We visited the Cinque Terre with Walkabout Florence on a day trip from Florence; it was a pre-spring wet April day, the sun hid behind heavy clouds, and the ground beneath our feet stayed damp and slippery all the time.
Our excursion wasn’t necessarily ruined by the inconvenient weather, as our fascination with the inexpressible charm of the place was far greater; the loss for words to describe it is precisely what kept me from posting about it earlier, however our experience was memorable and defiantly worth sharing, so here we go…
The “Five Lands” are stunning cliffside fishing villages, part of the Italian Riviera coastline in the region of Liguria. Mostly manmade and undisturbed by modern development, but it certainly wasn’t lacking on natural beauty.
Our starting point was in Manarola, the second town in order from the east. The plan was to walk through the next three villages, then hop on a boat back to the first one “Riomaggiore”, this would’ve provided a different view of the area from the sea, before catching the train to La Spezia, our departure point.
The weather obviously had other plans for us, the wind got stronger towards the end of the day, so we couldn’t get in the boat, however we still got our fill of magnificence throughout the way..
The rugged trail became steeper the closer we got to the smallest village “Corniglia”, which is built higher on a hill. It is the only village not spelling it’s edges right into the water. Climbing the 33 flights of the Lardarina steps leading to the place wasn’t that hard, but I am glad that we possessed the wisdom to bring suitable footwear with good ankle support, because the ground wasn’t always even.
The government declared the Cinque Terre a National Park in 1999 to preserve its original character, to access it you must pay a small fee which is redirected towards maintaining the ferry line and the trains connecting the villages to each other. I was grateful that we had to use the trains to reach the second half of the route, after a delectable seafood and authentic Pesto Pasta lunch at a local restaurant in Corniglia.
For the next hour or so we walked along the magical coastline, on our way to Vernazza. We stopped occasionally to catch our breath and take in the views, the waves breaking on the colossal rocks below murmured soothing mantras that momentarily eased me out of place and time, somehow I managed to live every instant.
At the end of this leg we arrived at Vernazza’s Doria Castle, a 13th century ruin that once upon a time protected the village from pirate raids. It sits on a modest hill, overlooking the town harbour and the shore, which makes it a great introductory viewing point. We watched the ferries unhurriedly come and go as if part of the natural harmony of the sea, providing yet another awe-inspiring moment.
We descended to the town, and at this point we felt that we’ve already earned our dessert. We took a break and enjoyed one of the best gelatos we’ve had in Italy hands down, or maybe after several hours of hiking in the rain anything you eat tastes so good!
A short train ride later we made our fourth stop at twon #5 “Monterosso al Mare”. This one appeared better prepared to accommodate younger wanderers, seeking a fun beach hangout. Not that day though…
The old and the new parts of the town are linked by a tunnel, we crossed to the old side where we did a bit of food and souvenir shopping. Which reminds me; we still need to consume all that fresh pesto we bought there before it expires!
The Cinque Terre was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997, since then the tourism industry matured into a key revenue stream in the area. The one attraction that brings the hopeless romantics from all over the world here is “Via dell’Amore” (The way of love), that connects “Riomaggiore”, village #1 and our last stop for the day, to “Manarola”.
Before the building of this trail, the residents of both villages never mingled or married from each other. Later, the trail became a popular meeting point for lovers from the two towns, which inspired its name.
Due to a recent landslide that took down a part of the path, it was closed for renovation. What a golden opportunity totally missed, talk about bursting my giant bubble! To have been to the place, spent the last seven hours hiking rugged trails to get to it, just to find out that I can’t really visit it, I kid you not, totally devastated me…
At the end of the day, I had no choice but to be content with this wonderful day that I just spent marvelling at every single thing around me.
Alright friends, that’s the end of the post but not all I wanted to share with you today. Make sure you visit my Facebook page to see more stunning images of our hike in the Cinque Terre.