After paying the highest camping fees in all of our travels (over €34 a night, despite the fact that we had a small tent)(not judged on the actual dimensions, but on the fact that we had only two people in it) we headed away from Milan and back to Sestri Levante, with a view to visiting the Cinque Terre, as advised by several people.  It was lovely to get back to the mountains.

1 Back to the mountains

I thought that even the pylons looked stylish.

2 Posh pylons

Tim was not so keen on the motorway.  It looked as if we were driving on the old road and they had made a nice straight carriageway for the traffic going the other way as we went along a VERY windy route.

3 winding motorway

We were a little worried that the Fosse Lupara campsite would not be up to scratch, as when we stayed there on the way south in February, there was no hot water.  The campsite is, however, fully functional now, and the bar/restaurant opened the day after we arrived. 

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Tim was pretty adamant that we should find somewhere to stay from the Thursday to Tuesday over the Easter weekend, and he was certainly right, as the campsite has gone from quiet to totally heaving in just a couple of days.  We have watched an awful lot of RVs being turned away.

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The day after we arrived in Sestri, we headed down to town to catch the train to the Cinque Terre national park.  Due to wanting a second cup of tea (my fault) we had to rush to catch the train, which we thought we had missed, but luckily the advised time was wrong so we only had to wait 5 minutes before the (very posh) train took us on our way. 

5 Modern train

This little chap was very cute, although I was grateful that the little girl who was cuddling him didn’t understand Tim’s comments about slices of bread…

6 Not hot dog

We were so flustered that we didn’t stamp out tickets on the platform and spent the whole journey worrying about being caught.  We needn’t have worried; so many people got on the train that a ticket inspector could not even walk along the train.  We could barely get past the luggage the large group of young American tourists had heaved on board.

We got off at the furthest of the five villages, along with hordes of other people.  It made the whole place feel quite claustrophobic, but they soon seemed to disperse. 

Once upon a time, you could take a nice simple path (stuck to the edge of the cliff) all the way along the five villages.  Now the route is only available between a couple of them, as so much has been lost; if you want to walk you have to go up and down between the sea and the top of the cliffs, and it takes over five hours of hard graft. 

12 lost path

We decided to take the ferry, as it gives the good views, without the pain.

9 Cinque terre 1

We had some doubts, as we walked down to where they said we should catch the ferry, a narrow concrete path with cliff on one side and fall on the other.  People were getting concerned that they would not get onto the ferry by this stage so there was quite a bit of jostling for position.  I spent my time alternately wondering how people would get off the ferry and waiting for the splash. 

Eventually a smallish boat motored up to the shore, nose first and put out two ropes and a tiny little gang plank.  A few people got off, but a huge number got on, as the boat corkscrewed with the waves. 

8 Scary gang plank

It made me a little nervous, but I was proud that the two strong chaps that were shepherding people on board didn’t think I needed to be handed onto the boat.  We then sat down and amused ourselves watching peoples reactions as they climbed/ slithered/skidded on board.  We were wondering where all the people were going to go.  An American tour guide filled us all with confidence when he was overheard muttering to himself ‘this does NOT look good!!!’.  I am sure that sort of comment was never suggested at the tourist guide academy!

Finally we cast off and it was a beautiful trip, with much better views of each of the five villages than you could get from either the train or the shore.  Only a couple of them can be reached by road, so train or boat or foot are your only choices.

10 Cinque terre 2

11 cinque terre 3

At one stop we watched a tour group coming on board, the top comment of the whole trip so far was from one American girl who said that when she got to Rome ‘it really seemed like a city’.  There was also a new father inching over the wildly rotating gangplank with his brand new baby in its carry cot held under his arm.  I was very glad he didn’t drop it, as my life saving skills are decidedly rusty.

14 How to carry your baby

When we got to the other end, we waited for everyone else to get off, and it seemed to take for ever.

13 Scary gangplank 2

We did manage to answer one question;

16 How many?

We tried not to think about life jackets, because we couldn’t see where they could put them all….

But I was a bit unsure about the welcoming committee.

15 not what you want to see

We ended up having lunch in a somewhat overpriced restaurant in Monterosso, the most western village of the five.  The food was very good and we asked for some local wine, which was excellent (as recommended by this very knowledgeable young waiter), but cost way more than we have ever paid for wine in all of southern Europe.   I was in no way influenced by the way he looked…..

18 cute wine waiter

The pictures of the chef on the menu were way too hairy to be believable, until we met him…

19 chef

You will be relieved to know that no hair ended up in the food!  The town itself was lovely

20 Stripy church

17 Cinque terre 5

The train back was almost waiting for us at the station (lack of planning works remarkably well, sometimes) and we walked back to the campsite feeling incredibly mellow.  We had a nice couple of drinks in the now open bar and headed off to bed feeling great. Unfortunately the rest of the campsite was in party mode and there was much very loud laughter until gone two in the morning.  Meh!

The magic weather box said it was going to rain in the morning, but we were a little shocked when it came.

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It was truly torrential, accompanied by thunder and lightning.  I sheltered in the tent for a bit, until it occurred to me that I was sitting next to a seven foot metal pole (EEEEK).  I  decided it was safer in Camel (you’ve got to love a metal box when there are millions of volts around) and was glad of the shelter as the water gushed everywhere.  The thunder was violent enough to shake the truck and then there were hail stones.

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After it all calmed down we wandered down to the port and had a slap up meal at the place we came to last time we were here, for quite a bit less than the day before.  The day just got better and better.  In the evening the young folk were being just as noisy, so Tim went to ask them to quieten down.  It might have gone down by a decibel or two…..

The next day was Easter Sunday and we lay in bed listening to the Italians on site doing the family thing and the Pope’s sermon being broadcast from the local church.  We thought everything would be shut, but we walked down to the next town of Riva, enjoying the beach and the belated sunshine and (finally) a bar that was open for beer and snacks. 

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Although we were unimpressed with how this car blended with the background

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And we were a bit concerned that they are growing triffids

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We walked back through Sestri and were surprised to see so many shops open, together with an antique market. 

We went to bed that night, listening to the noisy youngsters who were now playing crud music, just to add to the delight of not sleeping.  Tim had decided that it was a waste of time going to talk to them again, but (we think) somebody’s mama went and sorted them out and all was delightfully peaceful.

We were going to explore along the coast the other way on our last day in Sestri, but, by the time we had done the washing, cleared up last night’s washing up and started enjoying the sunshine, we ended up drinking beer and just chilling.

I really wish I had learned some Italian, because several of the people in the campsite seem very friendly and have tried talking to us, including this really lovely group.

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Very few know any English at all, although the little boy in the caravan next door keeps trying out his French on us.  They owned two beagles called Snoopy (of course) and the dogs understood English pretty well! 

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We are camped right next to a [path that the small children use as part of a circular route to cycle/skate/scoot/run/toddle/drive electric motorbikes round the campsite.

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  It felt rather like being circled by red Indians, especially when the slightly older boys started playing tag right past our tent.  We had to stop that in a fairly grumpy and forthright way before one of them tripped on one of our guy ropes and impaled them selves on a tent peg.  I felt a bit nostalgic for my teaching days, as I haven’t had a good moan at a small child in months.

We liked this little caravan

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The days are starring to get warmer, although the nights are still well below 10 degrees C.  I am still wearing two long sleeved tee shirts, a fleece, PJ trousers, thermal leggings and thick socks in bed, but we are starting to see a few more nutters camping in tents.

Spring is coming in with its boots on; the trees are sprouting, the birds are indulging in competitive singing, the blackbirds are duffing each other up and we have a tame chaffinch that nags constantly for scraps.  It may end up in a pie yet!

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