30 Hours, 5 Villages, 1 Amazing Weekend

I never would have thought a 30-hour weekend trip could be one of the best vacations of a lifetime. But our adventure to Cinque Terre this past weekend certainly was.

Cinque Terre, literally translated as “five lands,” is located on the West Coast of Italy near the city of La Spezia and consists of five villages that are reachable only by train or walking. Discovered years ago by Rick Steves, he made the small place the tourist attraction it is today. I, however, had heard about this beautiful place from my professor who taught at CIMBA several years ago. I jumped on the opportunity to visit as soon as it arose.

About 50 of us CIMBA students left on a bus at 3am last Friday, in order to reach Cinque Terre by 8am and give us a full two days. Our plans were immediately interrupted when the bus driver sideswiped a jeep parked on the side of the highway. To his credit, it was 5 or 6 in the morning and pitch black, but the damage was done―there was a humongous hole in the rear tire. We sat at the rest stop for a good three hours before someone showed up to fix it (the actual repair took only 20 minutes). As frustrating as the delay was, I’m just glad we were all okay! (Even crazier, my professor notified us there was a landslide on part of the Cinque Terre hiking trail on Monday, the day after we left. Talk about bare misses and some good luck!)

It was 5pm by the time we arrived in La Spezia, stopped by our bed & breakfast, and figured out the train system to get to the first Cinque Terre village. After all that trouble, as soon as we stepped off the train in Riomaggiore, all worries and stress were immediately gone as we saw what stood before us. The sight literally took our breath away―the sun was beginning to set on the Mediterranean, and the beginning of the hiking trail was only meters from the edge of the train tracks. We immediately knew the trip was going to be worth it.

We spent Saturday evening hiking through the first three towns, my favorite part being the “La Via dell’Amore” (or The Way of Love). About a kilometer long, this beginning part of the trail featured romantic elements, including an arch with two interlocking wire hearts and couples’ graffiti all over the place. It was really cool and we actually saw a lot of couples that looked like they were on their honeymoon.

That evening I had the most delicious dinner, seafood spaghetti with white wine. Of course we topped it off with gelato afterward. We decided to finish the hike the next morning, but little did we know how challenging it was. The stretch between the last two towns lasted a good two hours and was continuously uphill with narrow dirt paths. The views we saw, however, were INCREDIBLE and so worth it. Cinque Terre is by far one of the most beautiful places I’ve seen in my life. To top it all off, after our treacherous hike we ran into the Mediterranean to cool off, then grabbed more gelato before it was time to head home. All in all, a great weekend and I am making it a goal to return to Cinque Terre someday. Molto bella!

This post was cross-posted to https://www.biz.uiowa.edu/cimba.

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