Cinque Terre: An Absolutely Gorgeous Place to Visit
May 16, 17, and 18th
Cinque Terre, which is a national park in Italy, was our stop for the past few days, and easily one if the most gorgeous places I have ever been. Cinque Terre is along the northwestern coast of Italy and consists of five villages that are connected by trains and hiking paths through the mountains.
We arrived in Riomaggiore on Monday in the late afternoon after catching a train from Milan. Riomaggiore is the southernmost town of the five. Once arriving, we found our hostel and wandered a little bit through the small town. The town, being right on the coast with mountains surrounding it, has an incredible view and a bunch of rocks you can sit on along the water. Deciding that we should take advantage of having the opportunity to sit and relax while looking at the incredible view, we decided to buy some tomatoes and fresh mozzarella cheese, some foccacia bread with pesto and rosemary, and a bottle of wine, and sit on the rocks enjoying a picnic dinner. One of the most amazing meals ever! The tomatoes were so good (and I am not even a fan of tomatoes, so that says a lot!) with the cheese, and the wine incredible for the few euros it cost, and the foccacia bread! Mmmm.... All while sitting there watching the sun setting over the ocean, listening to the waves. (It was very romantic!)
The next day we did the hike between the five villages. We had met a couple from the States - Robert and Valerie - in our hostel the day we arrived and we all decided to go together. So, that morning we got up, ate some breakfast, I slathered on the sunscreen, filled up the water bottles, and set off on the hike! We started in Riomaggiore and walked to Manorola, the next town over, which only took us about ten minutes as it was a really easy walk over a nice stone path that is flat. A nice little warmup for what awaited us. Normally, there is a path from Manorola to Corniglia along the ocean, which, from what I hear, is not a very difficult path to walk. However, this path is closed right now, so we had to take a detour up the mountain and around. The estimated time for this path is 2.5 hours, and so continue on our way in search of this detour, estimating that we can do it in an hour and a half. And then the path starts with some stairs, which is great since we have to go up the mountain and a few minutes in we have this incredible view as we are getting higher. Time to pause! Photo op! We just stood there, looking out over Manorola and the ocean, also catching our breath. (Those stairs are tough when you aren't used to them.) Also, poor Meghan and Robert both have allergies which started acting up, making the hike a bit harder for them. After pausing for a minute to take in the view, we continued on our way up some more stairs. Up, up, up we went, climbing stair after stair after stair, but the views were incredible the entire way so we couldn't really complain. A while in, the path became narrower and narrower, to the point where we had sometimes only about a foot of space to walk on, with a cliff on our side. Definitely had to watch our footing or it could have been ugly! Also, you had to be pretty careful if you met people going the opposite way. Finally, the path started going down a little. Wohoo!! One hour forty five minutes and lots of stairs later, we made it to Corniglia, the third town. Here, we paused for a bit of a break. We found a tap to refill our water bottles and a little store to buy some fruit for a snack. Half an hour later, we hit the trail again. This next stretch was quite a bit easier than the detour simply because it did not have the same crazy amount of stairs. Don't get me wrong - there were still stairs, just not quite so many. We started meeting many more people on the trail by this time as it was the center point and a lot of people had started at the end opposite from where we had started. Again, always an amazing view wherever we were. I could have just stopped in one area on the path and looked out for hours. Then, there it was: the fourth town of Vernazza! We didn't really pause for long in Vernazza, just for a few minutes to get our breath. Val and Rob were getting pretty hungry by this time too, but we decided to just continue powering through to the last town. We figured food would be just that much better once we had finished our entire hike. Off we went again! And guess what! More stairs! By this point, we weren't too excited to see more stairs. It was hot and dusty and we had already climbed up and down way too many (in our opinions). But what goes up must come down, right? And the stairs eventually started going down. Down, down, down we went. Then low and behold: Monterosso! The last village! Success!!!! Five hours and 12 km later, we reached our goal. (I am also pleased to report that we shaved two hours off the estimated time for the hike. Robert claims this is because he was leading - I beg to differ.)
With the hike complete, finding food was our next goal, which was easily accomplished. We stopped for lunch at a little restaurant, then found some gelati for dessert. Mmmm... Gelati! Delicious. With gelati in hand, we headed down to the beach for a dip in the ocean and to relax. Later that afternoon, the four of us caught the train back to Riomaggiore. There was no way we were hiking back. We planned to do the trail the opposite way the next day instead.
Later that evening, Meghan and I decided to repeat our picnic dinner on the rocks. We had some left over mozzarella and a tomato, and picked up some fresh handmade gnocchi pasta with pesto sauce. Back to the rocks we went. Another incredible meal! The pasta was easily the best I have ever had. If you are ever in Riomaggiore, I advise you to stop and find some homemade pasta with pesto. You will not regret it. I guarantee it.
The next morning we met up with Val and Rob again. We had planned to do the hike again, but when we saw each other, Meghan and I, who thought 'screw it. We aren't doing the hike again' and wore sundresses, looked at Val and Rob, who said "Thank goodness! We were worried you were going to want to go again." So it turned out that we had all had enough hiking the day before and decided to just take it easy that day. We hopped on a train to Monterosso and spent part of the day wandering around there, where I am pretty confident in saying that we found the best lemon slushie you will ever have in your life. The slushy was handmade, with bits of lemon in it. The woman there told us that every morning she squeezes twenty lemons to make it, and has forty lemon trees. So another piece of advice: If ever in Monterosso, go in search of a homemade lemon slushie for a delicious, refreshing drink. Even if you aren't thirsty, go anyways!
After sitting and enjoying our amazing lemon slushie, we continued to wander around town and stopped for lunch and some more gelati. (Its just not possible to pass the gelati place without stopping for some.) We also found out that instead of taking the train or hiking between towns, we could take a boat, which to us sounded like a pretty good idea. The boat was not that expensive and we were able to see the towns and coast from a different view, which was nice. We hopped on the next boat we could take and headed off to Vernazza for an hour filled with some more wandering and dipping our toes into the ocean to cool off a bit. An hour there and then we hopped onto another boat and went back to Riomaggiore. The four of us split up for a bit, but decided to meet in a while and walk over to Manorola for dinner. Before meeting them, Meghan and I decided to quickly check our emails and whatnot, so we found a spot in town where we could sit on the street stealing someone's Internet signal. As we are sitting there, some man comes up behind Meghan and says "Scusa," to which Meghan (being the polite Canadian) automatically replies "Sorry" and moves over a step. Then the laughter starts and we realize it's simply Rob, and him and Val are standing there laughing at us. I have to admit, they got us. It was pretty funny how automatically Meghan just replied 'sorry.'
For dinner, once again we had a picnic on the rocks, but this time it was the four of us and we went over to Manorola. Rob bought a couple bottles of wine (he went all out as they cost 1€30 each) and we picked up some food to take with us. Another great evening spent enjoying the view with friends. Then, sadly, it was time to head back to Riomaggiore and to say goodbye to Val and Rob. Meghan and I were taking off early the next morning to go to Florence, with a stop in Pisa on the way, so we had to once again pack our bags and get ready to go.
I was sad to leave Cinque Terre as it is absolutely gorgeous. To anyone wanting a romantic getaway, a great hike, a fantastic view, good food, or whatever other reason there may be, consider Cinque Terre. It's fantastic.