beautiful, idyllic pictures of a sad, soulless place called Cinque Terre. Xo H baby
Photos via iphone. Taken by myself (Hannah Rice,) or not if I am pictured.
Cinque Terre 2016