August 9 - The Start of Three Days on Five Lands: Cinque Terre

This morning at breakfast there was an American tour group. It appeard to be famliies with teenage children who had just arrived. The girls wore woven flip flop sandals which they will probably regret on Florence's cobblestone streets.

Our train ride was scenic with views of sleepy hill towns and quiet villages. As we edged closer to the sea, people boarded with bags full of towels, swim suits, and beach umbrellas and slathered on the suntan lotion in anticipation of a day at the beach. Just as the train emerged out of a dark tunnel we caught our first glimpse of the sparkling blue and emerald green ocean, and people exclaimed with delight.

We are really delighted to be back at the Villa Steno. Our room overlooks the sea and we were treated to a glass of Cinque Terre wine. It was sweet, not unlike sherry.

Once we were settled in, we headed into the new town to drop off laundry (12 euro delivered to the hotel) and loved how we could hear the sea splashing off the rocks. Holiday makers, young and old alike, floated in the clear aquamarine water or merely sat on the beach and soaked up the sun.

After consulting our Rick Steves' guide, we headed over to Cafe Il Casello, a patio cafe right over the beach. While enjoying our focaccia sandwich, hot out of the oven, and a salad made of fresh garden picked tomatoes, sliced mozarella, and oregeno, we couldn't help but notice the kaelidescope of colorful umbrellas on the beach. Watchful lifeguards blew their whistles if careless swimmers drifted too far out. There's quite an undertow here.

Sitting outside on our patio, we have a sweeping view of the hills, the town, and the sea. Looking up into the hills we can see terraced gardens and vineyards.

Heading out for the evening, we took a brief, but strenuous walk following the Switchbacks of the Monks, an orange blazed trail that brought us to a ruined castle at the summit. Halfway up the trail, we were greeted by a statue of St. Francis and a wolf, along with commanding views of the Cinque Terre. From here, we could see all five towns. We continued up the trail until we reached the Church of the Cappuccin Monks. At the rear of the church is an extensive cemetery and ruined castle which provided us with a compelling and a bit eerie experience as we were the only people on the grounds.

Back in Monterosso's new town we enjoyed the bustling scene of happy tourists enjoying an after dinner walk along the promenade. We topped off the evening with a caffe latte in the old town.


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