At the eleventh hour we decided to go to Cinque Terre and thank goodness we did! It is definitely one of the most beautiful places we’ve seen on this trip. This is the Italian landscape you dream about. If you’re unfamiliar, Cinque Terre is a string of five little sea side towns that are connected with a range of hiking trails (some easy, some more difficult) as well as trains. It’s a typical visit to hike or train between each of the five towns, either in one day or over a few days. They’re all quite small so it’s easy to see them fairly completely over that time.
Since it was the eleventh hour I was surprised that we found such an amazing place with Rio Rooms.
We were right in the downtown (aka smack dab in the center of the one main street) in Riomaggiore, the first of the 5 towns.
As we had arrived in afternoon, we still had our energy to walk around the town and explore. We hiked to the tip top of the town, all the way back to the sea cliffs.
The next day we tackled the next two towns. The first trail between our town, Riomaggiore and the next town, Manarola is the easiest. A twenty minute walk on a cement path along the sea. It is called, Via del’Amore or Lovers Lane.
We walked all the way to the top of Manarola, passing through their cemetery and walking through the Cliffside vineyards. We noted that the cemetery was next to the preschool and both had prime real estate perched on top of a beautiful outcropping of cliff, overlooking the beautiful ocean. The departed and babies get top priority for beauty in this town.
We ate lunch and talked about how to get to the next town. When we had arrived they told us that the regular path between Manarola and the third town, Corniglia was closed due to landslides. The alternatives were to take the train or a longer, more strenuous path. After we waited on the train platform for about 20 minutes, and they announced our train was to be 40 minutes late (typical…) we decided to try the hike. From what I could glean from our map, which gave no specific times from our town to the next, it would be about 1 ½ hour hike.
2 ½ hours later we’re merrily hiking through the Italian cliffs and vineyards.
It was a bit more of a hike than we had intended but it still wasn’t so tough, as hikes go. It didn’t much matter because about every five minutes we stopped to gape at the view.
It was actually great that we ended up doing this hike because we got to see parts of the area we would never have normally. Also, no matter what Rick Steve’s says, Cinque Terre is not a cluster of unknown hamlets, filled with Italian charm and beautiful views. Yes, it’s beautiful but since Rick Steve’s talked about it, it’s not so secret anymore. We heard more American spoken (not English, American) in Cinque Terre than the rest of our entire trip. So, hiking on this path we encountered no one but some French hikers and we loved the brief respite from the other tourists.
Corniglia was instantly different from the other two towns. It was more medieval feeling with tall, winding alleyways-the type that make you feel like you can discover something around every bend. The best part was it had a panoramic outlook at the Cliffside of town.
We took the train back (about 4 minutes) to Riomaggiore to eat dinner. Seems the climb up from the Corniglia train station to Corniglia proper is a bit of a hike as well, 328 steps!
The next day we took the train directly to the fourth town, Vernazza. We had brought lunch so we picnicked on the pier.
We decided to spend the afternoon there drawing and watercoloring.
When we were done, it wasn’t too long until sunset. We decided to skip the fifth town, Monterosso, as it had the reputation for being the biggest and busiest (two terms we try to stay away from).
We ate potentially the most delicious thing we’ve ever eaten in our lives for dinner while looking out over the water, watching the sun go down.
Simply fresh baked focaccia, tomato paste, fresh, garlicky pesto and a slice of mozzarella di Buffalo. This is something I’m going to happily try over and over again to recreate. Perhaps this isn’t the most appetizing picture to some of you, but believe me when I say it was one of the best meals of my life (up there with Grotto di Azzuro!)
The next day we left Cinque Terre for Rome. We were sad to leave such natural beauty. The hike had shown us an Italy that could be explored forever. Craggy cliffs, azure sea, bright green grape leaves atop yellow, straw grass. Simple food and fresh sea air. Does it get any better?