Cinque Terre: (pronounced CHEEN-kweh TEHR-reh) The Cinque Terre is made up of five little fishing villages in what is called the Italian Riviera: Monterosso al Mare, Vernanza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore. These villages are connected by ancient footpaths meandering along the cliffs overlooking the ocean.
We stayed in Vernanza, and if I had it to do all over again, I would still stay in Vernanza. We arrived at our hotel late in the afternoon just before sunset. This was the view from our balcony.
The sky was overcast and the weather was quite comfortable so we decided to hike one of the trails to Corniglia, a village just south of our home base. Right behind our hotel was a sign that pointed us to the trail straight up the mountain. The higher we hiked, the better the views.
We even found a nice couple on the trail to take our picture. Having both of us in a picture is a rarity. It’s usually just pictures of me, giving everyone the impression that I travel to all these places alone.
If you look far in the background, you can see we are pretty high up the mountain. The fort on Vernanza’s point is barely visible, but we were doing pretty good. Hair still intact, jacket on, and a big smile on my face…
A little higher and the smile is removed along with the jacket and the hair goes up…
A little higher and the hair falls down and I’m about to fall down…
A peek through the trees and we spot our destination: Corniglia. You can even see the village of Manarola in the background.
The trail signs pointed us in the right direction. The hike really isn’t that far, but it is straight up the mountain.
As we neared the village, the buildings seemed to put on a welcoming smile by brightening their colors. We had lunch at a really nice pizzeria with a great view. There were so many nice shops in Corniglia. The streets were picture perfect with flowers and fruit stands and cute little restaurants. And it’s a shame that I can’t find any of the Corniglia pictures to show you. 🙁 Maybe they’ll turn up later on another memory card.
After a couple of hours in Corniglia, we Took the train to Manarola and walked to the harbor. I loved the way the freshly painted, antique boats lined the ramp all the way down to the water.
I wanted to sit on this rock forever staring out over the ocean.
People were diving off the rocks and swimming in the clearest teal waters. Manarola has wonderful deep water for swimming. It’s almost like a natural swimming pool.
We decided to head back to Vernanza on the ferry for a view from the ocean.
Back in Vernanza we stopped by one of Cinque Terre’s most popular restaurants, Ristorante Belleforte’. There are several little cozy balconies overlooking the ocean. Its a really nice spot for watching the sunset and listening to the waves crash against the rocks.
The next morning was the start of a new hike. This time we were going north to Monterosso, a much longer and more difficult hike. Yes, I know what you’re thinking…we’re not going to make it.
Before we started up the mountain to Monterosso al Mare, we had to stop by Vernanza’s church, Santa Margherita di Antiochia, to light a candle. We needed God’s help today. My legs were so sore from yesterday, and James… well, have you seen his knees? (That’s an inside joke between the two of us…hehe)
I just had to show you the boats tied up in the Vernanza harbor right outside the church.
The hike to Monterosso gives you the best opportunity to take photos of Vernanza. It looks just like a postcard. Actually, I have a postcard that looks just like this.
Even though we were really high up the mountain, we could see clearly through the water. There were no filters on my camera either. We stopped here to have picnic. I packed a lunch of focaccia bread and farinata with pesto.
We made it to the top, and if you’ll notice, I’m still smiling. I guess I was starting to get in shape.
Coming down the trail, we finally spotted the Monterosso beach, and if you like sandy beaches, this is the place for you. Monterosso is the largest of the villages and has the largest beach areas. There is a small patch of sand in Vernanza, but mostly just rocks. James hates the sand so we fell in love with finding a large flat rock to place a towel and have a picnic.
And here’s the picture of the huge rock I’ve been searching for all over Cinque Terre. It’s in Monterosso! This was where I originally planned to take my 25th anniversary picture, but it just didn’t feel right so I carried my old wedding dress from 1989 a little farther through Italy. If you want to know more about that story you’ll have to read “Capri-A photo Journal” and “Our Story”…pages that are coming soon.
We walked the streets for a short while, and jumped back on the ferry to go village hopping. I wanted to go back to Manarola for some more delicious farinata and focaccia at this little pizza and bread place we discovered the day before. It was dirt cheap and delicious!
Right next door we discovered a great place for local wine and live music.
After a short pit stop we were back on the ferry to Riomaggiore the coolest little spot above the sea: A Pie de Ma, Bar & Vini
This place wasn’t easy to find, but we found it nestled above the ocean near the train station at the beginning of the trail, Via dell’Amore, 55.
It was well worth the search. The views were spectacular and the atmosphere was so at ease…
We stayed until sunset and missed the last ferry back to Vernanza so we had to take the train. Thank God for trains!
On our way to the train station, I met a precious senior citizen sitting on a bench. He couldn’t speak English and my Italian is a little rough, but we managed to communicate anyway. He told me he had lived his whole life in Cinque Terre, and I believed I understood him to say his wife sent him out so she could clean the house. It was after ten at night, and he was visiting his friends on the village streets. I absolutely love this place and its people, especially the elderly friends I met. They looked to be at least twenty years younger than they were, and they could out hike me up the mountain to the next village. Believe me, I’m not kidding! The next day James and I were passed like we were standing still by an elderly lady carrying her groceries from the market.
Our last day in Cinque Terre was spent in Vernanza, our favorite village of the five. We climbed up the fort I’d been wanting to tackle since we arrived.
More beautiful views…
We found a beach through this secret passage or at least that’s what it looked like to me.
Beautiful water and a perfect spot to find a rock for the day.
We found a spot to put our towel. Just heaven with the water all around us, splashing against the rocks and flashing all those shades of blue and green and white foam. I couldn’t decide where to cast my eyes.
Later that afternoon, I bought a cone of fritto misto di mare, mixed fried fish or seafood. I ate anchovies every single day in Cinque Terre. I absolutely despise anchovies in my normal day-to-day life in other places, but the anchovies in Cinque Terre are really not like any I’ve ever eaten. In Italian the word for anchovies is acciughe, and it’s pronounced: “Ah-tchoo-geh” There are certain things you must try in Cinque Terre: focaccia bread, farinata, pesto and ANCHOVIES!
The last apertivo on our terrace.
And on our last night we stumbled upon a little unknown gem of a restaurant high above the sea. We found this place purely by accident… or was it by fate? This is how it happened: Our table at Ristaurante Belleforte’ was mistakenly given to another couple. Sad, sad, sad…I was really sad, but as I always say: “Maybe it was meant to be. And boy was I right!” We started walking up the trail towards Corniglia because James remembered a little small place with great views. We had no idea if it was open or if it was even a restaurant. This is what we found: Ristorante Panoramico “La Torre”
The food was so good. I had Pesto Lasagna and James had pasta with anchovies. We drank the very best homemade limoncello in all of Italy! Actually, the whole experience was one of the best in Italy. The VIEW, the food, the drinks, and the company: we made friends with a nice couple from Texas, the Cooks. We stayed until the restaurant closed and said “Good Night to Cinque Terre”. Until we meet again. And we will…