As any college student knows, or any future college student will find out, having a good class schedule can make or break your semester. In my experience, a higher number of early morning classes has a direct correlation to being unhappy most mornings, but also improves your productivity (when you’re up early, you have nothing better to do then be productive… or go back to bed). Also, the holy grail of class schedules for almost everyone is setting a schedule that gives you off on Fridays, as 3-day weekends are a college student’s best friend. Because I had to get courses that I knew would transfer credits back to Richmond, and because I had to take all of my classes in English (which gave me far less options), I could not be very creative with my schedule this semester. This, unfortunately, left me with the reality of two 8:45am classes, two classes that actually overlap on Tuesdays, and instead of Friday off, or even Monday, I have a day off on Wednesday…. Wednesday. What can you do with an off-day on Wednesday? You can’t take a long weekend, it splits your week in half completely, and is just generally unnecessary. But as I have done (or attempted to do) with most things on this trip that have seemed to not go my way, I turned it into a positive. This was done through the creation of Adventure Wednesdays, which is my brain child that is exactly what it sounds like. Every Wednesday… I go on an adventure. Whether in the city, out of the city, taking a train, plane, or automobile, I find something to do that will make a memory and create an experience (some positive, some negative).
As my test trial for Adventure Wednesdays, I decided to go to a place that tops many experienced travelers’ list of “must-see places” and now that you have heard of it (I hadn’t heard of it before I came), it should top yours. It is called “Le Cinque Terre,” or “The Five Lands.” In the Liguria region of Italy, Cinque Terre was a place I knew I needed to see. Most of my friends had already gone, and even though it was a little far (about a 3 hour train ride) I decided I would make the trip on my own, to uncharted lands, with no background knowledge, as a great way to kick-off Adventure Wednesdays.
To give you a minute-by-minute breakdown of my solo adventure would be both time consuming and long winded, so I suppose I will give you a plethora of highlights instead.
After a tram and metro ride to the train station, I missed my first train at 8:05am because of a malfunction with the ticket machine, delaying my departure until 9:10am, the next available train. After an hour and a half, I switched trains in Genoa and had a lovely train ride along the western coast of Italy and the Mediterranean. After reaching my train’s destination, I was told I needed to board a regional train that stopped at each of the 5 lands (Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, and Monterosso al Mare) but reached another snag when I boarded the incorrect train, headed in the wrong direction. After asking an elderly Italian woman (with my little Italian) where to go, I got off the train, only to find myself stranded in the nearby town of Moneglia because the next train to Le Cinque Terre would not be coming for over an hour. It turned out Moneglia wasn’t the worst place to get stuck in, and I had a wonderful lunch there while enjoying the small and beautiful town along the Mediterranean Sea.
Finally, I arrived in Cinque Terre, and started at the bottom of the 5 towns in Riomaggiore.
A leisurely 30-minute walk along cliffs over looking the sea brought me to the lovely Manarola. It might sound girly, but Manarola was definitely the cutest of the 5 lands.
Because of a rock slide, the hiking path was out between Manarola and the next of the five towns, Corniglia. Despite receiving warnings, I decided to see for myself, so I got to the edge of this cliff before deciding it was best to turn around.
Next was a train ride from Manarola to Monterosso al Mare (by far the biggest of the Cinque Terre, almost like a small city) which was full of tourists enjoying the beautiful restaurants and beaches. After walking through the city, I began a grueling 2 hour hike up steep stairs, rocks, and along cliffsides (without railings of any kind) to the most beautiful of the 5 towns, Vernazza.
With sore feet, out of breath, and sweat pouring down my face, after walking through trees and wildlife (very beautiful), I turned a corner to see a breathtaking view of this incredible city. In what seemed like the middle of nowhere stood this city as beautiful as a painting that took my breath away and made the near torture of the last 2 hours more than worth it. A giddy 15 minute walk down to the city to get a closer look opened my eyes to the true atmosphere of Vernazza. Incredibly impressed and worn out, I decided to take a swim in the bay in Vernazza as I watched the sun set slowly over the Mediterranean, signifying the ending of a seemingly perfect day. After grabbing a pizza in Monterosso, sadly without time to enjoy the glorious seafood restaurants of the area, I boarded the final train for Milan, capping off my first-ever Adventure Wednesday, which supplied me with memories that will truly last a lifetime. This solo adventure proved to be a rollercoaster ride, but I wouldn’t have had it any other way. The imperfections and perfections combined to make it a perfect trip in my eyes, and to a place I would be extremely lucky to get to see again.