Eurotrip 2011, Part 5: Dodging a Bullet in Cinque Terre

Cinque Terre

This installment of my travel journal covers Days 11–13 of my 2011 trip to Europe…

After a long, long break, I am finally returning to the journal of my 2011 trip to Europe. When we last left off, I had just spent two days in Venice, my first ever solo trip in a foreign country.  Upon returning to Florence from Venice, I caught the bus back up to the villa, arriving in the early evening, but I was stuck outside the gate for about 15 minutes unsuccessfully trying to get the non-English-speaking caretaker to let me in. There were only a limited number of gate keys, I did not have one of them, and nobody else from our group was home. I thought I was going to be stuck outside for the next few hours until somebody else came back (that’ll teach me to not learn enough of the local language when I travel).

I sat outside the gate with all of my luggage trying to call my uncle (in between curses) to see if he could contact somebody to get the caretaker to let me in. Before the call went through, the caretaker finally realized I wasn’t a criminal and the gate opened at last. I went inside and enjoyed a couple hours of peace and quiet before the rest of the group started filing in. Once again, however, I would not have much time to rest as I needed to pack for a long train ride to Cinque Terre the next morning.

By the time the train was making the final approach to La Spezia, where we would catch a cab to our hotel, it was already dark.  At one point we were confused and got off the train at the wrong stop in a remote area. Something didn’t look right, however, and we jumped back on just before the train left. I can’t recall definitively, but I think that may have been the last train of the night, so if we had missed it, we would have been screwed.

We were checking in a day late because we got our dates wrong, but the hotel was kind enough to move our reservation back a day without penalty. As it turned out, missing our check-in date was the best thing that could have happened because Cinque Terre was ravaged by terrible flooding on the day we were supposed to be there (you may have read about this in the news). It had been raining heavily during the train ride in, but it did not seem extraordinary and we thought nothing of it until we learned of the devastation the next day.

We checked in to our hotel, located high on a cliff outside of the five connected villages that make up Cinque Terre. We had a long climb down the cliff to get to our room (a good fifteen minutes), hauling heavy luggage in the pouring rain. When we finally got down to where the rooms were situated, we walked around and around but could not find our room. We finally gave up, soaking wet and tired from a daylong train ride as well as the climb down. I left Uncle Kipp with the luggage and I ran all the way back up the cliff to the hotel office to ask them how to find our room.  We finally found it, nestled in this little blink-and-you-miss-it nook area that was easy to bypass in the dark.

The room was a little skeevy, but I was tired enough that I didn’t care. If nothing else, we had a great view overlooking the Mediterranean when stepping outside of our room.

The view from outside our hotel room (the next day).

There were no other restaurants in the area because of the middle-of-nowhere location of our hotel, so we went to the hotel restaurant (which meant climbing all the way to the top of the cliff again). I had spaghetti Bolognese with boar meat; it didn’t really taste much different than other types of meat, especially when drowned in pasta sauce. After dinner there was really nothing to do but turn in since it was already pretty late and we were so far outside of the villages.

The next morning we awoke early with the intention of hiking the trail that winds its way among the cliffs and through the five villages—only to discover that the trail was closed. This was when we learned about the massive flooding that had devastated the area and rendered most of the villages inaccessible.

A highly zoomed-in shot of one of the villages we could not reach, possibly Monterosso.

In fact, the only village we were able to access was the first one, Riomaggiore, and that involved about an hour of walking down the main highway and through a dark automobile tunnel.

The end of the tunnel we walked through.

Approaching Riomaggiore

We walked around for a bit when we got there, making our way down to the little harbor, but we didn’t stay very long because there didn’t seem to be a whole lot to do with so much being closed down.


We were bummed that the whole trip out to the coast seemed to be for nothing, but when we later learned of the sheer level of the devastation, we realized how lucky we were to have accidentally checked in a day late. We almost definitely would have been right in the middle of one of the villages when the flooding and mudslides began, needing to be evacuated like so many others, and it could have been even worse—nine people lost their lives.

When we got back to the hotel my uncle spoke to a Spanish couple who had been stuck inside their car in one of the villages during the flooding for hours, thinking that they were going to die. They were eventually evacuated by chopper and ended up at our hotel, but their car and everything in it was lost.

An evacuation chopper.

It was unbelievable to hear stories like this because the previous night’s storm hadn’t seemed like anything out of the ordinary, but the images we would later see on television were shocking. We were truly fortunate to have missed it, just as we had missed the rioting in Rome by one day earlier in the trip.

A capsized boat apparently washed out to sea by the flooding.

It was still fairly early in the afternoon when we got back to the hotel so I decided to hike down a nearby cliff. There was a trail that led all the way down to the beach. My uncle stayed behind so I went by myself.

Part of the trail (more treacherous than it looks).

For late October the weather was as warm as mid-summer, so I was able to wear shorts. There were beautiful views of the Mediterranean on the way down.

View from the trail looking north.

View from the trail looking south.

I also passed by a couple of houses that looked like they had no business being in the middle of a cliff.

One of the houses along the trail.

Along the way, there were some interesting sights, such as this red ant-infested rock that I could easily have leaned against if I hadn’t been paying attention:


However, it was much farther to the bottom than it had appeared when I started, so I only made it about two-thirds of the way down when the sun set.

The setting sun.

I found a place to sit and admire the sunset over the sea. I was the only person on the trail so it felt as if I had the entire Italian coastline to myself. I was amazed at how peaceful the Mediterranean appeared, almost motionless.

Mediterranean Sunset

I climbed down for a while longer but I never made it to the bottom. I didn’t want to hike back up the cliff by myself in the dark, and I was already pretty tired anyway, so I turned back. I made it back to the top by around eight in the evening. That night we had dinner at the hotel again. I ordered shrimp and was very surprised to be served a plate with fully-formed shrimp staring back at me, eyeballs and all. They don’t serve them that way in the states. 🙂

We turned in shortly after dinner. We had to wake up early the next morning to catch a bus into La Spezia, where we would hop on a train back to Florence and the final two days of the Italy leg of our trip, which will be covered in the next installment. Until then…

View More Photos from Cinque Terre

Related Posts:

Writer, traveler, photographer, hiker, film/TV addict, amateur chef, casual gamer, and occasional tennis & saxophone player . . . in real life I do web design.

Tagged with: , , ,
Posted in Europe, Italy, Travel

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

Follow Michael Rappa on

Join 298 other followers

Instagram Feed
Old Trail Town, Cody, Wyoming - August, 2017 During my long drive across the entire state of Wyoming I stopped in Cody for a visit to Old Trail Town, a recreation of an old west town using authentic buildings collected from around Wyoming and Montana. The buildings were disassembled, moved and reassembled at Old Trail Town. Among the buildings here are original cabins used by Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, a saloon frequented by Cassidy's "Hole-in-the-Wall Gang," and the home of the Crow Indian scout who led Custer to Little Big Horn. There are also tons of historic Old West artifacts and grave sites of several notable Western figures. It's a nice little diversion on the way to or from Yellowstone for fans of the old west. #cody #historicbuildings #NorthAmerica #oldtrailtown #oldwest #Photography #roadtrips #Travel #UnitedStates #wildwest #Wyoming
Needles Highway, South Dakota - September, 2017 This was taken during my drive along Needles Highway, a scenic, sometimes treacherous road winding through granite “needle” rock formations in the Black Hills of South Dakota. The road has a number of one-lane tunnels cut through the rock, wherein you have to be careful and make sure nobody is coming from the other direction before driving through them. Needles Highway was the first leg of a grand loop scenic drive I took through Custer State Park that also included the Wildlife Loop and Iron Mountain Road before ending at Mount Rushmore. If you’re planning a trip to Rushmore, I highly recommend taking this loop if you have the time as the landscape is often spectacular. #BlackHills #mountains #needleshighway #NorthAmerica #Photography #roadtrips #rocks #scenicdrives #SouthDakota #Travel #UnitedStates
Multnomah Falls, Oregon - August, 2017 The lower portion of Multnomah Falls. #MultnomahFalls #NorthAmerica #Oregon #Photography #Travel #UnitedStates #waterfalls
Multnomah Falls, Oregon - August, 2017 On my way from Portland to Mount Hood I decided to take a detour to view the majestic Multnomah Falls. It was well worth the stop. #hiking #landscapes #MultnomahFalls #NorthAmerica #Oregon #Photography #roadtrips #Travel #UnitedStates #waterfalls
Mount Hood, Oregon - August, 2017 This photo features Timberline Lodge (lower left) sitting beneath a blanket of mist and clouds while Mount Jefferson (upper right) rises above the cloud cover. #clouds #landscapes #mist #mounthood #mountjefferson #mountains #NorthAmerica #Oregon #Photography #roadtrips #TimberlineLodge #Travel #UnitedStates
Mount Hood, Oregon - August, 2017 A view of the mountainside looking down toward the valley while riding Timberline Lodge's "Magic Mile" ski lift on Mount Hood. I liked the contrast of the white trees against the landscape. #clouds #landscapes #magicmileskilift #mist #mounthood #mountains #NorthAmerica #Oregon #Photography #TimberlineLodge #Travel #UnitedStates
Mount Hood, Oregon - August, 2017 When I reached the top of the "Magic Mile" ski lift on Mount Hood I was treated to this spectacular view of Mount Jefferson peeking above the clouds. I wonder if anyone was standing at the summit of Mount Jefferson at the same time, looking across at me and enjoying a similar view of Mount Hood's peak above the clouds. #clouds #magicmileskilift #mounthood #mountjefferson #mountains #NorthAmerica #Oregon #Photography #roadtrips #Travel #UnitedStates
Mount Hood, Oregon - August, 2017 This shot was taken as I rode up Timberline Lodge's Magic Mile ski lift toward the summit. At the bottom of the photo is a house that almost blends in with the landscape. Above that is a patch of snow dotted with skiers (they look like ants from this distance). The lift is definitely worth the ride if you're visiting the lodge, or you can choose to hike up to the top. Had I had more time, I would have at least hiked back down from the top, but I needed to get back to Portland to catch my plane to Montana, so I rode both ways. #landscapes #magicmileskilift #mounthood #mountains #NorthAmerica #Oregon #Photography #roadtrips #TimberlineLodge #Travel #UnitedStates
Mount Hood, Oregon - August, 2017 Sunset on Mount Hood. #mounthood #NorthAmerica #Oregon #Photography #Travel #UnitedStates #sunsets
Mount Hood, Oregon - August, 2017 Berries on Mount Hood. #hiking #landscapes #mounthood #mountains #NorthAmerica #Oregon #Photography #Travel #UnitedStates
Mount Hood, Oregon - August, 2017 Looking up at the summit of Mount Hood, shot while hiking above Timberline Lodge (aka The Overlook Hotel), where I stayed overnight. #hiking #landscapes #mounthood #mountains #NorthAmerica #Oregon #Photography #Travel #UnitedStates
Portland, Oregon - August, 2017 This is Mount Hood looming over the city of Portland, shot from my viewpoint in the Japanese Garden. A few days after this photo was taken, I drove all the way out to Mount Hood to stay at the famous Timberline Lodge (aka Overlook Hotel) near its summit. #cities #Japanesegarden #landscapes #mounthood #NorthAmerica #Oregon #Photography #Portland #Travel #UnitedStates #mountains
Portland, Oregon - August, 2017 A rock garden in Portland's Japanese Garden. #Japanesegarden #landscapes #NorthAmerica #Oregon #Photography #Portland #Travel #UnitedStates #rockgardens #zengardens
Portland, Oregon - August, 2017 Waterfall cascading into a pond in Portland's Japanese Garden. #Japanesegarden #landscapes #NorthAmerica #Oregon #Photography #Portland #Travel #UnitedStates #ponds
Portland, Oregon - August, 2017 Portland's Japanese Garden is so sublime that you almost forget you’re in a major city. #Japanesegarden #landscapes #NorthAmerica #Oregon #Photography #Portland #Travel #UnitedStates
Michael is reading…
%d bloggers like this: