I drove up to Cinque Terre after spending a few wonderful days in Tuscany soaking in the sunshine, tasting the local cuisine & imbibing their famous Chianti wines. As expected, it is a whole lot quieter in winter & great for someone who is overwhelmed by large crowds.
My apartment overlooked the Mediterranean Sea & the currents & winds were pretty strong. I remember listening to the crashing waves till I slipped into slumber land… & amazingly was awoken by those rhythmic waves that now had a calming effect on me.
Cinque Terre had remained unchecked on my bucket list for the longest time & this UNESCO Heritage Site inscribed in 1997 did not disappoint. This string of centuries old seaside towns hug the steep terraces, have harbours filled with fishing boats & trattorias serving beautiful Ligurian cuisine especially seafood.
Cinque Terre which means “Five Lands” has been a popular tourist destination for centuries & people have built terraces on the rugged hills overlooking the Ligurian Sea.
The 5 villages that make up the Cinque Terre from north to south are Monteroso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola & Riomaggiore & they lie west in La Spieza Province.
The maisonette apartment I stayed in, was the yellow one with the balcony from which I took my late evening & early morning shots of the sea view.
There are steep slopes & many stairs & steps to conquer at Cinque Terre, so good walking shoes are really needful. I was pleasantly surprised to find this flat little square nestled amongst the buildings in Riomaggiore where communal activities could be staged.
Access to Cinque Terre by car is rather limited, so I left the car parked on the hillside & walked downhill to my apartment. Visited the other towns via train & met quite a few beautiful cats in particularly Manarola.
Quite a lot of the locals are already on vacation & you see their fishing boats parked along the streets outside their homes.
Meet my pretty feline friend in Manarola.
Manarola is the 2nd smallest town of the 5 & is nevertheless a pretty town with colourful pastel coloured buildings & sparkling sea views.
Manarola’s primary industries have been traditionally fishing & winemaking. This might be the oldest town in Cinque Terre as the cornerstone from San Lorenzo Church dates from 1338.
Vineyards can be seen on the steepes overlooking Manarola & a walking trail called the “Via dell’Amore” or Loves’s Trail’ which unfortunately is closed at this time due to weather damage.
Catch a glimpse of the beautiful coastline from Manarola & in the far distance Monterrosso al Mare. The Sentiero Azzurro cliffside hiking trail links the villages & offer panoramic views of the sea.
It is said that Manarola is the prettiest of the Amazing 5 but I think they all have their own charm. Some trains run from Portovenere, Levanto & La Spezia connect to Cinque Terre.
Manarola is the built on a 70m outcrop of Rock & the pastel coloured buildings hug the steep cliff sides.
It is possible to hike from Riomaggiore to Monterosso al Mare on the hiking trails in the hills & vineyards above the town provided your are fit. The almost 12km journey would not be easy & would take 5-6 hours via Sentiero Azzurro ‘Blue Path’. This has been consistently voted as one of Europe’s best hikes. As it is within the Cinque Terre National Park you have to purchase a ticket to gain access.
Corniglia is not situated adjacent to the sea like the other towns. There was a long flight of stairs to conquer, time constraints & a swollen knee; thus it was a clear decision to bypass it.
Corniglia sits on a promontory 100m above sea level & is surrounded by vineyards & terraces on 3 sides. The fourth side descends steeply to the sea. To reach Corniglia you have to climb the ‘Lardarina’ which is a brick stairway consisting of 33 flights with 382 steps. You can follow the road or catch the small bus that runs on schedule.
Vernazza has colourful houses surrounding the marina. This is the 2nd village of Cinque Terre & it is easily accessible by train, boat & even on foot. This town maybe small but it is nonetheless beautiful.
The jetty is the liveliest part of town which offers not only the view of the picturesque coastline but a popular siesta spot by the rock wall for tourists.
Watching the waves can be very mesmerising & calming.
The Church of Santa Margherita d’Antiochia built in 1318 by the Magistri Antelami family & though remodeled several times, represents Ligurian Gothic architecture. The nave has 3 bodies & an octagonal Tower 40m high.
Looking across to Monterosso al Mare from Vernezza. There are no splendid beaches in Vernazza save for the tiny one at The Central square & one located on the other side of Belfort Tower, reached by a passageway in the rock from the Main Street of the village.
Monterosso al Mare is the largest of the Amazing 5. It’s long & lovely stretch of beach, it’s beautiful reefs & crystal clear waters is a big draw for tourists. We see here the medieval tower of Aurora of delineates where Monterosso is divided in 2 parts.
The surrounding hills are where lemons, vine & olives are cultivated.
The new part of town, Fegina is full of life, hotels & restaurants & a reflection of what tourism has enriched.
An idyllic spot to fish & soak in the romantic evening.
The promenade lined with palm trees is aglow at dusk.
I make my way back to Riomaggiore as night falls.
It was tiring to hop on & off the trains to visit the Amazing 5 in one day; it would definitely be better if you can spend a few days in Cinque Terre assimilating with the locals & their culture.
The restaurant that I had pre-booked to enjoy my birthday dinner was unfortunately closed for the winter& they emailed their apologies. I was however happy to have tasted the fried anchovies & chips in a mix Seafood Cone of local catch.
Arrivederci for now!