After our flying visit to Rome, we headed to Cinque Terre for a few days. We opted to stay in La Spezia, which is a 6 min train journey away, due to the extortionist prices for accommodation in Cinque Terre.
Cinque Terre (5 lands) is famous for the clusters of colourful houses which seem to perch precariously on the edge of cliffs. It is made up of the 5 towns of Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso. It is 11km from the most southern town, Riomaggiore, and to most northern town, Monterosso, and usually there is a path which runs the entire length making it easy to walk the entire length. Unfortunately the huge floods in 2011 destroyed parts of this path which means it is a little more difficult to walk between Riomaggiore, Manarola and Corniglia.
However this did not stop us and on day 1, we decided to walk from Riomaggiore to Manarola along an alternative path was only a little bit further inland. The original path is an easy 20 min flat walk so how much different could this alternative path be?? Due a continuous uphill of steep steps for 30 mins followed by continue steep downhill steps for 20 mins there was extreme sweating in totally inappropriate walking attire eg. denim shorts and flip flops. However the views from the top were stunning and were well rewarded at the bottom with a pizza and pasta to top up the body fuel supplies.
Both Riomaggiore and Manarola have a lovely little harbour come swimming area and a small high street lined with cafes and restaurants. Very cute but very jam packed with tourists.
But this was not our highlight of the day. Our highlight was discovering via the wonderful world of facebook that Tom's two lovely cousins, Philippa from Australia, and Sarah, who is living in London, happened to be taking a mini break in Cinque Terre for a couple of days at the same time. Cue extreme excitement! Plans were made for a rendezvous the next day.
The following day we set out to walk between the final 3 towns. We started at Corniglia, a very small, quiet town perched up high above the water. It has little alleyways of shops and delicious smelling pizzerias and bakeries.
We hiked our way up and then down into Vernazza, which is known as the jewel of Cinque Terre. We could understand why as the views over the town were stunning as we neared the entrance. Vernazza is quite a bit bigger than the other towns and offers a small bay and a beach for swimming. It has numerous restaurants and bars, of which many offer views over the ocean.
We attempted to sneak up on Phil and Sarah on the beach - Tom thought that his beard would act as a disguise however were spotted around 50m off. After a brief chat, we were back walking up the hill on our way to Monterosso, the most northern town. Cue more sweating as we walked up steps after steps but thankfully the views helped to distract us. After an hour of walking (and sweating) we descended into Monterosso via some very steep steps and rewarded ourselves with a drink at the bottom. Monterosso is quite spread out and offers two large beaches.
We headed back to Vernazza for a couple of high altitude spritz's (Italy's national cocktail and our new favourite drink). We then indulged in a posh dinner at the Bel Forte, a restaurant in a tower overlooking the ocean.
Cue another spritz, wine, delicious food and some great conversation. A highlight of our travels so far! Cue a hangover the next morning.
So in a nutshell, our top tips for Cinque Terre are: - Don't go in August because it is very hot and whilst the walking was still enjoyable, it would have been nice to not be sweaty the entire time we were there - Don't take children here. We saw a few families dragging their kids along the walk and through the villages. There is no space for them to run around and they don't care about the views. Take them on an all inclusive instead. - Unless you are cashed up, stay in La Spezia. The train only takes 6 minutes to Riomaggiore and 30 mins to Monterosso. - Accidentally go when your cousins from Australia and London happen to be visiting as well. It will definitely make your trip.