Trippin’ through five little Italian villages
During Easter 2011 I decided to dodge the royal wedding and venture out to Italy (one of my most-travelled countries) to visit yet another UNESCO World Heritage spot that I’d heard so much about. Found in the Liguria region on the north west coast of Italy is a treasure trove of little colourful coastal villages known as Cinque Terre. These five villages cover 18km of cliffs and coastal path, all accessible by foot, rail and boat, depending on the weather conditions.
Each village is very special in its own way with harbours, shops and plenty of lovely scenery and food. Many people stay in the most-southerly village of Riomaggiore and travel up the villages all at once. I decided to savour the trip a bit more by staying in the fourth village – Vernazza, where I could spend one day walking through three villages south (Corniglia, Manarola, Riomaggiore), then spend another day doing the hardest walk to the last village north of Vernazza, called Monterosso.
I began this journey by flying into Genoa, which may I add is one of the most beautiful spots to land a plane I’ve seen to in Europe. Flying in to land just over a beautiful sparkly blue ocean is always a winner. Vernazza itself, is very small, but is home to some amazing food and some great free spots to eat at. Imagine a warm crystal clear evening, sitting on a rock with sand in your feet in front of a little Italian harbour, as the sun begins to set in the distance, eating pizza and gelato… this was my life for the few nights that I stayed there. Accommodation itself wasn’t the easiest to source, so I recommend anyone going to Cinque Terre to book in advance as much as possible.
Getting up at the crack of dawn is something I’ve become accustomed to through my travels. So getting up nice and early on a drizzly morning I managed to do the second hardest walk (Vernazza to Corniglia) before they closed the path down, turns out it wasn’t the safest path, which explains the few minor landslides I dealt with. That being said, travelling by foot along these coastal paths is by far the best way to get from village to village. The scenery that I was treated with was amazing and I enjoyed being able to stand still and appreciate the cliffs, ocean, flowers, fruit trees and vineyards, rather than zooming past it all boat or train that goes through tunnels and hides a lot of the lovely scenery. The paths are relatively skinny dirt tracks, so it wasn’t that pleasant when someone was coming from the other direction and you had to hug the nearest rock so that they could get past you without falling off the cliff (there aren’t really many barriers separating people and cliff face to the ocean besides the odd plant or rock).
The trek from Vernazza to Monterosso was a bit of a mission since I hadn’t built up my fitness given the cold English winter I was just coming out of. Because it was the most challenging and took the longest it meant I met more people (and cats) on the path also and there were definitely a few scary moments for someone as clumsily as I am. However, I think the trek from Monterosso to Vernazza would have been much more difficult, given the amount of steep stairs you’d have to deal with at the start (I opted for a train return to Vernazza, after going down all the stairs on my arrival into Monterosso – there was no way I was going back up them!). Walking down into Monterosso I think was the most scenic treat of all, seeing a beach just beyond a vineyard in the distance – I knew I was heading to a lovely place. In Monterosso you have some lovely beaches and food spots. I was spoilt for choice. Stuffed mussels’ overlooking the beach as the sun went down was the dinner choice that evening, followed by a beach walk with gelato.
Cinque Terre honestly gives you everything you could want in a travel experience: outdoor hiking, fresh coastal air, beautiful green countryside filled with wildflowers, fruit trees and vineyards, excellent food and spots to relax. I highly recommend it in spring or summer, just out of tourist season to enjoy it when the paths aren’t too busy.
More of my photographs can be found in my designack gallery from Cinque Terre and Italy here »