Time to make my way to the next destination -- Cinque Terre. But first, to Malapensa Airport (just northwest of Milan) to pick up Patricia, who is flying in from London for the weekend. The trip from Verona takes about 2 3/4 hours along the A4, which is chock-a-block with huge transport trucks. This is the only time that I wish I had a larger car with more than 3 cylinders -- just need a little bit more power to pass and get out of the way of the speedsters that are screaming down the autostrade.
Nearing Malapensa, the signs indicate that there are two terminals. Of course, Patricia's itinerary doesn't mention this, so I stopped at the first terminal, parked and went into the arrivals hall. Naturally, this is NOT the terminal that she is landing at. I asked how to get to the other terminal, and was told to go to the "other" parking lot. So back in the car, pay the parking fee and ended up back on the autostrade! Seems that the other terminal is about 5 kilometres down the road! Who would have thought?!
Arrived, parked and walked into the arrivals hall at THIS terminal, just in time to see Patricia walking from the gate area into the main terminal, so it was perfect timing.
On to Cinque Terre (Five Lands). As I found earlier, Multimap does NOT give driving instructions using the autostrade (instead leading you on non-toll, slower roads), so we used them as general information, but relied on the map (and Patricia's excellent navigational skills) to find our way around the west side of Milan and heading south. We stopped for lunch at a small town. Then it was on down to Genoa and east along the coast. The drive hearing Genoa and heading east was pretty hairy. You can't keep up any speed as the turns are so tight, and there are a number of dark tunnels. Didn't seem to slow down the people in the sporty cars (who had undoubtedly driven this road before and seemed to be enjoying it immensely), however I was being fairly cautious in my little Matiz.
Signage is also lacking and we ended up taking one detour of about 20 minutes down a precarious hill. Thankfully we only met with one car coming the other way, although it was badly dented and scraped down one side, so I don't think it was a car that was willing to "give way".
It was close to 5:30pm by the time we got to the car park above Manarola, so almost 10 hours since leaving Verona. I was exhausted, and we still hadn't gotten to the apartment I had rented. We were directed by various people sitting in small squares along the way, who continually pointed left and up. Naturally, we found the most difficult way, and I was dragging my wheeled bag up and down stairs. Eventually we found Arpaiu, but couldn't figure out how to get in (we had been given instructions to look for the key without a rock). There was only a key WITH a rock. Then a head popped out of the window above. It was a New Zealand couple, who had gotten their instructions wrong (they need the key WITH a rock), and were settling into our room. But it was sorted quickly, and they were on their way.
I was totally exhausted by this time, and a bit cranky. I also wasn't expecting the humidity here. Everything feels damp and musty (including me), and we don't have air conditioning at the apartment. Not only that, but they didn't set up both beds, so we only have one set of sheets.
But it is an incredibly beautiful place, and I know that a good night's sleep, preceded by a good meal and some wine, will go a long way to making me feel more comfortable. We had a quick walk out onto a point of the path where we could get a view of Manarola as the sun was coming down, and then went to La Scogliera for dinner. I had ravioli and pesto (pesto is the specialty in this area) and we shared grilled calamari. A bottle of white wine from Riomaggiore (the next town south in the Cinque Terre), finished up by a limoncello, and I was ready to go back for some sleep.