After about a week in Italy with visits to Venice and Florence in the books, we were pretty excited to arrive in Cinque Terre. It would be a change of pace to the extreme tourist action of the other two spots. We had seen so many sights, so much art, walked so many kilometres that we were really looking forward to a more chill vibe.
We got off the train and found our way to our rental apartment. We had picked an apartment in La Spezia as it was much more affordable and the pickings were slim having planned this trip so last minute. After lugging our suitcases up 8 flights of stairs (not gonna say it was not painful), we found the apartment to be super cute and comfortable. Actually we had a great experience with all of our apartment rentals and would definitely go this route in the future. La Spezia is a small town and it was an easy walk from home base to the train station. La Spezia is on one end of the train line that connects the 5 villages. Over the years I had seen so many charming images of the 5 lands. It did not disappoint in real life. We hopped off the train and popped up to this view and warm mediterranean air. Ahhh... it was divine!
Soaked in our new environment and caught some late afternoon sun.
Everything is a matter of steps in each of these towns. After exploring a few steps this way and that, we climbed some stairs and turned a corner to find this Pebble Beach. It wasn't exactly pebbles as you can see, but beach goers lounged on them as if this was any other beach. You can see the tunnel that housed the train right above.
Instead we found a table at a resto with a view of the sunset. We eventually hopped over to the corner table, which had the best unobstructed view. Had to try an Aperol Spritz!
The next day we decided to check out another of the 5 villages, Monterosso Al Mare. This is the best of the 5 towns if you are looking to lounge on the beach. It also seemed to be the village with the most restaurants. We didn't explore inland, which at a glance looked pretty residential or hotel filled, but stayed along the water's edge. We admired the picturesque beach umbrellas and noted that we would have to come back for some relaxing seaside time.
Spotted this enticing pool early on along our hike. But we kept walking and walking, up and down and winding around the path. There was a checkpoint where you have to buy a pass to access the trails. I believe the fee goes to cover the conservation of the park and trails. There is also a pass called Cinque Terre Card that covers the train (where you can travel between the 7 stops of the two end locations and the 5 towns) as well as the park pass. Had we known about this, this would have been the smart pass to buy. Gives you the freedom to hop on and off the train and travel freely as well as hike if you wish. Some of the trails were closed for safety and preservation reasons. The terrain along this trail is varied. Some dirt, some uneven stairs, some narrow little ledges. We saw the same faces along our hike. Sometimes one group would stop for photos or a breather and another would over take. One group of 2 retired couples had done this hike before and came well prepared with snacks and plenty of water. We would all remark that an ice cold beer would surely hit the spot. I think we must have been 2 hours into our walk with no end in sight when one of the women offered us a bottle water to share. Saved us! So nice!
Eventually we came up to Vernazza, the next town. S went ahead of me as she was feeling wiped out. She said she would leave it to me to take photos. She just wanted to get to the end! In hindsight she was getting sick and was already feeling the symptoms come on, so her energy levels were low. I think my shoes were infinitely more comfortable as well. I'm sure our state of thirst and hunger made the walk seem that much longer. Spotted this girl at the beginning of the trail with her colourful balloons. At this point, near the end of this trail, she had only had one balloon casualty! Made for a great photo shoot with her boyfriend.
At the end of the hike we popped out in the middle of Vernazza and the noises and proximity of the crowds seem magnified. That's when you realize how lovely and peaceful it is up in the hills. S seemed disappointed that there was not a reception complete with cheering squad to celebrate our feat when we completed the hike! Haha! I think it took us 2.5 hours with many stops for photos. Every angle featured a beautiful view. Our "stroll" turned into a several hour long hike and had we known what we were getting into, we obviously would have been much better prepared. I think it's a great activity for anyone in reasonable health. Just be smarter than us, and pack food and snacks. A nice picnic with wine, bread and cheese would be even better, Also, make sure to bring a hat and sunscreen as you are mostly unprotected from the sun. I still loved the hike and was immediately addicted. On my high, I wanted to power on and hike to the next village! I think the big bad cold that was hitting S had very different ideas.
So, we were much more sensible. Got some food and water in us and had a little rest for a while.
Sometimes it's good to sit and soak up your surroundings. Got a tasty gelato, did some people watching, observed the action and plentiful photo shoots, and caught another beautiful Cinque Terre sunset.
Trofie con Pesto. A simple pesto has never tasted so good.
So good, we ordered it again on our return to Monterosso for lunch the next day. Ive been trying to find an equally yummy pesto since I have been back home. Somehow not the same!
As the sun ducked behind the hills, we felt an immediate chill come on. We piled on our jackets and full length clothes and headed to Manarola to try our dinner luck again. Our apartment hostess had suggested a spot called Nessun Dorma, perched at the highest point and with an incredible view of the harbour and the water.
We were starving and the menu seemed to be all small bites, so we stood along the path with loads of picture takers and oglers and admired the village at golden hour before walking back down to another spot for our last dinner in Cinque Terre. We saw 4 of 5 of the villages but CT was lovely, especially at that time of year. Cinque Terre does seem to exist only for tourists. I'm sure very very few of the those that worked there lived there. But it is still so photogenic and therefore charming. The people were friendly, it was a great change of pace in the middle of our travels and was definitely our fave part of our Italy travels.
I mean look at this!
Last Italy post will cover Rome. Coming up soon!