Med Cruise: Day 4 – La Spezia

Next stop, Italy. One of my favourite European countries (the food! the wine! the passion! the art! the style!) I was thrilled to be visiting a region of Italy where I hadn’t been before. This was the first stop where we had to use the tenders to get to shore – I was woken at 5.30 by the noises of them being lowered. There was gravadlax on the menu for breakfast, and then we lazed around and read for an hour or so while the tour parties got out of the way. Using tenders can mean a bit of a queue.
My research into the “must sees” had said take a boat ride to the Cinque Terre, 5 little hamlets nestled against the precarious cliffs along the windswept coast. But we’d just missed one boat, so instead took a taxi (10 euro) to la stazione, and I brushed off my rusty Italian linguistic skills to get 2 tickets to the furthest of the villages, Monterosso (for the princely sum of 2.60 each). The train journey isn’t that exciting, as it is mostly though mountain tunnels, with only the briefest of glimpses of the stunning coastline. But the short journey (15 minutes) was rather enjoyable, and we emerged from the station in beautiful sunshine to find a bay of golden sand with some rather spectacular surf crashing onto it.

Whilst it is possible to walk from one village to the next, Roger wasn’t up to such physical demands. We’d planned on catching the return boat at 12.10, which would call at each one before returning to La Spezia, but when we found the harbour, there was a notice saying “service suspended due to rough conditions”. The return fare on the boat would have been 25 euro. We found a little cafe, Cafe Mexico, overlooking the swell crashing on the shore, and ordered an iced coffee (the best of the trip!) and a glass of local white wine – I’m now in love with Ligurian wines.
Despite the red flags flying, some hardy souls were splashing about in the surf. We split a rather large mozzarella and tomato salad, and discussed our options. We decided to get back on the train, but to get off at one of the other villages on the way. Sticking a pin in the choices, we plumped for RioMaggiore. This may have been a mistake, as there was a rather long tunnel from the train station into the town, and a pretty steep walkway down to the petite harbour.

The place reminded me a little of Mont St Michel. I had another glass of local vino ( expensive at 5.50, but soooo good), before getting back on the train to La Spezia and a taxi back to the boat.

We room serviced up some diet coke and a bucket of ice, and were relaxing when the captain came on the t annoy with an announcement. We had been due to anchor off Villefranche tomorrow, but the swell running meant that he didn’t feel we’d be able to safely operate a tender service, so instead we were going a few miles further down the coast to Cannes. Oh dear, what a shame!
That night’s sailing was a bit later, at 7 pm, and we had booked a window table for dinner, and so were able to enjoy a truly memorable meal as the Italian coastline glided gracefully past in the sunset.

Cruise Tip Of The Day: Check the sailing times. If you ARE going to be sailing during evening meal time, try to get a spot where you can see outside, it’s a truly memorable experience.

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