So this was my last excursion through my abroad program, ISA (International Studies Abroad) and my last chance to be with the majority of people in my program. The ISA ladies had this one all planned out for the most part, so all we had to do was show up and bring monies for food.
We all met in front of Santa Maria Novella (the main train station in Florence named after the famous cathedral right next to it) and got on a regional train to Pisa and then switched trains in Pisa to make our way to Monteresso, one of the five villages (hence "cinque" = italian "five") and the one our hostel was located at. Once we were settled at our hostel, everyone had about an hour or so to grab a bite before we had the option of taking a hike through the five villages (Monteresso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, & Riomaggiore). Of course I am not really sure why you would come to Cinque Terre unless you planned on doing a little bit of hiking, seeing as how it is pretty much renown for its hiking and gorgeous scenery. So most everyone decided to hike and we took a train from Monteresso to the furthest village south, Riomaggiore. Once we got to Rio, we started the hike through "lover's lane". Lame, I know. Still, it was beautiful and after we got to the next village everyone started to break away from the group into smaler groups and do their own thing. I broke off into a smaller group of guys and we continued to hike. The views that were given to us on this hike were breathtaking to say the least. Cinque Terre is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been to.
As we continued to hike, we were about to come to the middle village that is Corniglia. To get up top to the peak of the cliffs in where Corniglia lies, we had to climb a brutal set of stairs taking us up the cliffs to the village. The hiking in Cinque Terre wasn't what I would call physically demanding, but you definitely need to be in some what decent shape to make it through all five cities. Some of the girls and people who aren't necessarily in the fittest of form (aka fat people), bitched about it. Once we reached Corniglia at the top of the cliffs, it provided some of the most amazing views of the coast. We decided to make a pit stop for gelato at this point and decided we wanted to find somewhere we could jump in the water and cool off. One of the guys who was with me had been to Cinque Terre before and told us he had found a little spot between Corniglia and Vernazza that he referred to as "the cove." So we let him lead us to this cove as we climbed down to where the water met the rocks. This cove was probably one of the coolest things that we did while in Cinque Terre. It was relaxing as we dove off a good-sized rock that was completely surrounded by water. After diving off the rock, we just layed on it soaking up the rays and letting the sun and the cool sea breeze beat us dry. Needless to say, it was a relaxing little pit stop and made the rest of the hike back to Monteresso much more enjoyable.
Once we got back to Monteresso, we made our way back to our hostel and refreshed a bit. We picked up a couple of bottles of home grown, Cinque Terre wine. Both were white wines, which I usually don't prefer as much as red wine, but in this case they were both spectacular. So we chilled in the hostel for a bit, sipping on the sweet nectar that Cinque Terre provided us with. We then decided to make our way to dinner to a little seaside restaurant. Cinque Terre is also renown for it's pesto sauce as it is actually the birthplace of pesto. So of course most of the dishes that were ordered were either pesto or seafood courses. All of the food was fantastic. After dinner, our group made it's way to a bar to have a couple drinks at. After a couple margs, we headed down to the beach to chill for a while. For the most part, relaxing on the shore at night it pretty calming especially with a little booze in you, but after a while the booze kicked it up a notch for a few of the people in our group as there contests of wrestling, "finger-jousting", seeing who could throw a large rock into the water the furthest, and seeing who could pick up and carry a dead weight person the best. Yes, as some pictures would reveal, it was an interesting night on the beach. It was a lot of fun as it was one of the last times all of us would find ourselves together in that large group.
The next day was beach day for those of us who had hiked the day before (which was the majority of us). We found a vacant area around noon on the main beach in Monteresso and basked in the sun for a while. The afternoon consisted lying in the sun, walking around on the beach, people watching, jumping into the water, and basically just chilling on the beach. It was an awesome afternoon of Cinque Terre beach action. It was a nice way to end a spectacular weekend on the Italian Riviera as we hopped on our 7pm train and made our way back to Santa Maria Novella.