Cinque Terre: Idyllic. Pristine. Photogenic. Untouched. Pure Italy. However you want to describe Cinque Terre, one can not visit without feeling the magic throughout the cliffs and rugged terrain within this section of the northern coast of Italy. Cinque Terre is a UNESCO World Heritage site that consists of 5 towns connected by walking trail: Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, and Monterosso. Part of Cinque Terre’s charm is in the preservation of the area: the lack of roads in and the little commercial development that has occured that leaves surreal views from the walking trails above the the sea and fishing villages below.
… but we have to get there first from Rome. Apparently a tougher feat for some than one might initially imagine.
Getting there: Months in-advance we had bought our tickets from Tren Italia: http://www.trenitalia.com. From Rome, me and 2 of my friends were destined for Monterosso to meet up with our 4th friend who was taking a train down from Paris. To get there we took:
Roma to La Spezia (Eurostar Italia 9308)
La Spezia to Monterrosso (Regionale 11314)
No problem with the connection. Unfortunately, however, you REALLY have to pay attention to the stops as they’re flying by… some stops you may stop at, some you may express through. Expect that the people on the train will really try to help but may just be wrong in their assessment of where you’re supposed to get off (and not all doors open from the train). Such was the case when we entered the station one stop before ours, we thought it was our stop but people were a bit weary on if it was or wasn’t (imagine arguing in Italian between guys that really are trying to help us, fighting over which was the right stop). Well, unfortunately for one of my friends (who wasn’t patient) he jumped off and before he knew it the doors closed behind him (while me and my other friend were still on the train mind you…) and boom. Lost in Italy. Good thing he had a bottle of wine, and a bit of time to kill… and yes, he did eventually make it to Monterosso.
Stay in Monterosso: When we finally made it to Monterosso we found the most amazing, picturesque village and our hotel, Hotel Stella della Marina, just inside the old city walls. We waundered the city, ate dinner and once again enjoyed eachothers company over a great Italian dinner and a few bottles of wine. Well, the dinner was mostly great. We were rather enthusiastic that night just having been joined by our 4th member and the wait staff was NOT impressed with our spirit.
Apparently the clock in-town doesn’t move, it’s always 12:30 but it definitely chimes! and will wake you up if you happen to be staying in a hotel right next door. Of course, so too can your friend who likes to throw rolls through the open window screaming “breakfast in bed!”
Beach day: There are two sides to Monterosso. On the western side, through the tunnel is the new side of the city and where we spent the day lazing around. Lounge chairs are available for a fee, but you have to get there early, the chairs fill-up quickly. I was supposedly studying Spanish while lazing around but I must admit I’m pretty sure I was on the same page for the entire day. The following day we hiked to three of the towns, Monterosso was definitely the best place to stay, partially because of the access to the water unlike the other towns. Lazy, fantastic, paradise.
That night we had a nice, casual night in Monterosso, ate some fabulous Gorgonzola pizza and met a new friend traveling through the area from Germany.
Oh! Oh yes, and we did get out to the one bar recommended (but far too packed with tourists).
Sentiero Azzurro, Cinque Terre Walking Trail: The trail (Sentiero Azzurro) leading between the cities can be an all day hike, we opted for a 3/5th of the day hike and went to 3 of the 5 cities. Luckily, Monterosso is located on one side with some of the most picturesque areas to walk through from Monterosso to Vernazza to Corniglia. To walk on the trail between towns you need a pass, which will cost you 5 Euro but is the best 5 Euro you will likely spend on the trip. Posting a few pictures with captions as it’s the best way to describe the scenary.
Final dinner by the sea… We had time for one final dinner by the sea. I’m not exactly a FAN of eating things that were once living, as you can tell…
Update: Cinque Terre was devastated by mud slides and torrenchial rainstorms in October 2011. 3 of the 5 trails are now open (as of early 2012) but Monterosso was hit hard. Another reason to go to the places you most want to while you still can!
Love Cinque Terre! And hope to be back…