Postcard 11 – Vernazza to Arona

Easypeasy, hmmm – but not everything goes to plan!
Do we go direct to Geneva. Well we could! We could always take in an Italian lake, after all, I’ve never been there. We might stop in Milan, another place I haven’t been.

As it turns out we do a bit of winging it!

Cecilia has been in the chair with regard to accommodation with my suggestions being binned for (in no particular order)
not being near the station
not in the centre
not near where we need to be
too expensive
but it’s still a collective responsibility to try to chose the right one and she always shows me the screen of the choice being made and we’ve led a charmed life with rooms, apartments and occasionally a whole house at good to excellent prices. We’ve had quirky ones, boutiquey ones, odd ones that haven’t been where we expected them and outstanding ones and very rarely ones that we wouldn’t care to go back to.

We’re leaving Riomaggiore and our Interrail planning and booking app is telling us there are four stages in our trip to Arona

Riomaggiore to La Spezia Central
Change train.
La Spezia Central to Genoa P.Za Principle
Change train.
Genoa P.Za Principle to Milano Central
Change train.
Milano Central to Arona

All goes well until we set foot on Riomaggiore station and we get our first minor inconvenience – the train is 20 minutes late. It also means it’s going to be a bit tight for our connection at La Spezia and the consequent knock on effect doesn’t bear thinking about – or rather, it does!

We arrive at La Spezia and its approach to the station seems very slow but that may be because we’re getting ready for the dash to our train to Genoa. After an eternity of waiting for it to replace the very slow movement with stationary and the wonderful TSSHH sound of the doors opening we jump out and find a monitor. We scan the list of trains and with a sinking heart, we discover that our connection has gone. A very quick glance down the monitor and we find a non-bookable alternative that will get us there but we’re not sure when. We get on it anyway although there is an anxiety inducing moment as Cecilia is getting on when the doors close on her rucksack leaving her on the inside looking a bit tense and the rucksack on the outside looking like a 1950’s mail sack ready for pickup. The doors open again and she quickly says, “I’m not sure about this train…”. The doors close again, this time it’s actually on the rucksack so now it’s nearly in but C is having second thoughts which is normal as indecision is her specialist subject. The doors open again and she gets in and finishes the sentence with something like, “…but there’s no alternative”.

So we’re on the train to Genoa reworking our tickets in the Interrail Planner and trying to figure out what time we get in and, more crucially, which station.

We’re in Genoa now with fingers crossed as it pulls into Genoa Nervi with an announcement that this was the terminus – bugger – we need Genoa Central!

So, more replanning and a dash to Genoa Central to look for an alternative train to Milan.

We haven’t written Milan off as a destination yet although my suggestion of an hotel there at 143 euros has been rejected on the basis of price. Booking dot com is asserting that ‘this is the last room at this price’ but who knows?

We’re now running so late that it’s unlikely to impossible to get the original train to Arona so for a few minutes we look for another hotel in Milan and C has found the same as me, the one that was listed has gone and there’s nothing under 250 euros now so we look back at the planner and find a train to Arona that’ll get us there at 10:23.

There’s a hint of confusion as we find the metro and get the right train to Milano Garibaldi only to find the Arona train that we need is at Milano Central – where we’ve just come from. So another dash across town to where we came from and with sigh of relief we board the Arona train with four minutes to spare.

Cecilia has found a nice looking apartment in Arona called the Secret Garden and the pictures look lovely but its check-in rules are up to 10pm so we’re trying to contact them to tell them of our late train issues and hope we can still get in but as the train speeds through the night we get no response. We’re a bit miffed because it’s been confirmed by booking dot com and she’s been trying since nine o’clock.

In the meantime we’d both been looking for a fall-back hotel with a 24 hour reception that could take us if the original falls over which is increasingly likely.

I’ve found one about 1.5km from the station and C has been looking at the Atlantic which stands next to the station – a bit pricy but much more handy considering the time of night and, we don’t know it yet but we get a deal.

We call into the Atlantic Hotel and speak to a lovely lady called Roberta and explain the situation. She responds with the offer of a room at a hugely discounted price of 150 euros which is a gift for a four star place like this near the station. She also tries to ring our original place but goes through to voicemail which is the same result that we’d had.

With the room guaranteed if we need it we scoot quickly through Arona and after several attempts to get a response at the site we go back and accept the room we were promised with lots of thanks and gratitude.

The morning brings a message from the Secret Garden with apologies and we can still have the second night if we need it so, rucksacks packed, we make our way there.

The proprietors are a delight and the room is superb. It also really does have a secret garden bathed in sunshine and is a quirky delight. All is forgiven.

With our rucksacks and valuables in a safe place we go exploring Arona and find a lovely walk to the top of Parco dela Rocco Borromea where we can see Lago Maggiore and some of the wonderful fortifications and monasteries. It’s a marvellous window into the past with contrasting evidence of today in the form of motor boats, ferries and the odd jet ski. We are lucky with the weather which has threatened us but not turned into anything but our luck is running out so we make our way back to the Secret Garden with the intention of purchasing a bottle of fizz to celebrate not being in an Italian workhouse.

Arona is a wonderful place, but we never did find a corner shop and Lidl that’s reported to be in town is a mystery so as the rain comes we go for a shower and prepare for what becomes a wonderful evening of banter with some Italian locals in a proper workaday bar followed by an outstanding meal.

So Arona was approached with a little trepidation due to lack of response, but we were showered with care and helpfulness through Roberta at the Atlantic Hotel followed by more care at the Secret Garden where we couldn’t have been better looked after.

Enjoy the snaps. G x

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