Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Italy: Cinque Terre

Hey, is that a little village on a cliff down there?
Why yes, yes it is!  Welcome to the Cinque Terre!
Pronounced "cheen-kwuh teh-reh" and meaning "five lands," the Cinque Terre is a series of five picturesque villages built directly into the steep rocky coastline. The area surrounding the villages is a national park. It's is one of those spots that Rick Steves--and apparently the equivalent travel guru from every other country--loves and made famous the world over, so it's pretty overrun with tourists. But as we were a short train ride away in Moneglia, we decided to spend one day exploring the area.

We rode to the nearby town of Levanto from Moneglia and then purhcased the Cinque Terre Family Card, which gives you unlimited access to all trains and trails in the region for the day.

Moneglia to Levanto, and then the Cinque Terre are Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza (not picutred), Corneglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore.
A train ride from one end of the Cinque Terre to the other only takes about 15 minutes (mostly through tunnels inside the cliffs), with a stop in each town along the way, and there are hiking trails of varying difficulty between each village. Driving's a big no-no, so people end up doing some combination doing of walking and train-ing during their visit. Boats and apparently buses are also a possibility.

From Levanto, we took the Cinque Terre Express all the way to the farthest village, Riomaggiore, and figured we'd make our way back toward the other end by whatever method felt right at the moment.

As Pete always says, the best thing to do when you arrive in a town jam-packed with tourists is to immediately head up the nearest hill, path, steps, etc before claustrophobia/panic/indecision set in. Logic dictates that generally speaking, the higher you go, the more tourists are eliminated by the difficulty of doing so. So we walked up to an overlook in Riomaggiore straight away.

The main and easiest trail right along the coastline is the SVA (a.k.a the blue trail). This trail was damaged by storms and flooding back in 2011, and the two sections connecting Riomaggiore to Manarola to Corneglia have been mostly closed since then as far as I can tell.

closed SVA leading out of Riomaggiore
Anxious to make a little bit of progress right out of the gate, we took the train straight to the next village of Manarola.

Manarola.  Even going slightly up this road cleared us away from the throng.
From here we decided it was time to hike. We made a basic plan to head up the hill and over to the next village of Corneglia via the 506, 586, and 587 trails, bypassing the last closed section of the SVA. Then, once we got to Corneglia, we thought might try the open SVA trail to Vernazza if we were feeling up for it.
The red section of the SVA coastal trail is the closed part between Riomaggiore, Manarola, and Corneglia. Then it opens up and is shown in green from Corneglia to Vernazza, and continues into Monterosso. So we went up the hill on 506 from Manarola, northwest on the 586, and down to Cornelia on the 587.
here we go up 506

The trail got pretty tough for awhile - seemingly endless steps up a mountain. We were thankful to be hiking in the spring rather than the middle of summer.

Break time. But they did really well!
But soon the view starts getting amazing, and you wonder if maybe the SVA trail wouldn't be as cool anyway with its lower vantage point.
There was a little pit-stop town at the top of the hill called Volastra, where we refueled on focaccia and restocked on water, and continued on the 586.

continuing to Corneglia
Corneglia down on the cliff below

approaching Corneglia
lunch and well-deserved gelato in Corneglia
It took about 2 and a half hours or so to hike between Manarola and Corneglia. By the time we had a rest and some food, we felt ready to tackle the first open section of the SVA to Vernazza - the green section in the trail map above.

leaving Corneglia

This part of the trail was definitely easier and took us about an hour and a half.
approaching Vernazza
coming into Vernazza
By the time we reached the Vernazza train station we were pretty Cinque-Terrr-ed-out and decided we'd better head back to home base on the train. We skipped Monterosso altogether, since it seemed quite similar to Moneglia except more touristy. But I'm sure it's beautiful!

Although we didn't spend much time in the villages themselves except for snacks and a quick break, we were satisfied with our literal "overview" of the Cinque Terre.

One more Italy post coming up!

1 comment:

Dominic Reisig said...

Gorgeous family in a gorgeous place. Wow. Just wow.