Sunday, April 7: Pisa & Cinque Terre
Sunday we planned on taking the earliest train to Manarola, one of the five towns included in “Cinque Terre.” With luggage in tow, us four girls rolled our way to the train station, right up to the big screens displaying the train numbers, times and bins. Happy that I located our train on the board, I continued scanning to the right to find which bin number to head towards. “Cancellato” I read. “What does that mean?” Laur and Linds both asked. This was news to me. I had never seen “cancellato” next to any train number before. I rolled my way to the ticket desk where I was informed that there was a strike in the Tuscan region and no one was sure when it would be over. Panic began to set in. We had planned for only one day in Cinque Terre. We needed time to get there to hike along the towns. We already bought our train tickets. We already booked our hotel for that night. Where else could we go? I normally would not have been so upset, but since Linds, Laur and Val were only here for less than a week, I was pretty flustered. I knew that I could go on one of my free weekends in April, but what if they never got a chance to see it?
“Go another day,” the lady at the train station told me. After seeing my face probably close to tears from disappointment, she then suggested taking a train to Pisa, followed by a train to La Spezia Centrale, and finally another to Manarola, but she wasn’t sure this would work either because of the strike. However, we all agreed to make the attempt. So, we made an unexpected stop in Pisa! Once there, we found that we had one hour until the next train to La Spezia Centrale, so I told the girls to go check out the Leaning Tower. I had already seen the Tower when I took a weekend trip to Siena, and I wanted to make sure they had their chance. So, I stayed at the train station with all of the luggage while the girls literally ran across Pisa to the Leaning Tower and back. They made it back with five minutes to spare and we hopped on the train and were on our way.
While getting on the train, there were two men that began helping us lug our luggage on board. We said “no grazie” repeatedly, but they continued to help anyways. I thought that the men were being nice, but as soon as we were seated, they came up to us with their hands out. The girls all looked at me confused, and from my time here the past few months I knew immediately that the men wanted money. “Two euro each,” one of the men said. I was frustrated and upset because this was not the first time that someone had helped me in Italy and I fell for it. I am so naive, always believing that they are just being nice. Each time though, they end up following me, demanding money for their help. I gave the man two euro so that he would walk away, but he kept repeating “Each. Two euro each.” It was already a rough morning so I said “No! We thought you were being nice,” and looked out the window so that the men would go away.
By 12:30 we successfully arrived in Manarola and were already exhausted from the morning’s activities! However, we were SO happy that we made it to Cinque Terre. Laur picked out the absolute cutest hotel. Although the hike up the steep hill to the hotel with all our luggage was quite humorous, as we were all gasping for air at the end, it was well worth it. As if the ocean view outside of our window wasn’t enough, we also had a pink-painted room with flower petals scattered across the bed.
Although some of the trails were closed due to a mudslide, we didn’t let that stop us from making it a perfect day. We did some hiking, took tons of Pinterest-worthy pictures, and hopped on a train to Vernazza, another of the five towns. Once there, we grabbed some gelato and relaxed on the rocks overlooking the town and the ocean. Vernazza and Manarola were the cutest of the five towns and I loved experiencing both. I fell in love with Cinque Terre and had the best time with my sisters and Val. Last stop for the Shaffer girls: Rome!