I would like to dedicate this next episode to Andrea, Barbara, Bettina, Abbie, and every one of our Tribe who has seen the colored-up filter-enhanced impossibly beautiful images of Cinque Terre on jigsaw puzzles and travel brochures and thought to herself, “Self, a place can’t really look like that and be real.”
You and your selves are wrong.
The five little villages of Cinque Terre, in the province of La Spezia, the region of Liguia, are connected by a local train, a local water bus, and a narrow hiking trail (each require a purchased ticket). They perch along the cliffs like tiny jewels. Throw on your sturdy shoes and grab a water bottle, because we are going exploring.
“New” Monterroso “Old” Monterroso
Monterosso al Mare, where we stayed, has an original section and a newer section, connected by a little tunnel. These are the views from that middle spot, looking both ways. The beach is what draws people to Monterosso, but it has a sculpture at the far west (under scaffolding during our visit) and a tiny castle to the east if you want to “see a thing”. You can walk the whole length in twenty minutes or so, which we will do, because this is the morning we are hiking the tiny, famously outrageous trail to the next town over: Vernazza.
So it begins… Along the cliffs, heading south in the morning mist. And straight up, stairs, ramps, boulders…just UP forever. But you are rewarded by beautiful surprises, ocean views, flowers, vineyards… Until you finally (an hour and a half later, ahem) find Vernazza.
Vernazza is a lovely hamlet, if you are a giraffe. I love Italy’s use of space. Vernazza has the only natural port of the Cinque Terres and was buried in a mudslide in 2011.
Welcome to Vernazza. From the cliffs. And the train is a blip on their radar. Remember fountains? Who needs a water bottle?
We took the train for the rest of our adventures. (Whew!) When it stopped in Corniglia, the next town south, we discovered what makes this place extra-special:
Read it and weep. Looking back. Do not attempt this in the heat.
Once you reach the top, you must still climb through Corniglia and around the little chapel of St Catarina to the cliff for the view.
Could not decide who this is…but he guards the place. Corniglia is in the middle: two towns on either side…waaaay over there. Looking inland.
We treated ourselves to a fruit smoothie and headed back to the train. Our next stop was Manarola. This is the one featured on jigsaw puzzles, colorful homes perched at the water’s edge.
Main Street, Manarola. You share with the boats. You can walk left to the boat dock… Or you can walk right to get that village view. But what is THIS? You can swim here, too…
We hadn’t thought to bring our suits, but it’s just as well, we had one more village to find. Riomaggiore is the fifth stop and if you have any steps left in you, climb left and follow the path…
The little marina. Keep walking, the water color gets crazy beautiful. And here is the hidden end of the path. Just wow. You can go inland, but it’s also uphill!
To end this day just right, we took the train back to our hotel, got fancy and returned for the spectacular finale:
This one’s for you, ladies!
Vernazza at sunset is not to be missed. Everything changes color with the sky: you, the town, the water, the air. My friends, you must sit here some day.
Golden sunset from Vernazza.