Sarzana to Corniglia 47km
To Rapallo 61km
Cinque Terre, the Five Towns. Who's ever heard of them? Not me. But my adorable wife had, and she wanted to go there. So have thousands of other tourists, but thankfully most of them visit during the summer, although there are quite a few USA students, and some Asian tourists, and a few French about, but NO, ZERO, NADA, cycle tourists. In fact we were told that only a macho madman would even consider cycling into Cinque Terre with a fully loaded tour bike....... bother. But it's a World Heritage UNESCO Site...... Nope, you'd have to be bonkers...... it's tough.
People who visit this region, arrive by bus, car, train, or boat. NOT bicycle.
We had stayed with Nicolas in Sarzana, another amazing Warmshowers host. He was full of advice and helpful suggestions, so we even stayed two nights so as we could visit another small coastal town, Porto Venere. On Monday we followed Nick's directions, firstly to a Samsung shop. The other day, in the storm, I had been riding through a flooded street, and while heading to what I thought was a more shallow section, I had hit the flooded curb, and ended up tipped off Fiona, in the drink. That's when, we think, the screen on my phone was smashed....bother. But this shop can only fix the screen for €100, and it will take seven days. We ride away.
Initially, the climb wasn't too steep or arduous, and we thought that the tunnel might mean we had summitted.... but no. The climb, up to Volastra, was ugly. Steep, steep, steep, and narrow, but at least there was hardly any traffic. Ju did magnificently. I struggled. 100m at a time, but I cycled the whole thing. I know from experience, that Fiona is harder to push uphill, than cycle uphill..... she's heavy. Then just before the top, a cyclist stopped and asked us whether we knew that the road was closed up ahead? What? What? Pardon? Our plan was to sleep in Corniglia, then return to the top road, and cycle further along the coast. Now the only option was to cycle over halfway up the hill, return to sea level, the cycle the same height again, to get past the road blockage. The downhill to Corniglia was amazing. The thought of having to cycle back up, twice, horrific.
We stayed in Corniglia two nights..... delaying tactics, and walked the trails to Vernazza. It was a stunning walk, with amazing views. This area of Italy is impressive. During the walk we decided that to cycle out of Corniglia was not going to be a fun option. Perhaps we could use the train, the 10km through to Levanto, because the climb out of there might not be quite as severe. Sounds like a very good option.
It's an adventure, translating the train timetable, buying and clipping the tickets, getting loaded bikes to the correct platform, and squeezing them on to the train, but we manage. Then we start the climb. Fifteen kms, and it's relentless, but not nearly as steep as our descent two days ago, so we're both pretty happy, although my legs are jelly by the time we reach the top. The reward...... 15km of amazing flat riding, 600m above the valley, then15km of whoopee downhill..... YES. I love cycle touring. Every day has a challenge. Every day has highs and lows. Every day has its unknowns. And today was topped off, by my lovely lady telling me that today's ride was the best day so far of her trip in Italy. Gotta love that kind of feedback.