We hope you are having a little reprieve from the heatwave. Looks like we will be in the high 30′s for the next while. :0
Please enjoy our tour of the Cinque Terre….we loved it!
The Cinque Terre is a string of five coastal towns along the Italian Riviera between Pisa and Genoa.
This destination was another of the first places we had on our adventure check list, so we were super excited to be there. We went for the hiking and views but discovered fantastic beaches and swimming, great local wine and food, wonderful handicrafts. Each village speaks a distinct dialect and follow their own traditions.
The towns were once very remote and until the last couple of decades, were also quite poor. Travel experts like Rick Steves and others spread the word about this unique beauty and now tourism helps feed the economy in the Cinque Terre. Hourly trains connect the communities and cruise ships come here too, but we didn’t see any. The villages are all primarily car free, but the lanes on the outskirts of every town could be a commercial for a Fiat Fest – lined up forever!
Friday, July 10
Our trip to the village of Corniglia was via 3 train rides from Como. The last regional train stopped in two villages along the Cinque Terre and we were shocked at just how busy it was…..people jammed the cars like sardines. And it never let up during our stay. Busy, busy, busy.
Village of Corniglia
Corniglia is perched high atop towering cliffs, and is the only village not right on the water.
This is where our Airbnb apartment was. Once you arrive at the train station in Corniglia, you have two options to get up to the village; a crowded mini-bus or the long footpath of close to 400 stairs that zigzags to the hilltop. Since we still had our luggage in tow, we packed into the mini-bus.
Thanks to Joe’s sharp navigation skills, we located the apartment easily and rang the door buzzer. A man that looked like Anthony Quinn popped his head out an open window three floors above us, shouted something in Italian and disappeared only to reappear at the door moments later. His wife and our hostess was away so ‘Anthony’ did his best to familiarize us with the apartment. He poured us shots of Limoncello and left us the bottle! The view from our deck was gorgeous:
We enjoyed many breakfasts and sunsets there.
No sunset is complete without an Aperol Spritz; our favourite Italian drink!
Corniglia is the quiet town of the five and the local wine is the towns livelihood. Two small beaches are accessible by stairs, but we did not venture down to visit them.
Saturday, July 11
We got up early this morning to head out for our first of two hikes today. We hopped the train to Monterosso.
Village of Monterosso
Monterosso is more of a resort town and has the best beaches of the Cinque Terre villages. It also has hotels, beach umbrellas for rent and the most wine and artisan shops.
The giant asparagus sprout broccoli? Will have to ask Randy and Ann about this!
The umbrellas were the coolest:
The village is divided into two parts; the historic centre has crooked lanes and lots of charm.
We began our hike out of Monterosso with a long steep trail up into the hills.
No, that is not the trail we took, but somebody must have at one time!
The views were gorgeous during our hike:
The trail took us into Vernazza. This section of the hike took 2 hours and covered 3 km.
Village of Vernazza
Vernazza has a natural harbour shaped like an amphitheatre. This village is considered the most picturesque village of the Cinque Terre.
We climbed the watch tower in the “Castello” for a view of the area:
And took a cooling dip at the beach.
Then we rested, rehydrated with nice cold water and had a tasty sandwich. We saw lots of people with takeaway tubes of calamari or deep fried fish; anchovies are a local favourite.
This area had a flash rainstorm in October 2011, with a year’s worth of rain falling in a couple of hours. The main river broke the banks and resumed its natural course – right through the middle of Vernazza. The wall of water brought a landslide of mud and vines; boulders plowed through every house and business on the main street. Anything in the waters way, including cars, vineyards and olive groves, were washed into the sea. 13 people died in the storms.
€8m was spent restoring Vernazza. The vineyards and olive groves were painstakingly replanted, stone walls remade.
Wisely, barriers and nets were installed to protect the town from further landslides. While Vernazza was hit the hardest, all of the Cinque Terre and surrounding areas were affected by the storms.
We were determined to hike as much as we could, so we continued hiking from Vernazza back into Corniglia.
You can see part of the trail here:
Don’t you just love it?
Hello again Corniglia!
This section of the hike took 1.5 hrs and covered 4 km.
Fitbit stats says we walked 16+K total today – and a lot of it was up hill!
Time for a little Airbnb tale….
After our 2 exhausting hikes, we returned to our apartment and used the smallest shower yet, with out-of-control water temperature. We considered our locale and tried to embrace living like the locals; if only for 4 days. Next I threw in a load of laundry, grew frustrated when the washer wouldn’t start, only to discover it wasn’t plugged in. She started like a charm after an odd spat of water from her under belly. I threw our microfibre towel on the water pooled on the floor and made a mental note to check it in a few minutes. I relaxed alongside sleeping Joe for about 10 minutes then went to double check the washer.
I made it halfway down the hardwood hallway before my feet starting splashing in water! My expletives were unique enough that Joe was up instantly to see what had happened. The washer, which was in the bathroom, was now in an inch of water. Water seeped behind the wall to the dining room and spewed through the door and down the hall. OMG! All I could think was I had ruined the hardwood and what was happening in the suite below us? We worked madly with mops and microfibre for a very long time before it was cleaned up. Did I mention we were already exhausted??
Now it was time to confess to our hosts because the washer was still full of our soaking clothes. Within minutes of emailing the details, Anthony Quinn was knocking on the door and seemed surprised there was no flooding as per my email. He then proceeded to pull a drain tube out from behind the washer and hooked it onto – the toilet. Admittedly he had forgotten to tell me this important little tidbit of information. Aargh!
Anthony called his wife Brunella down from their upper apartment when he tired of my English questions. Brunella appeared but looked nothing like the wholesome Mom in her Airbnb profile. Actually she looked like an older Charo (cuchi-cuchi!) with her dirty blonde hair messily piled on top of her head and mascara rubbed under her eyes. She had tiny embellished shorts and a big, bound bosom threatening to escape from her hot pink tank top. And she spoke to us, for a very long time in what was pretty good English but every word had the letter ‘a’ (ah) added on to it. I always thought that was an exaggeration about Italian but Brunella proved otherwise. We were exhausted and it took all of our focus to interpret many, many sentences like this from her:
There ah is ah good ah restaurant ah in ah the village ah that ah makes ah the good ah pizza and ah has ah some ah good ah wine ah.
I’m sure my head was twisting like a dog as I tried to comprehend what she was ah talking about ah. She was very animated and adorable. Brunella popped in again the next day and entertained us some more. Love Italians!
Sunday, July 12
Today we would have loved to have taken the coastal trail from Corniglia to Riomaggiore, but sections were closed for safety reasons or restoration; this is a result of the 2011 storm. The section from Manarola to Riomaggiore is known as the ‘Sentiero dell’Amore’ or ‘Via dell’Amore’ and we hear it is a paved, easy, 2km walk. Darn! We saw some others ignore the warning signs and cross the bearers but out of respect for the trails, we did not.
We instead followed Brunella’s advice and hiked the high trail, the more strenuous, alternate route from Corniglia to Manarola.
The first hour was straight uphill and I was straggling behind Joe a lot. Goodbye Corniglia!
Once we had reached the highest point, the trail levelled out and took us through vineyards, a forest, a local’s yard – it was breathtaking!
Manarola in the distance – a long ways to hike still!
The trail is in there somewhere!
A long ways down….
Passed through a little village:
The trail narrowed many times and you had to wait for oncoming traffic or brave passing back to back without a guardrail. We waited. We even had shade a lot of the way. The descent into Manarola was long and steep and went forever and our legs started complaining. Mine were shaking at points! But it was worth it.
We felt for the people coming up the trail as they had no idea what lay ahead.
Village of Manarola
The village of Manarola has a stream along it and is surrounded by vineyards that produce a famous local wine. The buildings seem to tumble down the ravine to the harbour.
We did not have the energy to attempt the trail from Manarola to Riomaggiore so that was the only section of the Cinque Terre we did not hike. We happily took the train. Our knees and calves thanked us.
Village of Riomaggiore
Riomaggiore, is named after the stream crossing it. This village is the most non-resort of the five and filled with pastel homes that appear to lean on each other. A cliff-hanging trail leads from the beach to old Nazi bunkers and a hilltop botanical garden.
We took the train back to Corniglia and devoured these delicious seafood salads and ice cold beer. Well earned today!
Fitbit stats say we walked a total of 11.5km today. And we were feeling every metre of it. Our calves were painful; Joe could hardly walk without grimacing and had to limp around town. I developed a bizarre rash just above my ankles that Google said can occur if you are over 45 and walk more than 3 km in high heat.
Ugly. It faded within days.
Monday, July 13
OMG we were stiff today! Being the great planners we are, we only had to plunk our butts down on a ferry boat and enjoy the Cinque Terre from the water.
We also cruised into the town of Porto Venere. What a surprise this was! We spent a couple of hours here, had a nice lunch and really enjoyed it.
The Doria Castle with the walls around the historic centre:
In 1997 Porto Venere and the villages of Cinque Terre were designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.
Tuesday and Monday, July 14-15
We travelled to Florence today and arrived still sane after 4 train rides. On the train from Milano to Florence we were in Business Class and it was quite luxurious. Interesting people watching. That train was faster than a speeding bullet at times! Holy bejesus!!
We have a beautiful apartment for 10 days then move to a different part of Florence for another 4 days.
Note the LARGE shower. Good things come to those who wait:
We plan on taking day trips to some wine regions and to Luca, which comes highly recommended by Spencer and Lindsay. We are enjoying a bit of down time now and bracing ourselves for the 37-39 degree forecast for the next 5 days.
Paula and Joe