Thursday, 27 May: Exhilaration in Cinque Terre

“Buongiorno, mi sto innamorando con Cinque Terre!”
“Hi, I am falling in love with Cinque Terre!”
I stepped out of my alley to discover, and fall in love with, this romantic, enchanting, seaside village! What a difference a few hours had made! Sun was shining, people were busily buzzing...I made my way back through the curved, blue roofed, mosaic tunnel to the Information centre and bought a National Park pass.

Returning to the township I spent time exploring and absorbing the character and beauty of this amazing village. I bought supplies for the day = A 5 village, coastline trek: freshly baked onion focaccia, banana, apple tomato, ham and a café latté...I needed the caffeine!
(Fortunately for you I didn’t write this as I moved from town to town, because I could easily have written 1-2 chapters on each experience....and that would have equalled a WHOLE book!!!...I will try to keep this entry shorter than that!!)

The Cinque Terre (The 5 Villages: Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso) are characterised by ever-changing colors of seascapes, which are dominated by a rocky, landscape, where pinewoods and ancient olive groves frame many old ruins left by history. Cinque Terre has a strong agricultural livelihood which produces excellent wines. However, these idyllic retreats, with their picturesque beauty, are far removed from the hustle, bustle and reliable technology of today’s world – this, I was to discover, impacted on my stay, but mostly in a positive way!!

Town #1 Riomaggiore: is an old village nestled in a small valley completely covered with vineyards. Its name comes from the rio (stream) that runs down a long, deep, twisting river emptying onto a small beach. The town has characteristic flowering terraces and narrow, steep streets that alternate with stone stairways. The sunny little beach and modest sights across the boated mariner, overlook the beautiful blue sea.

Connecting Riomaggiore and Manarola is the romantic passageway ‘Via dell’Amour’ which is carved out of its rocky hillside, plunging straight down to the sea!..”
“Ooh la really was so romantic!”

Town #2 Manarola: is a colourful town and its houses are perched on a spur of land that emerges directly from the sea. Its small inlet for boats is carved from the rock. The hills are cultivated with vineyards that produce 2 wines: Sciacchetra and Cinque Terre Bianco. There were many tourists in the town square laughing and singing with the locals. It was in this village I grabbed a window of opportunity to walk right down to the water’s edge!

Town #3 Corniglia: is the more difficult to access by sea than any other of the CT. Its large area of vineyards produces an excellent quality wine called Vernaccia. The town is reached from the boat landing by climbing a very steep flight of steps which is the reason why Corniglia is the most unspoilt and undeveloped village of the CT. On my way to Corniglia I climbed high into the hillside to watch the vineyards being worked. A framer’s ute almost scraped the stone walls on both sides of the narrow, winding road as he crawled his way upwards! As I walked precariously along the narrow path, I came across a fresh water fall so, gratefully filled my empty drink bottles then crossed the small, swinging bridge suspended high above the river.

I like to support local producers, so purchased some jewellery made from local shells and 2 watercolours depicting Riomaggiore, as I neared the next town!

Town #4 Vernazza: The journey between these Corniglia and Vernazza was the longest and probably the most enjoyable and rewarding for me however it was fraught with challenges. Its high narrow Cliffside path hugged the hill all the way. It was hard work negotiating the uneven stones and rickety narrow path, so high above the sea and so close to the edge. Almost the entire track along this section, was without railing, however the hardy shrubs and flora formed a visual barrier, giving the impression we were safe! I loved it!

During this section I met Mivi and Mike, a Canadian couple. We were sharing chat and they were telling me of their visit to Australia and FNQ. I was walking behind Mivi and watching our feet to ensure I knew when uneven ground was imminent, when suddenly Mivi twisted her ankle and fell heavily...I watched it all happen as if in slow motion.....the path being so narrow only just held her, preventing a serious fall, potentially to the bottom of the extremely high section of the cliff.... We were all badly shaken and it took some time for the three of us to relax and realise that Mivi was still with us and that she was still in one piece!!! To her credit, she hike onwards and overcame the nerves she felt....GREAT WORK MIVI!! We were very proud of your effort.

We all stopped in Vernazza for a well deserved break and some time to absorb the effects of its idyllic setting, ambience and sunshine! I couldn’t ask for anything more as I settled myself seaside, nestled into the rocks, and enjoyed my picnic lunch!

Not being armed with sunscreen or a hat...I soon rectified that! It was fun, for a while, to be amongst the hustle and bustle of the tourists madly making the most of everything on offer....however it soon got too much for me, so I caught the train to Monterosso.(apparently this section of the walk had become too dangerous and was temporarily closed!)

Town #5 Monterosso:
In the olden days Monterosso was called Mons Ruber, because of the reddish colour of its rocky soil and is the last of the Cinque Terre on the trip from Porto Venere, south of Riomaggiore. It is the largest of the CT and is settled at the base of two valleys. As I had arrived in the heat of the day, a Gelato was a must! Strolling aimlessly, I witnessed many relaxed people: swimming, sunbathing, socialising, eating and drinking along the extensive, lively beach (however not as lively as the Cote d’Azur had been!!).

A quieter, arty corridor of eclectic little craft shops set off the beaten track lured me in. I chose to sit quietly, enjoy a glass of vino...and munch on the extra nibbles, olives and nuts; the Italians love to give you.

Having bought my mementoes from the local producers...I wandered, weary but happy, back to the train.
Having only explored the town, I decided to follow the path labelled: ‘Marine’ and discovered another world awaiting me! The houses curved Cliffside around the inlet through which the river followed into the sea. Perched high on the cliff a little café sat. It was to here that I returned after exploring along the narrow stone stepped path.

I enjoyed sundowners, cliffside and ordered a cocktail to celebrate. Later I was joined by 4 delightful Aussies: Two young pilots, Mark and Mike who were biking around Europe, and two sisters, Nick and Leah on holidays from London. These ‘almost 30 year olds’ knew each other and had managed to connect in CT...They reminded me of my own kids and their loving, adventurous, interesting and very friendly! We toasted: Aussies...Sunshine and sunsets....Holidays in CT...and Safe travelling!

I wandered back onto town.... GT calling... so I excitedly shared my adventures.....then crossed my fingers, hoping to find my way high up into the rabbit warren to my quaint little Penthouse!

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