Italy – Day 11 – Cinque Terre

Today was a long travel day to get from Mürren to Levanto, Italy, one town north of the five towns that make up the Cinque Terre. The day started off nice and mellow. We had one last breakfast at our hotel, finished packing, said goodbye to our wonderful, wonderful hosts, and set off on our journey.

The first part of our journey was fairly simple, as traveling by train in Switzerland is. We took a train from Mürren to Grütschalp, cable car down to Lauterbrunnen, and then a train to Interlocken where we had extra time, and so we sat at a cafe by the train station and had a coffee. Next up was a short train ride to Spiez, where we transferred to a train that carried us across the border to Italy, where our next transfer would be in Milan in 2.5 hours.

It was at this point of the trip that things got stressful, hectic and really, really sweaty. The difference between the train stations in Switzerland versus the train station in Italy are a bit of a shock to the system, especially if you’re transferring at a major station like Milan. The station at Milan is very big. It was also packed with throngs of people and there were no station attendants to be found anywhere for help.

Then there is the issue with the information that is printed on your ticket versus what appears on the billboard and track signage… This was a biggie. It is very, very, VERY important to ask what the last train stop is on the train you are taking. For example, our ticket says Milan to Genoa, however Genoa is not the last stop for that train. Therefore, when you are looking for your train, you will see absolutely no reference at all to Genoa. What we were looking for, as it turns out, was the train to La Spezia, but there was no way to really find that out.

We looked at a paper train schedule that said a train to Genoa was leaving out of bin (track) 20, so we raced across the station with our luggage and boarded the train feeling lucky to have caught the train in time. Until of course we casually asked the man next to us if this train was going to Genoa and with big eyes he said “No, no, no!” We grabbed our luggage and threw ourselves off the train.

At this point I may have used some very colorful language in front of my mom. I looked at my watch and saw our train was essentially leaving now. A man who I assume had witnessed our rapid disembarking, asked “Genoa?” I could not have given a more enthusiastic yes in reply. He said “I have three minutes left, it’s in bin 18!” Had there been more time, I would have hugged the man, but instead we ran one isle over. There was a train attendant standing at the last wagon (now he appears, grr), he confirmed Genoa, told us that our assigned wagon was literally at the opposite of the long-assed train, but told us to get on immediately right here because we were leaving immediately, just please walk at least 3 cars up before sitting because your ticket is for second class and at the first three wagons were for first class.

After navigating three wagons over in a now moving train, we collapsed into the first seats we were permitted to sit in. We couldn’t believe we made it, we were spent, and also not particularly excite about repeating this experience when we had to transfer again in Genoa. At least we had a 1.5 hour break.

In Genoa, we decide to divide and conquer. I stayed with all our luggage in a central location to all tracks, mom went off to buy our ticket for the local train. And yes, to she made sure to ask what the last stop was. This process, while better than Milan still took awhile. The train attendant had told us the ticket counter was right by the exit, so just look for that. What he failed to mention was that there are TWO exits. My mom, who had now toured the entire train station, finally found the ticket counter, as well as the very long line people waiting to purchase, and the slowest ticket seller in the world.

The good news is, we got tickets, found the train, and boarded on time. While we were relived to be on the last leg of this journey, the train, now local, stopped about 15+ times and took another 1.25 hours.

We finally pulled into Levanto at 9:30pm, exhausted and not yet done with our adventure. First we had to navigate from the train station to pickup the keys to our apartment left in a lockbox at the agency. Then try to find ours auto the apartment all in the dark. This is the part where I say how very thankful I am for my iPad and it’s expensive international data plan. At the train station I turn on my cellar connection, pulled up a map, put in the directions, and followed the blue gps dot to the lockbox with our keys. Then the address for our apartment. It was so very valuable at that point to not have to read a map and try to find street signs in the dark in a new city.

There were no words for how tired we were, and how much we needed a shower, which we skipped in return for falling into bed and sleeping. Tomorrow we’ll wake up and find out what Levanto looks like! Zzz.

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  1. Greg Guth
    September 9

    Yes, this sounds like the Italian railway system…

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