Monday, May 28, 2012

Cinque Terre, or a Post in Captions

Count the villages! Uno : Monterosso, where the picture was taken; due: Vernazza; tre: Corniglia; quattro: Manarola; cinque: Riomaggiore, barely peeking around the point. This is the view from right below the Monterosso train station.
We stayed in Monterosso. The view from our kitchen window to the left...
...and right. That little bar with outdoor seating was noisy late into the night, and the little market on the bottom floor of the farthest building to the right is where we got the best pesto of our lives.

Monterosso is famous for its lemons. As soon as you start climbing out of town in any direction the lemon groves start, and go up and up the hills all around.
Monterosso has two parts of town, connected by a tunnel through the hill on the left of this picture. This is the half we stayed in. There are three perfect crescents of beach.
From here you can see the hill the previous picture was taken from, with a monastery on top and a little castle, now the town's mausoleum, on the point.
The whole Cinque Terre area is a national park. The villages are connected by narrow, winding, steep hiking trails that for centuries were the only (overland) way to get from one to another. Unfortunately, two of the trails are currently closed for repairs because of terrible mud slides last fall. The path between Monterosso and Vernazza was open, though, and the hike was my favorite part of the trip. Above, a look at the mingled terraced agriculture and wild scrub that make these hills so exceptionally beautiful. 
The famous view of Vernazza from the trail. From other pictures we've seen, the harbor is usually a pure aqua. Vernazza sustained the most damage of all the villages in the flooding last fall, and the harbor is still being mucked out.
These days the villages are connected by train tracks in addition to the trails. The train tracks are mainly inside the hills. On our train ride to Monterosso at the beginning of the trip I gave an involuntary gasp every time we popped out of a tunnel for a second and caught a glimpse of the sea, to Tyler's amusement.
Hiking down into beautiful Vernazza.
The main piazza of Vernazza, just above the harbor. The ground floors of almost every building town are still being repaired, so most businesses are closed. Notice the laundry on the lines. To me it looked almost too quaint, as if it were just for show, but people hang their laundry on the fronts of their building all over Italy (according to Tyler, who would know).
We ate our lunch of focaccia sandwiches on rocks in the harbor. Pink shorts on a pink rock! Also notice the cool foldy rocks behind Ty.
The core of the town's nativity scene--with dolphins, sharks, and mermaid angels attending the Baby Jesus along with the shepherds!--stays up year-round, apparently.
All of the villages are full of tiny twisting streets and staircases, like the one from which I took this picture.
Manarola's main street is lined with boats.
The "Walk of Love" between Manarola and Riomaggiore, packed with tourists even in mid-May. Awesome rocks, though.
Riomaggiore's marina, with stripy rock steps.
Next we took the train to La Spezia, a city built on hills. It reminded me a bit of San Francisco, though with a beachier aesthetic. We eventually walked all the way around to the opposite side of this hill and found that there was neither a pedestrian walkway through the tunnel nor a staircase on that side, so we were forced to retrace our steps in a big loop. This was a theme of the trip--getting stuck in places with no sidewalks.
La Spezia marina
The streets are lined with orange trees. So romantic.
Steps and hills
I've never heard of Luigi of Isengard. Saruman's little brother, perhaps?
The last stop of the day was Corniglia, the middle villlage, currently inaccessible on foot. From the train station you have to climb a couple hundred stairs to reach the town. We then climbed down the other side to get to the water's edge.
No harbor or beach here--just rocks. Nevertheless, it was our favorite waterfront in the Cinque Terre.
Looking back up at Corniglia
We took this on our evening gelato stroll our last night in Monterosso. That's not us on the rock, but it could have been--we ate dinner up there on our first night.
Grinning at our good fortune as we said goodbye. Judging by the ages of the other tourists we saw, we beat the system and got to Cinque Terre at least 30 years before our number was up.


  1. WOW! Very shway. Wish I/we could be/been there! Maybe another time

  2. I hope I get there before my number is up! Love this post.

  3. Luigi D'Isengard is not Saruman's brother. He is Treebeard's cousin and, famously, an omniverous Ent who dined for years on Orc flesh ("they don't taste very good, does they precious").

    By the way, these are very beautiful pictures!

  4. Great new post, y'all. You must be having such an amazing experience! Especially fond of the landscape pics, the villages along coast, (understandably famous) view of Vernazza, terraced hillsides, intricate stone patterns of outcrops. Love the cool stone infrastructure like bridges and tunnels and carved steps. That marina at Rio Maggiore was super cool. (Why did you prefer Corniglia? Couldn't tell from pics.) Can feel the dread of rainy season looking at those slopes above the villages. Hike must've been incredible, and I love the vacations which whip a person into shape! And dining atop that haystack outcrop over the water? Surely paradise. Wow. PS. Also love that adorable castle. -Mitchell

    1. Sara may have more to add about Corniglia vs. Riomaggiore (it should be one word, I think), but Corniglia is on top of the cliffs looking over the water (and one must climb up the cliffs from the train station to get to the city, then down the cliffs to get to the sea), while Riomaggiore is set more directly on the sea. Also cool, but there's something about the sea vista from high up that was breathtaking. Corniglia also seemed smaller and, for what we could tell, cleaner.

  5. We didn't actually go down to the marina at Riomaggiore--there was no place people who weren't actively getting into or out of a boat. Corniglia had a beach/marina combination where we got to sit for a while and relax. There was only the tiniest bit of sand, but the rest was a really cool shelf of rock.


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