After acclimating to Italy for a few days in Rome, we took the train north to the infamous Cinque Terre. I chose this place for it's beauty, for it's tradition of hiking (there are very few roads in the towns, hiking is the preferred method of travel), and because it came highly recommended. We were not disappointed. It was breathtakingly beautiful.
"Cinque Terre is a string of centuries-old seaside villages on the rugged Italian Riviera coastline. In each of the 5 towns, colorful houses and vineyards cling to steep terraces, harbors are filled with fishing boats and trattorias turn out seafood specialties along with the Liguria region’s famous sauce, pesto. The Sentiero Azzurro cliffside hiking trail links the villages and offers sweeping sea vistas."
H/T to the Unesco World Heritage Site inscription for that overview.
We stayed in Corniglia, the smallest and quietest of the 5 towns. During the day, tourists, in the form of tired hikers (there are nearly 400 stairs to get up to Corniglia), infiltrated the small town of 150 people.
But in the evening, it cleared out. And it was lovely. The older folks sit in the town square, watching the last tourists leave while the few, darling neighborhood children run around - they clearly own the town and us visitors are just there to serve as entertainment.
We stayed at a quaint B&B with our host, Beppe. He's every bit as friendly and kind as he looks.
He doesn't speak a lick of English, and we apparently don't know how to say anything but 'ciao', but it didn't matter. Every morning we wandered up to his kitchen where he had fresh coffee, croissants, bread and homemade jam waiting for us. We would gesture and laugh and, occasionally, I think we were talking about the same thing.
I was looking forward to hiking, but information surrounding the trails and hikes to and from the towns is lacking. There was a landslide in 2011 that has kept most of the easy walking trails inaccessible, and that issue, paired with language barriers and old guide books made getting around a bit of a challenge.
The first day we set out on a walk to Manarola. We met an American couple the night before who told us it was a leisurely 30-minute walk. So we set off and after a series of misfires ended up on a trail that went the right way.
However, it wasn't a sweet little walking trail. It was full blown hiking trail complete with steep climbs and major elevation gains. We were stubborn and maybe a little dumb and we climbed and climbed and climbed.
We cussed a lot, sweated through all of our clothes, and lamented that we hadn't brought anything of use. At my low point, we ended up behind a group of retired British women who were cheerily making it happen despite being 30+ years older than us and I decided I would survive.
It ended up being a great day. We made it to a quaint hill-top town, Volastra, where we downed juice, water, and focaccia and headed back down, all the while enjoying some of the most beautiful scenery I've experienced.
It was a humbling experience for 2 people who think they are pretty good at hiking.
The other towns in the 5Terre were beautiful, postcard perfect, but they were best viewed from the hiking trails. The towns themselves are overrun by tourists. Too many of us have discovered this gem.
I loved Corniglia and recommend staying there if you want to stay in one of the 5 towns. When we first arrived I thought 'this is the place for me'. It was relaxing, beautiful and a nice change of pace from the bustling streets of Rome.