A night train couchette is not the most comfortable thing. Ben seemed to fall asleep pretty quickly above me, but the crampped space and the untucked, tangled sheets kept me tossing and turning. Just after I managed to doze off, our train car recieved a very sudden wake up call by the Italian boarder police around 3 AM. There was an African looking woman on the middle bunk who the police seemed to be interigating. She groggily awoke and looked extrememly confused. This was all in Italian, of course, but I managed to deduce that they were asking her why she was traveling, where she was intending to go, where she had been already, and who she was going to stay with. She tried to answer all of their questions as they rummaged through her bag. I was trying not to look too interested, hoping that Ben and I would not be next. After about seven or eight minutes of this, they turned out the light and left our car. The passenger stepped out into the hallway to compose herself.
It was challenging to fall asleep after that, but 'luckily', I didn't have to try for long because around 4 AM, a station worker knocked on our door, turned on the light and returned all of our passports.
(I should note, that right when we boarded the train, they collected our passports so that when we crossed the boarder, we wouldn't have to be disturbed. That worked out well... I should also note that I was very taken aback by this request and questioned the train worker quite a bit before handing over our passports. I made sure he had others' passports, official identification, and a darn good reason.)
Giving up any attempt to get to sleep, I laid quietly and counted myself lucky that I managed a few hours sleep. We arrived in Milan around 7AM, where we transfered and caught our second train to La Spetzia. We shared a train care with a group of Brazilian women who seemed to be taken right out of Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood. They were very sweet, energetic, and extremely appreciative of Ben's help as he lifted their bags into the storage compartment. What a hunk. I tried my Itanlian out on them and recieved a lot of giggles and attempts at correcting me. When I got a phrase right, they enthusistically applauded and continued on in italian excitedly. Loved them.
We arrived in La Spetzia and boarded our last train to Vernazza... we're almost there!
Once we arrived in Vernazza, we now had the task to find our hotel.
Via M. Carattino 4-66: Yes, we know exactly where that is, amongst the hundreds of narrow passageways and towering stair cases.
We walked up and down, left and right, trying our best to look for street signs. After climing to what seemed like the top of the city at least twice, we asked a local where we could find the residence. They pointed us towards a gift shop just off the main road. We walked in to find our hostess who was excited to see that we had made it. She checked us in, processed our paperwork and escorted us to her hotel once her customers left so she could close up shop. We walked up the stairs to find a clean, open, room. The enourmous bed even had pillows! No more make-shift work with sheets and stuffed animals like in France! We settled our worn out, stinky train selve in, put on our swim suits and headed into town.
Last October, a mudslide swept through Vernazza, destroying much of the main street and shops. The city had done much to rebuid, but there was still evidence of construciton crews and damage could still be seen in the once beautiful wall art. All the mud and debris and swept right into the bay, which meant that swimming was out of the question. Instead, we sat on a terrace and ordered two huge pizzas (after all, we had only had 1 orange on the train and that was our only sustanace for the past 12 hours). The pizzas were delicious and extremely filling.
We then walked back up to the train station and jumpped on a small train that simply runs between the five cities in Cinque Terre. We rode it to the further most city: Riomaggiore. We walked around, peering in the shops and resturants. We then rode to Manarola. We walked around the city and found our way to the edge of a boat docking area. We laid in the warm sun in our swimsuits and, after a few minutes, worked up the courage to take a dip in the ocean. Each of us could only last a few seconds (long enough to snap a quick picture) before hopping out and trying to get warm again.
Further down the way, we found a beaitufl rocky beach. There were no people in sight, so we sat and enjoyed the relaxing sound of the water crashing over the rocks.
After an enjoyable day spent exploring and basking, we toured the "Walk of Love" and then we headed back to Vernazza before it got too late.
Turns out our hotel hostess slash shop keeper was also a slash resturant owner. We decided to eat at her ourdoor resturant and ordered pesto gnocci, anchovies (a local specialty) and a salad. That dinner? Best thing in the world. We still remember that meal vividly... to quote Ben, "it was like culumnionimbus clousds decided to host a dance party on my taste buds".
After dinner, we ordered two gellatos to go and sat by the bay to watch the sunsent. Apparently, we were residing near the home of a family of birds, because they freaked out and started dive bombing us! We moved down a little bit, hoping to be less of a disturbance. We enjoyed few minutes of serenity, when it started to rain. We headed back home to our hotel, watched a movie in italian (I think it was the Wedding Date) and dozed off.