Location: Porto Venere
Today was our second day in Porto Venere because we needed a port close to the national park, Cinque Terre. Cinque Terre is comprised of five fishing villages full of closely packed, bright-colored buildings overlooking dramatic vistas. We boarded a bus to La Spezia at 6:00 am, where we hopped on a train running through all of the villages. The train was almost empty as we were some of the few tourists that would dare to wake up so early. We got off the train at the farthest village from where we started. From there, we walked through a surprisingly small, sparse town and embarked on a one and a half-mile hike to the next village. This short distance was misleading as we were not quite prepared for how much elevation the trail gained, as well as how incredibly hot the weather was. When we had conquered the steep part of the hike with sweat dripping down our faces, we were finally rewarded with a beautiful view of the second village. The town was striking because it was much more densely populated and colorful than the previous village. The village was surrounded by bucolic vineyards clinging to near-vertical mountains and an ocean full of deep blue, turquoise, and everything in between. When we arrived at the village, there was newfound energy to the already bustling streets that refreshed us from our hike. The convenient train system meant that the main street seemed a bit touristy, but as you ventured into the less populated alleyways, you saw more of the reality of the local’s daily lives. After we took many pictures, bought ice cold water and fresh food, we had to decide whether we still had it in us to complete a second hike, or take the train and save a couple of hours. At this point, the group split into small groups as people went their different ways. The next hike wasn’t as strenuous as the first, but the sun was higher in the sky, and the heat was more intense, making it equally difficult. Hiking to the second village ended up being a good choice because the next hikes were closed. So we still had a lot of time to explore the remaining villages in depth before we were required to meet up with the rest of the group at 3:30 pm. In village four, most people were surprisingly still on the same time frames, so almost everybody ate the same big lunch of pizza and seafood, with creamy Gelato as a dessert. After lunch, most of us went down to the water to refresh ourselves from the heat. There were a couple of spots to cliff dive that were of a daring height. Surprisingly, most everybody in the water was brave enough to jump. After a train to the fifth village and an hour or two spent exploring, it was time to meet up at the train station, and trace our route back to the boat. When we arrived at the boat, we took our daily shower in the temperate waters of the Mediterranean, followed by a delicious dinner of rice and chili.