If you have been following this story since Monday you know that this week I am doing daily posts about our time in Italy. So far I’ve covered Lake Como, Venice, and Portovenere. We have now arrived at Cinque Terre.
Cinque Terre is Italian for ‘five lands’ and is not a city so much as it is a region of 5 coastal cities: Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore. When I first heard about Cinque Terre as a destination I heard that there was a hiking trail connecting each of the villages and allowing for justification of gelato stops throughout the day. I was in.
We stayed in La Spezia and, as mentioned yesterday, our host was amazing.
One helpful tip she included in her binder was how to get tickets for the train and hiking trails. It is a national park and does therefore require a pass to hike the trail. We decided to take the train to the northernmost city and hike south. I had heard that somewhere along the way the trail was closed so we figured that we’d finish out our trip with the train back. The pass allows for unlimited train and trail access so it seemed like a good plan.
First stop: Monterosso
We basically walked straight from the train station to the trail head so I don’t have a lot to say about the place, unfortunately.
Well, it’s like this friends, I do not recommend the trail. I think maybe we did it wrong, I’m not sure? I think maybe there are 2 trails and we took the long one? Or else this just isn’t the best section? But what it ended up being was about 30 minutes of vertical stairs up with frequent stops to breathe, about an hour of level walking with minimal sea views, and another 30 minutes straight down.
Somewhere in there I heard a person say that 7 people have died on this trail this year. We speculated that they fell straight off the side of the narrow path and down the steep mountainside or succumbed to heart attacks.
All in all, I’m glad we did it because I like hiking, but I can’t recommend it to everyone. Needless to say, we celebrated the sighting of Vernazza and lunch was much anticipated.
We liked Vernazza. It had cute lunch spots right up by the water and therefore met our every need.
The other major thing that happened in Vernazza is that we decided against any more hiking, regardless of how open the trails were.
Corniglia is the only town of the 5 that’s not actually on the water. You can walk up from the train but we took the most obvious option, the free shuttle. It’s a very small town so the walk down main street is fairly short and direct. We looked at the ocean, bought fresh squeezed juice, and returned to the shuttle.
Manarola was larger and more picturesque because we were able to go up the trail just a short bit and get a beautiful view of Manarola from afar. We didn’t really do anything in this town except look at it, but the look is definitely worth the stop.
Riomaggiore is the southernmost city and was our last and favorite stop of the day, probably because we did everything wrong. When we got of the train we took, what seemed to us, to be the most obvious route to the coast. However, it wasn’t long until we weren’t walking with anyone anymore. Where were all the tourists we got off the train with we wandered as we roamed down narrow street stairs. Yes, the streets were narrow stairs. I don’t know how people functionally live here.
This eventually spilled us out to the sea and we were suddenly reunited with all the crowds. Where did they come from? Karston joked that there should be a tunnel straight from the train to the wharf. We agreed and went on to take pictures and find the best gelato.
After the gelato, half the group decided to return to the apartment and Vanessa and I stayed to people watch a bit longer. The three left and we split another gelato, soaking up the sunshine in our favorite little Italian town thus far.
When our time was up we headed to where the crowds seemed to be coming from, in search of the train. We stopped at a shop, went over a bridge, and took a logical path, and yet we ended up strolling on the top of the city, away from the crowds. It was beautiful. And also mysterious. How did all those people get to and from the train we wondered??
When we finally made it back to the apartment, Karston confirmed, there was a tunnel straight to the train. We just missed it.
And I was reminded that sometimes, like Cinque Terre, my life takes a scenic route and I just can’t seem to get somewhere the way everyone else does. And sometimes, that’s perfectly okay.
This was country 5 of our 6 country Euro Trip. To read a summary of the trip, click here.