Saturday, April 13, 2019
Idyllic and idolized by millions of tourists around the world, Cinque Terre is indeed unique and captivating. It is also a testimony of human ingenuity when it comes to taming the land. Here, steep hills facing the sea are laced with beautiful terraces where vineyard, fruits, and vegetables flourish.
Note to travelers: We drove to La Spezia, parked underground at the train station (clean and safe), then headed for the Cinque Terre counters inside the train station (you cannot buy your ticket at the regular ticket machine). You get a map with your ticket, but the pocket guide at the counter is worth buying (3 euros). A 1-day pass is 16 euros/adult. This gives you access to the regional train as many times as you want. It also gives you free access to washrooms (limited and super crowded in train stations), but you are much better off stopping at a bar or trattoria and use their facilities.
Now, if you speak Italian and show a “certain age” (😇), you might get some unexpected “perks”, like the ticket clerk leaving his counter, despite the crowd of tourists, to direct you to your train platform. Now, that’s personalized service!!!
For our journey, we followed the advice of other bloggers, and are glad we did because there is a certain logistic to this exploration. If you want some tips on how to plan your visit, check out Cinque-terre-one-day.
Here we go…
1, Monterosso al Mare. It is, in my opinion, the least picturesque village, but you get your first sound and smell of the sea… and that is a great start.
2. Vernazza. Beautiful! This is the iconic village that you see on every travel site! The only trace of the devastating mudslide, in 2011, is a huge poster on the wall near the station. Now, all is well under the sun…
3. Corniglia. Here, you have 2 options: you can take the easy way to town (that would be the bus) OR take the 382 steps that will keep you fit but exhausted by the time you arrive! Yep… we took the steps, but that was BEFORE we knew about the bus! Guess what we took to go back to the station… Here, you get a closer look at the cultivated terraces, and I almost walked into a private backyard, drawn by amazing Calla Lillie’s!
4. Manarola. This time, only a short walk through a tunnel from the station gently leads you to town, where iconic vistas await. I also admired the detailed mosaic work at one of the piazzas… Beautiful! We had a light dinner at Nessun Dorma, on the Belvedere. The restaurant is mostly set up for the vista (and, therefore, there is a lineup, even at this time of the year), and you can enjoy a drink with delicious appetizers or nice focaccia, but you won’t get a hot meal.
Around 6:00 pm, most of the groups are gone and the “golden hour” sets in. This is when all photographers secure their spot on the Belvedere and set up their tripods, fancy lenses, filters, and any other sophisticated equipment they might deem fit to capture the “one” picture for posterity… or not! The air is thick with anticipation… all eyes are on the perched village… the light does its magic… and “click”… everyone takes their best shots!! Meanwhile, a nonchalant young “kid” walks by, takes his cell phone, points and shoots and.. Done! 😂😂😂 I bet you his picture is also fantastic…
Amid this awesome experience, here are the top two reasons why I will NEVER live in Cinque Terre:
1. You cannot go anywhere on a flat surface.
2. The entire world sees your laundry.
Raymond wants the world to know that he conquered 13 km, 20,425 steps, and 68 floors (the equivalent of 680 feet in elevation)… all of that for taking a few pictures! Now, that’s passion!
Riomaggiore, the last village, was left behind. Time to return to Lucca for a good night sleep, our heads full of wonders…