“The view was like a vision described in novels; a tiny town that hovered on jagged cliffs and sparkling blue water, and by no means did the “visions” stop through out the day…” (Destination: Cinque Terre”, a story by Sergio Ortiz)
On our recent forty two day adventure, my wife and I visited five European countries by Eurail Pass interspersed with Air B&Bs stays adjacent to convenient railway locations. Snippets of the Traveling Mind” returns this week with impressions of our three day visit to the five towns of Cinque Terre National Park, a UNESCO National Heritage site along the Italian Riviera.
As Ruth and I settled in slowly in late afternoon into our spacious, Air B@B apartment in La Spezia, we felt immediately relieved. For we had exited our busy time in congested Rome to experience much quieter, suburban surroundings here. Our amiable apartment proprietor would provide us with plentiful information about adjacent Cinque Terre National Park that we planned to visit in the next three days of our visit. As she informed us that the famous walking trails linking these five villages to the Mediterranean shoreline paradise had washed out due to recent mud slides, we opted to undertake each town separately by rail. Hiking through steep, narrow stepped lanes within each medieval village would provide a formidable challenge for us to consider then.
Over the next three days , we would soon discover that each town along this secluded shoreline possessed its own uniqueness, combining colorful pastel housing, exquisite coastal panoramas, and Italian sensory delights. Click on the link below to gain a video perspective about the spectacular setting of the Cinque Terre region.
Corniglia – Climbing Challenge
Exiting the tunnel at the train station near Corniglia, we immediately spotted the steep cliff leading to this small medieval town surrounded by vineyards and a jagged coastline setting above. The hike would thus be challenging, requiring us to ascend a zig zag route of narrow stone steps to the town above. Accepting this strenuous walking challenge would enable us to view spectacular vistas of mountainside coastline interspersed with lush Mediterranean foliage along the way. Arriving to town somewhat winded, a spurt of energy returned quickly to the sounds of distant church bells ringing in this quiet medieval town.
Vernazza – Relaxing Sunbathing Experience
Gently descending the narrow cobblestone road through town, we reached a bustling shoreline inlet protruding into a man-made shoreline pier. We would then join throngs of locals/tourists/sitting quietly along the pier-side walls there. With the serene vista of the colorfully pastel town and gentle, wave lapping harbor in our immediate view then, we truly enjoyed love of life on this sunny day.
Manarola – Getting Lost Experience
A jumbled maze of narrow, medieval streets in Manarola offered a variety of options for visiting this town. Spotting a low route along the perimeter of the village, our short hike curved around steep cliffs dotted with rocky promontories and hidden caves. With sufficient time, we could have walked for hours along these crystalline shores with no real destination in mind.
Monterroso – Luxury Living Experience
As the most popular, tourist beach destination in Cinque Terre, Monterroso personified true luxury in the Italian Riviera. In fact, we observed only a few places of public access on this visit as private beaches catering to exclusive hotel occupants dominated our attention here. Ambling amidst the pretentious hotels along the boardwalk of town, we imagined being seen as one of the “rich and famous” catered obviously to here.
Riomaggiore – Bohemian Eating Indulgence
As the last stop on our Cinque Terre, Riomaggiore provided a spectacular setting and old town presence. Notably, we savored a plethora of creative wall murals and colorful pastel housing amidst its steep cliffside location. However, it seemed the alluring sights/smells of food dominated most our attention here. Unlike pricy Monterroso, window shopping of small cafe patios and storefront markets for fresh seafood and fruits/vegetables along the town promenade seemed most natural for our “less than upscale” tastes here. Settling for the savory crunch of the local focaccia bread later in La Spezia would suffice on this day.
Final Tips For Visiting Cinque Terre
1.Do not try to visit all five towns of Cinque Terre in one day
2.Cool off in railway tunnels to counter oppressive Italian heat.
3.Watch your fried food choices here to avoid stomach issues.
4.Go early to each town. Avoid the tour bus crowds.
5.Each town visit involves taking many steps up and downhill. Pace yourself and wear the proper shoes.