Europe – day 12 – the Cinque Terre

Their was no breakfast offered at our hotel today (despite rumors to that effect). It is a very small hotel with only 5 rooms which seem recently furnished even if the two bathrooms are down the hall. Most of the shops were closed for Sunday morning but we found an internet cafe that was open. With a combination of what Italian we know and tourist charades we were unable to get across the idea of getting coffee to go, but did apparently convey the idea that we would prefer our croissants (cornetta) and coffee at a table outside. Two croissants with Nutella (1 euro each) and a cafe con latte (0.80) only came to 2.80.

We found the boat to the Cinque Terre and queued up Italian style (think of a rugby scrum) and boarded a very full boat. The first stop was a beach about half of the people on the boat left, which allowed us to enjoy the fresh air outside as we approached the Cinque Terre from the sea.

The first town was Riomaggiore which was cute but small. It starts dow at the water’s edge by the boat dock. We followed a large italian group on the trail from Riomagiore to Manarolla. There was a lot of graffiti on side of the trail but the ocean views were lovely. It is only a 30 minute walk from one to the other.

Manarolla which also goes down to the sea still had fishing boats pulled up into the main street of the town. People were advantage of every space to sun them selves on the way down to the water including spreading out across the boat ramp. Our large tour group may have stopped at Manarolla, at least we did not run into them on the 45 minute walk to Corniglia. The path was also beautiful and much less crowded now. Kevin said he saw people pushing a baby stroller on this path when he was here in 2004 but I don’t see how. The paths are mostly rock and paved in a “be careful you don’t turn your ankle” kind of way. We saw one man swim half way from one town to the other before her turned around. There was also a place you could rent kayaks. The last part of the trail you can either take the bus from the train station up to Cornglia or climb what I counted to be about 375 stairs. A woman was selling some beautiful watercolor paintings on the stairs and we thought about getting some on the way back down to the train station as our original plan called for this to be the end of our hiking.

We had focaccia for lunch in Corniglia, caught our breath and filled our water bottles. Someone (me) said, “why don’t we just walk the next (1.5 hour) walk to Vernazza”? No one talked sense into me by pointing out that it was not 1pm and the heat of the day so we did. This was a harder walk because of the climb and the heat. I had drained my water bottle by half way (and sweat through all of it) when a small bar (probably a mirage) appeared on the trail and sold me a large bottle of water for a reasonable price (less than a kidney, no really only 2.20). By the time we got to Vernaza we were pretty tired and hot. My white shirt seemed to have stained a light green from the sweat which made me think I did not wear enough sunscreen (or any) to shield me from gamma radiation.

We paused to catch our breath while watching people at the cafes and the small beach at the water’s edge. There were also people sunning themselves on the breakwater and jumping into the sea from the rocks (just past the “don’t jump off the rocks” sign).

We opted to take the train to Monterosso so we climbed back up the hill and boarded a very crowded train for the short 5 minute train ride. Monterosso feels like a world apart. It seemed more like Portafino than the Cinque Terra. It has a large beach (by Italian standards), much of it private with beach lounge chairs (with sun shades) and umbrellas. If you take the path through the tunnel at the southern end of the beach you find another beach, the boat landing and the old town. The old town is still very touristy but has much more character than the part of the city on the water. We opted to go back to Vernazza for dinner which is just much more quaint.

Much of the day tripping / Sunday crowd had left by the time we got back to the plaza in Vernazza a little before 7 and it was pretty deserted. We had drinks at a cafe there until the restaurants opened at 7pm. Then we sat and watched the sun set over a nice Italian dinner. By 8pm many of the people staying in the town had traded their bikinis and the beach for dresses and dinner and the restaurants had filled up. A few more pictures and we boarded the train (now running almost empty) back to La Spezia about 9:40pm. We talked to the girls when we got back to cell phone coverage and made plans to pick them up at the hostel in Genova on Monday. They did not have directions and suggested we get them from the internet in the morning.

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