I'm not sure either words or pictures can capture the beauty of the Cinque Terre. As a national park, it's a rather peculiar juxtaposition between jagged cliffs, terraced vinyards, near-vertical villages and the mediterranean. I've never seen any place like it.
Riomaggiore, where we stayed at Casa Lorenza, takes the shape of an amphitheatre to the sea. Our first day in Cinque Terre, we decided we would start with the via dell'amore, the walking path between Riomaggiore and Manarola.
This is the most heavily travelled path, most likely because it is both relatively wide and relatively flat. Tourists were a dime a dozen on this section of the path. There is a tradition where couples leave a padlock on the via dell'amore and then throw the key into the sea, to wish for a blessing of eternal love (no, we didn't do this...both because we weren't aware, and even if we had been, I don't do superstition anyway). About halfway to Manarola (which is only a 20 minute walk anyway), we came across a cafe that had patrons nearly dangling over the Mediterranean. It looked pretty awesome, so we stopped and had a bite to eat. The food was nothing to write home about, but the setting more than made up for it. ;)
We wandered through Manarola, and then hopped aboard a train to Corniglia (the path between Manarola and Corniglia was closed due to rock slides....which you could see from the village. Yikes!
When we got to Corniglia, we were a bit surprised to discover that not only is the train station about 1/2 km outside of the town....but most of the walk is straight up (382 steps....most of which are long, upward slanting steps).
Definitely a bit of a hike to hilltop Corniglia. Again, an amazing little town. I'm still baffled that people ever decided that this would be a suitable place to live!!!!!! After seeing a bit of Corniglia, we set out on our one longer hike, the trek to Vernazza (4 km). Brad was pretty shocked I even did this, because while the via dell'Amore was both flat and wide, this particular track was neither. It had us climbing up high into the cliffs, and on a 2 foot wide path at the edge of a cliff down to the Mediterranean. Pretty awesome. This hike took us about 2 hours.
Vernazza seems bigger than the other towns, and had a great shore-side patio, where we enjoyed a couple of well-deserved grande birra.
After this, we trained back to Riomaggiore, where we enjoyed a fantastic seafood pasta dinner. Oh, and we also sat on our balcony and watched the sunset while sipping local wine. It just doesn't get better. (Here's another shot of our apartment in Riomaggiore; the bottom half was all ours):
Yesterday, our last full day in Cinque Terre, I had it in my head that I really wanted to go swimming in the Mediterranean. I've stuck my feet in a couple of times (Valencia, Nice), but given my refusal to travel during high season, I've never really been around it on a day where it made sense to actually swim. Yesterday was about 22C and sunny, which was totally good enough for me. We took the train to Monterosso al Mare (the last of the five cities, and the only one with a relatively flat, relatively sandy beach) and enjoyed our dip in the sea.
Okay, we may have been pretty much the only people in the water, but it certainly was no colder than an Ontario lake on May 2-4, so I paddled around for about half an hour. :)
To cap off our Cinque Terre visit, we took the ferry back to Riomaggiore, affording us a seaside vantage point of each of the five villages.
It was amazing to see where we had been, to reminisce about our hike (which from the sea looks way more insane than it seemed at the time), and to grasp, yet again, the utter unique beauty of the Cinque Terre.
Again, there's no way pictures could ever give you a true appreciation of this area. You have to come here and visit it, preferably while you still have the knees/lungs to do it.
Today was a travel day to Siena, and we're just about to go out to dinner to Medio Evo, a restaurant we visited nearly five years ago on our honeymoon, a meal we STILL talk about to this day. We'll let you know tomorrow if it lived up to our memories.
Bye Cinque Terre!