Day 1 – walking the Cinque Terre.
What can I say but this place is so so beautiful, even on a gloomy day like today it shines. The food, the atmosphere and the culture is all amazing. I really do have a soft spot for Italy.
The hikes here in the Cinque Terre are made up of many trails, some go inland more and some follow the coast and at the end of the day you walk into one of the towns along the way and hop on a train back to the place you are staying. This is pretty much what we will be doing all week as we have based ourselves in one town and doing a series of day hikes.
Today’s hike we walked out of Corniglia (where we are based) and headed north along the coastal path up through some pretty steep steeps and down some pretty steep steps with constant views that simply takes your breath away (though I really think it was the stairs taking away my breath). We walked past many terraced vineyards and olive groves, went through the colourful seaside village of Vernazza where spent some time checking out the tower and watching the many tourists that were there. For me I think if it wasn’t so busy with hundreds upon hundreds of people I might have enjoyed it a bit more. So many people pushing to get the best view point for photos I felt like I was stuck in a cattle herd.
After our climb up and out of Vernazza we were back walking along a very rocky narrow at times pathway that ascended and descended quite steeply though I found the reward was the incredible views once again that were virtually at every bend. The pathway does get very narrow that even one person alone just fits so it gets backed up with a line of people waiting to get through.
We did come across two juice men along the way. One selling freshly squeezed orange juice and the other was seeing homemade lemonade. Both times was a welcome relieve and refreshment to have. These guys were also local farmers selling their home grown produce so I am always happy to help them out by downing a fresh juice.
The town we ended it today was Monterossa and again loads of people, street venders, bars cafes and tourist shops. There was a beach to swim in but swimming here is not like home, you have to pay to use the beach. We had our bathers with us though the weather wasn’t nice enough to entice us in so we will save the swim for another day, it was just nice to sit and have a drink and watch the people go by. I will probably mention a few times on the crowds, this is because it would be the busiest walk I have ever done and I’m don’t like the crowds so much but I will suck it up and enjoy the walk.
We caught the train from here back to Corniglia and that was again an experience itself, packed in like a can of sardines and yes smelly, sweaty sardines! Getting off the train if feels like every man for himself! Holding on to Marks pack I tried not to get lost, squished, trampled on. It brutal. Then there is the shuttle bus that takes these sardines up to the town so they don’t have to walk. We got tickets yesterday for the shuttle as we had our luggage with us and failed to get on due to too many pushy tourists so we walked. Today same thing, so many people pushing and shoving to get a ride we just thought no way enough we will walk.
We are now in Italy and on the gorgeous rugged coast of the Italian Riviera better known as the Cinque Terre, Cinque = five and Terre = lands. These five lands are made up of five small fishing villages in the region of La Spezia on the north west coast of Italy. The villages comprise of: Monterossa al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore.
The dramatic coastline and colourful villages have over the years become quite a tourist spot with pathways that take you up high on the cliffs, down low to the ocean, through vineyards and olive groves with spectacular views of the turquoise waters below.
The main pathway links all five villages and is a popular hiking trail but the area offers so much more. We are here during harvest season, September, and promises to be a gastronomical delight. There is also swimming and boat tours giving you a chance to see this region from a different perspective. There is plenty of history to be found here too so I can’t wait to explore and learn more about the area.
So for the next 6 days we are spending time here basing ourselves in a little apartment in Corniglia, one of the five villages, and walking between the villages exploring and immersing ourselves in the culture of the Cinque Terre. So stay with us and follow our journey.
Day 2 of walking the Cinque Terre.
Today we explored more of the interior of the Cinque Terre and walked in through the forests. This for me was fantastic even though the coast was spectacular the forest is alive and makes me alive. The other good thing was we were off the main strip of routes so not as many people either.
As every good walk goes it starts with a climb, some climbs are hard, some not so this was both it was so very humid today it made the climbing feel hard. Last night we had an amazing storm come through and decided to park itself on top of the town. Thunder, lightning and bucket loads of rain and this morning no rain but heavy cloud, that equals humidity equaling a very sweaty climb. Oh well at least we are detoxed well and good.
The rain also makes things slippery like the rocks you walk on but thankfully here no mud. The rain also brings the colours of the forest out and the smells of the plants, this I always love. I found a few critters to play with along the way as well. There was this large flying Beatle. He was a very shiny and black but as I turned him around the rainbow of colour appeared. Later I had one dive bomb me from the sky, I think it was him probable upset I had played with him before. Sorry little Beatle. I did see a mouse maybe rat not sure as he wasn’t keen on sticking around to play. Then the butterflies, they were everywhere and kept on flying in front showing us the way. At one point one landed on my hand! The other little critter I found was quite by accident as I waited for Mark I was looking down at my boots and thinking how very scruffy they are when I noticed a very thin vine like thing wiggling. It was weird and took me a moment to realise it was not a vine that has come out of a horror movie and was trying to curl up my boot but a poor worm/snake trying to free himself from under my big boot. The poor thing, picked him up with my stick to see if he was ok, thinking it was a snake and could see her had two heads so now I think he is a worm or maybe he is from a horror movie!
We didn’t see hardly any people today which was a big change from yesterday but I think because 1) it is Sunday and 2) it is a more remote track not one of the popular ones. So today we went north again by catching the train to Monterosso where we finished yesterday and headed more in land then swung back out to the coast to a sea-side village of Levanto.
Monterossa was so different than it was yesterday, very quiet which was great we got to see it better without the stampede of people. The sea was gloomy and a bit rough from the bad weather but a few people still braved it. As we climbed and kept looking back and the colours of the buildings and the umbrellas on the beach really stood out. It always makes me feel proud of myself when I look back at how far I have travelled and sometimes it shocks me, in a good way.
Levanto was a much larger town to visit and surprisingly not too many people. Not as touristy but still looks like it would be a destination for the summer especially for families. It was nice to have lunch and a casual stroll around exploring before catching the train back to Corniglia.
While sitting on the train we wondered if we would get to catch the shuttle bus from the station or if it would be packed. When the train pulled in at Monterosso, just two stops from ours there was the stampede and from a relatively empty train it filled up so fast like sardines in a tin. That was it, my heart sank, no shuttle, might as well give our shuttle tickets away. As luck, and me consciously praying, they all got off the train at the next stop as quickly as they got on, leaving the train empty again. It was weird, so very weird. We got to catch the shuttle yep the hill!
Day 3 – La Spezia – Campiglia – Riomaggiore.
That walk up to the starting point was harder than the actual planned walk today funny enough it was straight up through what felt like the Amazon jungle and we were looking for a lost city, which we found with the rewards of some pretty spectacular views and a cooling breeze.
We decided that we will have lunch then tackle the walk which was quite lovely though still a lot of ups and downs. This has become the theme for our trip here in Europe, up up up followed by down down down.
The whole of the Cinque Terre has so much history and I do enjoy the hikes where you come across the information boards giving you a bit of insight in where you are and what you are seeing.
Today there was quite a few interesting historical features, like the Fountain of Nozzano, built by the soldiers of Napoleon in 1805. There was also a small town called Lemmen (so small I didn’t realise it was a town till I read the board). This town apparently had been mentioned in documents dating back to 1200’s. A lot of the buildings as one would imagine are ruins but the centre is the quaint little church still standing and looks to be someone’s home. On the walk down into Riomaggoire we passed a lot of memorials built into the stone wall and the path itself reminded me of the old Roman roads but I’m pretty sure it’s not.
Today was definitely the day of the lizard, or should I say leaping lizards! So many all day just kept running out across our path and as there usually was a cliff drop on one side they literally would lead of the edge!
So today’s walk was a lot quieter again with people, that is probably because I don’t think it is on the main Cinque Terre routes, though we did meet a few different people from different parts of the world which was lovely. The walk was really enjoyable and we finished it with drinks on a balcony overlooking the ocean.
Day 4 – Corniglia – Volastra – Manarola
The weather is not playing fair! We woke to seemingly sunny skies and decided to go for breakfast rather than make our own and it was pleasant. We went back to our apartment and got ourselves sorted for our days walking and exploring. We head back downstairs, open the door and …….what the ……….. Did we walk through a worm hole into another time? The clouds where dark (didn’t see the clouds before) and it was bucketing down! Where did that come from and how?
The first part of the walk was a wet steamy one as it was all climbing, luckily not too rugged and still offered views of Corniglia.
The walk pretty much took us through more of the terraced vineyards. I was happy to see some people braving the weather but also happy it wasn’t crowded, I think it is because some of the walk trails have been closed due to the weather.
When you hit the towns however it is a whole new story! The crowds where huge! All trying for the spot to take their photo of the harbour. Today’s weather has really picked up the swell of the ocean. The waves in the harbour where flying high into the sky as they make contact with the rocks then crash violently down with the crowd all shrieking.
One could just watch the emotions of the ocean all day it is so very spell binding and powerful. Some choose to get a little closer to the action of the ocean and in this case by climbing out onto a section of rocks that were being bashed consistently by the violent waves.
Hundreds of people are witnessing the stupid act of 3 people as they make their way out on the rocks. The waves keep coming, some harder and stronger than others, each time smashing over them and for a brief moment no one can see them at all then the water disperses and they put up the thumbs. Then another wave and another. You just know that they will go in but they stay out there to have their photos taken. Then it happens and one goes in! She is bashed around like in a washing machine and can’t get out. You can see her friends frantically running back and forth as she is being washed in and out. Eventually some brave people run down to help and putting their own lives at risk to save someone who stupidly and carelessly didn’t consider the fact of what she was doing was even slightly dangerous. I am surprised she got out and hope that her and the other stupid two learnt a lesson. DON’T RISK YOUR LIFE OR OTHER PEOPLES LIFE SO YOU CAN HAVE THAT “FANTASTIC PHOTO” ITS NOT WORTH IT!
After seeing that we decided to head back to Corniglia. Need to get out of the crowds for a bit and as luck will have it the train station was packed to the brim! Trains have been delayed up to 50 mins going the way we want to go. Eventually it came and everyone piled on like sardines in a tin! We get back to our little village and hide in a tiny courtyard away from the crowds and each ice-cream. Much better.
Day 5- Marola to Porte Venere
New day and the sun is shining. Today’s walk we did another one off the beaten path and explored down the coast a bit more walking from a little out suburban village of La Spezia called Marola.
As always the walk starts with a climb and again this climb was 3km long and for the most part steps! I did enjoy walking up through the back of a suburb to see the more real and not on show part of the area. Though the suburb didn’t last long, can’t say the same about the steps.
They say on a clear day you should be able to see right out across the land to the Apennines mountain range, where we walked back in 2015 when walking the Via Francigena. Wasn’t that clear today though we could see across the valley to the town of Campiglia where we were yesterday. We also came across a yard of donkeys with two babies.
We then headed down to the once Roman Port of Porto Venere that I personally think is far more beautiful than the popular ones on the Cinque Terre. This place is still very much a touristy place to visit and probably more with the cruise ships as it is in the port of La Spezia.
There are the endless rows of tourist shops that you find in the whole of the Cinque Terre but it is far more spread out and as it is a port there are boats of all sorts to see as well as jump on to have a tour. Sadly today the boat ride that was to get us back up the coast was suspended so we had to bus then train. With one more day here let’s hope the weather improves so we can get out on a boat.
There are also the island of Palmaria which sounded like fun to see as there are hiking, exploring the history of the “Sea Fortress”, a fortified Battery that was used as a prison until the 1950’s. Sad we didn’t get out there but you can’t help the weather or the rough seas.
We really did enjoy wandering and exploring this port town and would recommend anyone that visits the Cinque Terre stretch yourself a little further and come here. Hint buy your bus tickets from the ticket machines or the Tabaco shops as they are half price to what you buy on the bus.
Tomorrow is our last day for exploring and we haven’t chosen a walk yet as we really want to know what is the weather going to do.
Day 6 and we are playing tourist.
Our final day in the Cinque Terre and we really was hoping for good weather only we got such bad weather all the walk trails were closed so no walking for us. This also means all boat rides are not running so sadly we won’t get to explore the coastline so just tourist day today.
We decided that we will pay one last visit to all five towns and explore them a little bit more even if it is raining and because of the rain it kept the number of other tourists down so you could just wonder around with out being shuffled along.
For a place like the Cinque Terre it is very much one that needs to be visited in the summer season. This is when it is nicer to swim in the sea and walk the trails between towns. Do be aware that here in Italy the locals do tend to take holidays in August and this is when they like to head to the coast. We are here right on the tail end of summer and sadly the weather for this trip hasn’t been so fantastic but we did get to walk all the trails we had planned on, just not have the boat ride or swim in the sea.
The other thing to be aware of is this is a very popular and busy tourist spot so the crowds are huge. As much as I have loved the place and the food, the scenery and the walks I found it at times a bit over bearing with people, so for me I might have to stick to the quieter locations but don’t regret coming here for one minute.