Checking Out La Spezia
Trying to keep the effort of getting up and making the most of my days, I was up early(ish), packed and took a gentle walk to the train station. Makes a change for me to not be rushing, and I enjoyed being able to turn up whenever I felt like it, buy my ticket and then enjoy a coffee before heading off to La Spezia for the next leg of the trip.
I opted for a mid-price train, going for a higher level of comfort than the regional train that I really hadn’t enjoyed when coming to Genoa, but cheaper than the top price of the high speed train. Happy with my compromise, I enjoyed a comfortable ride until 5 minutes before arriving in La Spezia when a woman came and told me I was sitting in her seat. We’d both been allocated the same seat in the same carriage, which is a first for me, but as I was getting off soon I just moved to avoid arguing with someone.
Once in La Spezia, it was a short walk to the hostel where I checked in and dropped my bag off before heading out to explore a little. Although I was staying in La Spezia, it wasn’t a city I was intending to spend much time in, so wanted to make the most of the afternoon and evening there. The hostel was just a couple of streets from the harbour, so I had a wander along the waters edge before heading in to check out a huge circular church I’d spotted.
Although I always seem to find myself in churches, this was my first circular one, and although it didn’t look like a church from outside, it was really impressive inside. Minutes after I arrived, the only other people in there left and I was left alone in the huge open space. After sneezing, I realised how amazing the acoustics were, and as there was no-one else there, had a little practice of some Disney songs to see how much better my voice is when it’s echoed around a huge room. I can only imagine how good it sounds when the church services happen.
Not wanting to spend all afternoon in the church, I made my way to one of THE sights in La Spezia according to the internet. Piazza Sant Agostino is a square in the heart of the city filled with cafes and restaurants. It was a hive of activity with families spilling out into the street and kids playing in the square, but I don’t know that I’d put it as one of the top sights in the city. Stopping for some chips and a drink, I soon found out that this was a cash only kind of place too, and I had to run to find a cashpoint to get some cash to be able to pay for my food.
Once I’d sorted the bill, I hiked up what felt like a million steps to the castle on top of the hill. Of course, once I got to the top I found it was closed, but I was still glad to have come up and seen it. As I turned to leave, I spotted a lift that’d take me back to street level. Slightly cursing myself that I hadn’t spotted that before coming up the stairs, I decided to instead take the scenic route through a park and then back down the stairs.
In a place as small as La Spezia, shops don’t stay open super late, so I nipped to the supermarket on my way back to the hostel to get some supplies to make dinner. As I was in Italy, they had my favourite pasta sauce in the supermarket as well as a whole aisle of pasta choices instead of the small section I’m used to back home, and I couldn’t wait to make some dinner and it be on a budget! After sitting by the harbour for a bit to just enjoy a bit of peace and quiet, I made dinner and just relaxed in bed. I wasn’t such a fan of this hostel or the people in my dorm just yet, but I was excited for tomorrow when I’d be spending the day exploring Cinque Terra!
One of the joys of staying in a hostel is the other people, and I had my share of strange people in this one. As I lay in bed winding down to go to sleep, another traveller came in, threw the windows wide open and then left the room again. It was cold, it was late, and she didn’t come back for ages. After giving half an hour, I closed the windows and went to sleep, only to be woken up at 2am by the same traveller sitting upright in bed in the pitch black screaming. It was short and sharp, and then she went back to sleep, but after such an abrupt wake up call I couldn’t get straight back to sleep and instead lay there thinking my next stop would be a hotel.
Cinque Terra Tour
Next day I was up early, and made my way to the food market in Piazza Camillo Benso Conte di Cavour on my way to the station. The rest of the day was absolutely crammed full of everything Cinque Terra has to offer, and come evening I was so tired I didn’t think I’d even be able to make the walk back to the hostel from the train station. Slow and steady, I made it back and turned in early after making dinner.
With another day in La Spezia, I took the opportunity to venture out to some nearby towns. The plan was to visit three different towns, and it was definitely ambitious. Not wanting to make the same mistake I had in Portofino where I bought my bus ticket on board and got totally ripped off, I went on the hunt for the bus ticket office where I managed to explain that I wanted a day ticket to someone who didn’t speak English.
Eventually on my way, the first stop was to Lerici. Once there, I planned to get another bus to take me to Terollo, which the hostel receptionist told me was the best place to see what the Cinque Terra towns were like before the tourists invaded. The bus to Lerici took longer than I’d anticipated, and once there the timings didn’t work out to be able to get to Terollo and back again with time enough to then get to Portovenere. I decided to scrap Terollo – Lerici was really pretty and I’d rather see one place properly than skim two.
I enjoyed a wander around the small town, took some photos, then walked back to San Terenzo along the water’s edge, passing some small private beaches and just enjoying the view. I knew I’d be able to get the bus back from San Terenzo as we’d passed through on the way to Lerici, and stopped for a bit of lunch and a drink in the sun on San Terenzo beach. Taking the opportunity when it presents itself, I popped in to use the toilet at the cafe I’d had a drink. I know, probably too much information, but once in the ‘toilet’ I thought I’d taken a wrong turning as there was nothing but a drain in the floor and a mop in the corner. Slightly confused, it took me a minute to realise this was a squat toilet! All thoughts of recommending my parents to come here went from my mind, and I had a laugh as I tried to find my balance and use the toilet. Well, at least I conquered that fear before even making it to Asia.
Still laughing from my latest experience, I jumped back on the bus and made my way back to La Spezia. About 20 minutes in to the journey, the bus stopped as usual to pick up passengers and the doors wouldn’t close. What ensued was a crazy couple of hours, as many angry Italians shouted on the bus while I sat at the back not understanding a word and just enjoying the Italian passion, then getting off and trying to cram on to other buses that were passing, missing three of the subsequent buses and deciding to just walk back. It was going to be a long walk through an industrial area, and after walking for half an hour in the heat I was ready to just get on the next bus going in the right direction to cut down on some of the walk I had to do.
Finally a bus passed that had space, and I was back in La Spezia. By now, I was super tired, slightly grumpy and just wanted to chillout. I knew I didn’t have time to get to Portovenere, so shelved that for another visit, and instead jumped on the train to head back to Riomaggiore, one of the Cinque Terra towns. When I’d been there yesterday I knew it was an epic spot for sunset, so I planned to grab a pizza and sit on the edge by the water and watch the sun set. Getting there a little later than planned, I didn’t have time to grab a pizza and ended up finding an even better spot on the cliffside for the sunset.
Back to La Spezia, I walked back to the hostel, stopping en route to pick up a pizza. I went for an ‘American’ which was sausage and chips, wondering when I’d get the chance to have chips on a pizza again. I took it to the harbour and enjoyed it looking out over the water, and came to have two revelations – it was crisps, not chips…no less weird than chips but still tasty, and also that they don’t slice take out pizzas. Tricky.
Next Stop: Bologna!
Next morning it was up and out to the train station for the last time as I was moving on to Bologna! I got to the station with plenty of time to spare and found that the train was already there. Jumping on, I settled in as a couple of elders woman sat across from me eating a roasted deli chicken at 10am. Why not, huh? Of course we left La Spezia late, but we were en route to my next stop, Bologna.