Today’s entry will be very short – I’ll let the views do all the talking.
The Cinque Terre (meaning the Five Lands) is a remote section of the Italian Riviera. There isn’t a museum or a Vespa in sight – just sunshine, sea, beach (pebbles, not sand, but still) and wine. The five villages comprising the Cinque Terre are Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso Al Mare. They are all connected by road, train or trail, and once can choose to get from one village to the next by either of these modes of transportation. The villages are sprinkled along a 7-mile trail; each has no more than a few hundred local residents, and each is perched precariously on the cliffs. It is one of the most gorgeous places I’ve ever been to.
Our guided tour of Cinque Terre started off in Florence on a bus that took us to the second town, Manarola. On the way, we passed a marble quarry in the town of Pistoia; this quarry is where Michelangelo got the marble block he used to carve David out of.
Once in Cinque Terre, we got from from the second to the fifth town on foot and by train, then backtracked to town 1 on a boat. We hiked the portion between village 3, Corniglia and village 4, Vernazza, and that was a hike to remember. The trail has some hills but what was most challenging was the varying height of the portions with steps. Footing can be uneven and rails can be finicky, so one has to be careful to not let the views distract them too much.
Pesto and anchovies are the staples of this region; seafood in general is amazing, as it is all freshly caught that day. Our lunch in Corniglia let us sample both of those things. We started with a mixed seafood salad, and our main dish was pasta with pesto, green beans and potatoes – an unusual but delicious combination.
In each village, we had some free time to walk around and do whatever our heart desires. These villages are so picturesque, it is not hard to spend some idle time gazing at all the beauty around.
In Monterosso, we bought a bottle of local white wine that we enjoyed at the beach – remember, drinking in public here is perfectly acceptable (as a matter of fact, it’s actually common). We also tasted one of the best little snacks ever – pane fritto, or fried bread with cheese. We also tried some mixed fried seafood. You’d think we were full from lunch, but we couldn’t say no to all the delicacies!
In Vernazza, we learned more about a flash flood that devastated this area in October 2011. After a dry summer, a severe storm dropped 22 inches of rain in 4 hours – that’s a third of this area’s annual rainfall. Issues with flash flood drainage systems and the natural topography of Vernazza and Monterosso sent a river of mud down the slopes in these two villages, almost destroying them both, while the other 3 were left fairly unscathed. It took residents all of winter to dig out; Vernazza tourists had to be evacuated by sea the following morning, and sadly, there were some fatalities, too. A scenic trail called Via Dell’Amore is still closed today.
After 6 days of sightseeing like mad in the sea of tourists both in Florence and in Rome, Cinque Terre was a much needed break in nature. The five villages are indeed a special place to visit, and I will be dreaming of the views I saw today for a very, very long time.