Italian adventure. Cinque Terre part 1
We first heard about Cinque Terre a few years ago and last years some friends went there and told us about their adventure. Our traveling friend Oana was very excited about the trip and was telling us about how the people were chilling on the pavements with a glass of wine and made us extremely interested. We had to go there. So on our way back from Rome to Milan we stopped in Cinque Terre for a night. Cinque Terre is situated on the Italian Riviera, between Genoa and La Spezia. There are 5 ancient villages, up on the mountain and together they form Cinque Terre National Park, UNESCO World Heritage since 1997. If you’re coming from La Spezia, the first village is Riomaggiore, followed by Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso al Mare. By train, the distance from the first village to the last one is about 20 minutes. They are extremely famous for the trails between the villages, with their spectacular view of the sea, but unfortunately, because of the floods in October 2011, some of them are still closed today, including the most-known of them, Via dell’Amore.
If you go there by car, the biggest challenge you’ll have is with the parking. In theory, in all 5 villages cars aren’t allowed, you’ll see just the residents’ cars (just a few of them actually) and the supply ones. There is a small parking outside each village but don’t get your hopes up, they’re always full. The people that we rented our room from gave us two parking options in La Spezia and we tried there. First we went to the underground parking at the train station, but it was already very crowded and couldn’t find a free spot. The other option was an open-spaced free parking, with a few security cameras. We took just a small baggage with us and left the rest of our stuff there and prayed that we wouldn’t find our car broken into the next day. The easiest way to travel between villages is by train, it takes you just a few minutes from one to the other. We bought the Cinque Terre Card and with it you have access to the train, the buses and the trails between the villages. You don’t have to wait that long for the trains, you are given the trains’ schedule at La Spezia station and even if there are some delays, you won’t really notice because most of the stations are situated on the cliffs, giving you a great view of the sea above.
We wanted to stay in one of the villages and from the pictures we’d seen before we thought that Vernazza and Manarola were the most charming. Accommodation is limited there so don’t expect luxurious hotels. You can find more hotels in Monterosso al Mare, it being the biggest of them all and in the others expect more modest Bed and Breakfast rooms. After various searches on many web sites we finally found a room in Vernazza. The only problem was that the Italian grandmother that was renting our room spoke in a weird dialect and we barely understood what she was trying to say. In the end we got that she would bring us our coffee and croissant when we wanted next morning and we were able to enjoy them while watching the tourists walking the old streets underneath our little balcony.
Monterosso al Mare
On the first day after the check in we decided to visit Vernazza and Monterosso, leaving the rest for the next day. Today we’re gonna tell you more about these two. Monterosso al Mare is the biggest village from the 5 of them, being more like a resort-town with an actual beach with very clear water. Most of the villages kind of look alike, but Monterosso stand out a little. It has an historic part with narrow streets and old houses just like the others, but also a new part with hotels, restaurants and stores. In 1948 it was removed from the “Cinque Terre” because the officials thought that it was too big to be included in the Cinque Terre circuit and it was reintroduced a year and a half later. You’ll find here more souvenir shops and if you want to bring some for your love ones back home, we suggest that you should buy it from here because the other villages don’t have that many options and are extremely crowded.
Vernazza was our favorite village from the 5 of them. Maybe it was because we stayed there and had more time to explore it, but it is the most charming. It is a small fishing village founded in 1000 AD with just 600 inhabitants, being considered one of the most beautiful villages in Italy. Vernazza was badly damaged by the floods in October 2011 but almost all of it was rebuilt. Most of the houses are on top of a hill, with narrow streets and hundred years old stone pavements so you’ll need comfortable footwear. What’s the most impressing about it is the little piazzeta that ends with a small bay, probably the most photographed spot in the village. This is most likely the image you’ll find on Google and Instagram when you search Vernazza. If you are in the mood for sunbathing and a swim, the bay has a small streak of sand where you can enjoy the sun. There’s also a “beach” hidden by a stone tunnel. It is actually just some stones and rocks that form some sort of a beach where people bring their towels to. Another cool sight is Doria Castle, up on the hill. We adventured all the way up there and didn’t regret it, we were able to enjoy a breathtaking panorama over the entire village. Ah, and let’s not forget about gelato…enjoy it while you look at the sea!