Exploring Cinque Terre (Part 2)
Follow my footsteps and discover some of the most dramatic coastal scenery on the planet, a UNESCO world heritage site since 1997, the unique Cinque Terre.
As I told you in the previous story, after a well deserved sleep, we woke early in morning (like we always do while on vacation) and enjoyed our way to the port of La Spezia, to take a ferry and start visiting the above mentioned region. La Spezia is the second city in the Liguria region, preceded just by Genoa. Located midway between Genoa and Pisa on the Ligurian Sea, it is one of the main Italian military and commercial harbours and hosts the arsenal of the Italian Navy. It’s a nice and quite town and a perfect place to stay if you plan to go to Cinque Terre.
So once again we traveled by boat and this time it wasn’t a pleasant trip at all…angry see, rain and a little storm along the way. But hey, the pictures were really cool with bright colors in contrast with the dark gray clouds. Although the ferry normally stops in every village, due to the bad weather we were announced that it had only two stops: Portovenere and Monterosso Al Mare and we had to change our plans a bit.
This is how we end up visiting Portovenere and I thank God for that storm. This beautiful village wasn’t on our list, but the two hours spent there were magnificent and you will understand why I am so delighted when you’ll see the pictures. The charming village is well worth the visit. It is located in the Gulf of Poets and it’s a UNESCO World Heritage site as well. Its fairytale harbor is lined with brightly colored houses while narrow medieval streets lined with shops lead up the hill from the ancient city gate to the castle. The tip of the promontory holds an old, but majestic church. The view is unbelievable. It’s just you, the see, the wind and the seagulls. Portovenere was our second favorite place seen in that day. The streets are very chic, decorated with flowers, baskets, ceramic object and, of course, the traditional pesto. We even bought one and ate it on the way with some focaccia.
After a bumpty ride with the ferry (only 1 hour but it took like forever), we reached Monterosso Al Mare – one of the Five Lands. The area is known for its many lemon trees that can be seen throughout the entire village. This beautiful place, as well as all five villages are only accessible by sea or by train. Thankfully, cars were banned over a decade ago. Beside the great architecture and the delightful views, Cinque Terre’s unique historical feature are the steeply terraced cliffs bisected by a complicated system of fields and gardens that have been hacked, chiselled, shaped and layered over the course of nearly two millennia.
To visit the rest of the Ligurian coast, we took the train from Monterosso. Next stop: Vernazza. This village has no car traffic, remains one of the truest “fishing villages” on the Italian Riviera and it’s the only natural port of Cinque Terre. We rested a few minutes by the sea, watching the waves leave the shore and come back again.
The train to Corniglia was very crowded and we kind of missed the station (at least we admired it from the boat on our way from La Spezia) so we arrived in Manarola, which may be the oldest of the towns of Cinque Terre. The main attraction is a walking trail which links this village to his neighbour, Riomaggiore. The trail is called Via dell’Amore and is the most famous portion of the Sentiero Azzuro. Sadly, the road is closed since 2012 when an extensive rockslide seriously injured some tourists. We were lucky to walk on the first 200 meters of the trail because the inauguration of the reopening was just days before our trip.
Via dell’Amore being closed we took the train again and reached Riomaggiore earlier than planned (better!). Riomaggiore is situated in a small valley and it’s known for its wines produced by the town’s vineyards. It has a very small beach and a wharf framed by tower houses. There are many reasons to love Riomaggiore. Firstly, the coloured houses!!! As beautiful in reality as they are in the pictures. Secondly, the twilight! The light is at its best and the landscape is breathtaking. You can savor it on the cool, seaside rocks with the fishermen or from way up high on a terrace. Thirdly, the water here is the bluest of blues. The view from the boat was very accurate and we got to enjoy both sides: sailing but also from the shoreline in the village. Not even the bad weather can ruin its glory. Some of the villages experienced devastating flash floods after heavy rainfall in 2011, but Riomaggiore’s high altitude allowed it to escape with less damage. Sadly, Via dell’amore was closed but we walke
Frankly, if it were for us, we would have spent the rest of the day wondering the streets of this village. I love places take me realize how tiny me and my problems are. Places that make me thing instantly “what a wonderful world”. Riomaggiore is so calm, colorful, inspiring and full of life! Watching the horizon line from the top of the hill was one memorable encounter. I sure slept like a baby that night, dreaming of a new trip in this magical place somewhere in the near future.
In the end, we had a full day and a funny adventure with the sea storm and all. We made lots of memories in these five places we’ve seen.
Enjoy my photos…I know for sure it was a pleasure for me to watch them again.