I promised I would write about Cinque Terre, the five villages on the Ligurian coast that are part of the Italian Riviera. Susan and I spent three lovely days in Vernazza, the fourth of the five cities. We were so busy having fun, I neglected to write while we were there. Now, as we wait for a train that will take us back to Florence, I find I have time to write.
We started our morning at the Il Pirata Bar at the top of the town. This restaurant has the best pastries; all are made on the premises. Their reputation has made this small place such a popular breakfast place, that one must get there early to get a table.
While we were enjoying our delicious pastries, we began talking with the couple who sat next to us. By the end of our breakfast we were best friends. We had such a good time with them. We discussed our plans for the day, and before we knew it, we had learned far more about each other than I know about my next door neighbors at home.
Soon, though, we all went our separate ways. I love the way that travel allows me to meet such interesting people as I go along.
The kids had their own plans for the day, so here I am, telling you about my day.
I am sitting at the Ananasso Bar again. Lest you think that I might do this too often, this bar sits right at the harbor’s edge. From here, I can look out at the little cove, where people are swimming. I can see the boats in the harbor and look beyond to the town of Monterosso. Over to my left and closer to the harbor is the good pizza restaurant that we visited yesterday. So, you see, my perch here, for the price of a drink, is perfect.
Today, I went for a walk up through town, past the Il Pirata Ristorante, where we had breakfast this morning. I walked up the road while following the little stream that starts somewhere up above, then flows down through the town. I remembered well, the deluge of October, 2011, where the rains came down so hard and for such a long time, that the mountains washed down into that stream, pushing homes, cars and anything in its path, into that stream, until the town was flooded with mud, debris up to the second story of the buildings.
Today, as I walked through the town, seven years after that disaster, I felt that the people of Vernazza have made a remarkable recovery. Although reconstruction is still going on in some areas: rock walls are being rebuilt, some facades of buildings still need to be repaired, life goes on as before.
As I sit here, watching the tourists, I wonder how many of them know the calamity that besieged the town those years before. I watch the people that work in the shops and the restaurants; I see them wait on the customers, and they are so kind, so patient. They are indeed lovely people.
Vernazza is one of the five villages in a unique area. During the day, the little town is filled with tourists. Many people come here to hike the trails between the villages. I honestly don’t know why the cruise ship passengers come here. When those cruise ships unload their tenders, the town is immediately flooded with up to five hundred extra people; more than the town can comfortable accommodate.
However, when evening comes; the town settles down and becomes an almost-quiet village. The people of Vernazza are resilient. They have rebuilt their town and life goes on in this little city as if the disaster never occurred.
My point in writing this blog post is to remind all of us, that no matter what life hands us, we have the choice to adapt, rebuild, and get on with things, or curl up and admit defeat. I want to pattern my life after the citizens of Vernazza: there is always light at the end of the tunnel, if I choose to follow it. Or I can let the small disasters get me down.
I am inspired by the people of the town of Vernazza.
Until next time,
Buona sera, tutti,
I am sitting at the Bar Ananasso, on the main piazza in Vernazza. I am looking out at the sea as I savor a new beverage, a limoncino spritz. Actually, I have never ordered one at a bar, but I do believe our traveling group invented this at the apartment in Florence, back in 2008. We called it Tuscan Lemonade. Whatever it is called it is delicious.
The time is 7:30 p.m. The sun seems to still be high in the sky, but the air is becoming a bit cooler. We arrived here in the early afternoon; as usual, we were very hungry. We went to the restaurant that sits at the very end of the harbor, where we could see the sea, and enjoy our lunch.
Later, the kids wanted to explore on their own; as I found out later, Heather went for a hike, Danny went for a nap. I went for a walk, also, but not as adventurous as Heather’s. This area is so lovely, especially now, at the end of the day, when the cruise ship passengers have left, the day trippers have left. Looking about me now, the restaurants on this piazza are full, but the area around me has just a few of us who are waiting to enjoy the sunset.
As I walked through the town today, I saw how well Vernazza has recovered from the terrible flood of October, 2011. The shops and the restaurants have been restored; life goes on as before. The old men were still paying cards at the tables on the piazza. The nonne (grandparents) were still spoiling the little ones with gelati.
This evening, I walked around the little town and observed the people winding down for the night, tourists and locals as well.
The church in the background is still one of my favorite places to visit. I wonder how many prayers have been offered for the safety of the fishermen from this church over the ages. The church was established in early 1300’s. Inside, the decor is simple, gothic style. It is still lovely.
Finally, the sun did set, leaving me with a serene view of the Ligurian Sea. I am so happy that we came here. Although I was a bit sad to leave Florence, I knew that this village would soothe my soul, and indeed it has. The sound of the sea is so calming, although I have seen this same quiet sea when it has lost its temper.
I will leave you with this vision of Vernazza. Tomorrow is another day, and I am certain I will have more pictures to show you.
Ciao for now,
The five fishing villages of the Cinque Terre are the jewels of the crown of Italian Riviera. For any person who has a knack for hiking atop iconic locations that offer an amalgam of views, visiting these jewels is a must. They still exhibit their unique and isolated authenticity just the way they did decades ago when these villages sheltered the Italian peasants and the fishermen.
It is this uniqueness, the unimaginable beauty along with a preserved historic vibe that brought me to these villages. But more than anything the breathtaking coastal or mountain trails had been calling out my name from the very moment I saw their pictures.
By the looks of these villages, one might think that they are essentially identical. However, it is only when you visit them that you get to know that each village has its own charm that would sweep you off your feet.
Starting from the easternmost village and ending on the westernmost, let me share how I found the places and which one owned my heart completely.
This one is the largest and the most scenic of all the villages. Its scenery begins to dance in full grandeur when the sun starts saying good-bye. The buildings are peculiar, that’s what I liked, and they descend down to the harbor almost as if they’d dive right into the water one by one. While this really gave me a completely new experience, what refreshed my weary nerves were the botanical garden and the bird sanctuary located atop the hill.
Today I want to continue writing about places in Italy that I will visit on my next trip, which is coming up pretty soon. Cinque Terre is one area that we will visit, and we will stay there for a few days.
Cinque Terre is unique, in that the area is comprised of 5 villages that hug the Ligurian Coast. These villages are isolated from the main body of Italy by rugged mountains at their back and the sea in front of them. For centuries, the primary commerce of this area has been fishing and that continues. Now there are also vineyards planted on the steep terraces. Lemon trees grow wherever they can gain a foothold.
That little red line on the western edge of Italy denotes the location of Le Cinque Terre.
The villages, as viewed from the sea, look like colorful toy buildings that have been super-glued to the mountainsides. Corniglia, the middle village of the five, sits on a steep mountain. It is the only one of the villages that does not have direct access to the sea.
To get to the Cinque Terre, one takes a train to La Spezia, then change trains to a regional one that will stop at each of the small stations. The trip from La Spezia to Riomaggiore, the first of the little towns, takes about 4 minutes. The next stop, Manarola, is another 2 to 3 minutes, then Corniglia station is another few minutes; likewise, Vernazza then the last of the villages, Monterosso, takes 3 minutes from Vernazza. So, you can see, if you travel by train, the villages are very close to each other. However, many tourists come to the area to hike the trails that connect these towns.
There are two main trail systems here: the “Short Trail”, the one most familiar to hikers, follows the coastline for most of the hike; although the trail is usually high above the sea, the hiker has a scenic view from start to finish.
The second trail, the “High Trail”, runs above the towns, but the view from that high up is fantastic. That trail is longer, but as of this moment, that trail is open, while the Short Trail is only open from Vernazza to Monterosso, and possibly Vernazza to Corniglia. That depends on the weather and landslide conditions. The Short Trail has had sections closed since 2012, due to landslides, with no time frame in sight for getting them open again. That is sad, for those trails were such a remarkable adventure, and could be done from start to finish in a few hours.
In the past, for centuries, the only way to go from one village to another was by the trails, which were steep and not well-maintained. Therefore, when a tunnel was carved through the mountain that connected Riomaggiore and Manarola, the villagers could then visit with each other. More importantly, to some, the young people could form friendships and romances with young people from the other village. The path through the tunnel became known as the Via dell’ Amore, the “Road of Love”.
This is the famous metal sculpture within the tunnel of the Via dell’ Amore. Note the padlocks on the railings. Supposedly, lovers would put the lock on the railing, then throw the key into the sea. That meant their love would last as long as the padlocks stayed on the railing. However, I noted that some of the locks were combination-type locks. What does that mean?
This part of the trail is now in a section that is closed, due to landslides. I hope it will soon be repaired and open again.
Monterosso has the best beach area of all the villages. I love to come here, rent a chair and an umbrella for the day, and just hang out at the beach. The water is clear, and warm enough to enjoy a swim.
This area, Le Cinque Terre, is one of the most popular areas of Italy for tourists to visit. It has become quite crowded during the summer season, but I still like to be there. As I usually stay a few days, I find places to go that are quiet, when the main piazze are filled.
The older area of Monterosso is one place that I have found that is more peaceful.
I hope you have enjoyed my little travelogue about Cinque Terre. Put this area on you Bucket List to visit when you go to Italy.
Ciao for now,
Corniglia is the oldest village in Cinque Terre that’s mentioned in Giovanni Bocaccio’s “Decameron.” It’s an Italian classic prose that contains 100 stories told by ten young people (7 women and 3 men) who gathered around in a hidden villa to escape Black Death that plagued the neighbouring city.
How to get (go up) there
Of the five beautiful villages in Cinque Terre, Corniglia is the one in the middle. Most day tour visitors would skip it because from the train station, they have to climb around 380 steps to get into the heart of the village. Though those steps are wide and well-kept, it’s a bad idea if you have arthritis or other medical conditions. So, for those with physical challenges, it’s better to take the bus outside the train station. If yon’t know which way, ask the guard at the information centre just when you get off. That will cost you 3 euros.
Yes, you can hike all the five villages in Cinque Terre. If you’re able and have the stamina to hike, then, do it! It’s worth it. It takes a day of hiking across these villages. You’ve got to wear proper hiking gear and take note of the sweltering heat in summer. Bring a bottle of water which you can refill or buy when arriving in every village.
Another option: If you can’t all of them, choose two or three villages you want to hike. You can choose any village as your starting point to hike.
Most of the photos below are taken from hiking Vernazza to Corniglia route. It took me almost two hours because I had feet blisters but should be an hour on regular pacing hike.
Riomaggiore in Cinque Terre is your postcard perfect place in Italy. Cinque Terre is a protected national park which comprises of cinque (five) terre (villages). Riomaggiore is the first train stop if you start from La Spezia where most people stay. The other four villages are: Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso.
It is expensive to stay in any of the five villages mentioned above. And there are also very few choices. It’s even hard to find an affordable accommodation within your backpacking budget. So, I decided to stay at La Spezia, the nearest town where the five villages are under its care. Also, La Spezia’s Train Station is well-connected to many parts of Italy. I stayed at Grand Hostel Manin which I booked via Booking.com. You can also find other accommodations from HostelWorld, and Expedia.
Cinque Terre is on the north western coast of Italy. This is, perhaps, the country’s version of the French Riviera in France. Cinque Terre is translated into “five lands.” These villages are: Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Monterosso and Vernazza. They’re along the rugged coastlines of Italy where colourful houses are built on jagged cliffs. They view is jaw dropping anytime of the day but breathlessly stunning at golden hours. At night, when all the lights are on, the village becomes a romantic place to be.
It is expensive to stay in any of the five villages mentioned above. And there are also very few choices. It’s even hard to find an affordable accommodation within your backpacking budget. So, I’d advise you to stay at La Spezia, the nearest town where the five villages are under its care. Also, La Spezia’s Train Station is well-connected to many parts of Italy. I stayed at Grand Hostel Manin which I booked via Booking.com. You can also find other accommodations from HostelWorld, and Expedia.