From Pisa we went to Monterosso which is the biggest city in the Cinque Terre area. The Cinque Terre National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is a chain of cities along Italy’s northwest coast. The cities from west to east are Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore. The area is unreachable by car from the outside, there are cars inside the area though. Most people get to the cities via trains, or by ferry from La Spezia, a town outside the Cinque Terre area.
Someone recommended to Jeff that he go there, which is the reason that we went. The area is saturated with tourism, but still has a non-corporate charm to it. We got a hotel with a very smiley host, who seemed to be rather fond of us for no apparent reason. One thing I’ve begun to notice about European hotels, which was true during this stay as well, is that the hotel hosts seem to do 24 to 48 hour shifts. We have come into hotels at 11pm to find the hostess who gave us the room at 3pm and will then direct us to breakfast at 10am. Either the hotels only hire twins, or these people are chained to the desk.
The landscape is absolutely beautiful, and the hillsides have been terraced to increase growing space for grapes and olives. Jeff and I stayed for two nights, and spent the first day relaxing with a bottle of wine and bellies full of more seafood risotto. We laid on a concrete dock and listened to the waves crash against the rocks next to us. I was on edge because of my perpetual fear of mosquitoes, and since it was so warm, I had plenty of exposed skins for bites. That didn’t stop us from having a nice relaxing evening.
The next day was our only full day in the Cinque Terre, and we decided to do the 8km hike between all the 5 cities. It was hot, and I was wearing a skirt, and we hiked up, down, and around these valleys and hills that surround the area. The going was actually kind of tough, but the trail was well beaten and not difficult. Along the way we saw a few stray cats that no matter what you did, they wouldn’t move. I know that they weren’t dead, so it must of been the heat was effecting them. The trails were also littered with lizards, which I felt the need to point out and photograph way too many of.
In the town of Corniglia, we took a long fun break to enjoy the amazing swimming area. The water was a rich turquoise and the absolutely clear. Though it is Italy, so there was litter in the water. Kids were climbing up and jumping from the large rocks nearby, but luckily for me, Jeff didn’t feel the need to try it for himself. I didn’t swim because my clothing didn’t double as a swimsuit as Jeff’s did.
Can you see the small fishies?
The path between the towns is a dirt path that can throw hundreds of steps at you random intervals, but the leg between the last town and the one before it, is a paved stone path. If you had done our hike in reverse, you would of been seriously misinformed about what you were getting ready for. At least for us, this nice flat path was a welcome break. In Riomaggiore we had some drinks while we waited for the restaurants to start serving dinner, and then enjoyed a small dinner. By this point in our trip my body was demanding vegetables and fruits and anything that wasn’t pasta. Spoil alert: by the end of this trip, we were both so sick of Italian food that we couldn’t eat anything related to it for a month.
This is a tradition in Italy/Europe it seems. Couples will lock a padlock on a fence, bridge, or gate. Often times their names or initials are written on the locks. These were all over the last path.
The next day we mulled around town while we waited for our train to Naples!
So, now, you must be wondering what has changed forever since our visit. Well, the change did not occur to Jeff or me, but on October 25, 2011, the Cinque Terre area was hit with a flash flood. Luckily and sadly, only 9 people (confirmed so far) have been killed by the floods. The villages that were hit the worst was Monterosso and Vernazza, which have extensive damage. The flood waters rose to the top of the ground floors, and swept cars away with the force of the rushing water. The area has been working hard to recover, and in order to help, keep Cinque Terre in your travel plans. The area was funded by tourism, and this is how they will recover.