Cinque Terre is considered part of the mountainous Italian Rivera and consists of five very small towns: Riomaggiore (Town #1), Manarola (#2), Corniglia (#3), Vernazza (#4), and Monterosso (#5)
. The towns are directly connected by train, hiking trails and the sea – there are no direct roads between the towns and thus no cars. We chose to stay in Vernazza which is a town of approximately 600 people and the only town with a natural harbor.
After we got in and relaxed for a bit, we decided to go to have pre-dinner drinks down on the main square of the town at Burgus Wine Bar. There we had Prosecco and complementary appetizers. Creighton liked the anchovies and is looking forward to pickled herring in the northern countries. We then had dinner at the cliff-side Ristorante Belforte and enjoyed the zuppa michela (seafood specialty) at the best table on the terrace. Our dinner was so good we had a friend fly in to join us (see pictures). After we rudely did not share, he took matters into his own beak, stealing bread from the table next to us. The waves were especially rough with the rain earlier in the day and made for a spectacular show throughout dinner. After dinner, we went back to the wine bar so Creighton could introduce Kelly to grappa, an Italian grape-based brandy. Kelly was not a fan.
Our room had three small twin beds and Creighton chose the bed next to the window, only to be woken up at 5am to seagulls making ungodly noises and again at 7am to the church bell chiming 53 times (seriously, he counted … both mornings)
. When we finally woke up an hour later the rain was coming down strong. We opted for breakfast nearby and ventured to the train station to buy tickets to hike on the trails. At the train station we were told that the trails were closed but overheard some tourists saying one stretch of trail between Town #1 and #2, the Via dell'Amore, was still open. We bought tickets and caught the train to there. Not more than 20 steps into our walk down Via dell’Amore, the skies parted and it turned into a beautiful, uf not very humid, day. We observed luggage and small pad locks locked around every conceivable surface. Apparently, it is quite the tradition to write you and your loves name on a lock and lock it to something on this stretch of trail. It is also in fashion to tag you and your loves name on any smooth surface, covering this stretch of trail in graffiti. The Via dell’Amore is fully paved, which is why it was still open, and when we reached the end we found a menacing gate with protruding metal spikes and jagged cliffs below to prevent hikers from climbing around. We saw a group of four navigate over the gate but chose not to follow as we did not know what or who they would find at the other end of the trail. Distraught we took the train back to Vernazza and set to try a café we were told about, Il Parata delle Cinque Terre. There Kelly found an amazing Panna Cotta, a custard-like dessert we had never tried although it’s one of Kelly’s favorite gelato flavors. It was so good in fact that we decided to make dinner reservations for that night
. Afterwards, we ventured up the hill overlooking Vernazza to take some scenic photos. Once up there we noticed that we had started on the trail between Town #4 and #5. Curious, we continued on the path to see how far we could go. Lucky for us, there are vineyards and houses along most of this stretch so instead of a menacing gate, we found a wooden rod with a piece of paper taped to it. With much care and skill, we stepped over the wooden rod and ventured towards Monterosso. This trail was nowhere close to paved and at times quite treacherous with narrow paths overhanging steep drop-offs and steps which, with the rain, had turned into cascading streams with no railings. Even so, we made it safely to Monterosso enjoying amazing scenery along the way. After our strenuous hike, we quickly caught the train back to our home base to swim in the harbor and sunbathe on the rocks. After the beach, we bought Limoncino (we’re still not sure if there’s a difference between this and the Limoncello we’d previously heard about). We went back to the awesome terrace at our hotel to enjoy our Limoncino before dinner. There we met a large group of friendly Kiwi’s (New Zealanders). We relaxed there and enjoyed the company until our dinner reservation at Il Pirata. Dinner was as good as expected. Unexpectedly, we were sat next to the same two women who had recommended the restaurant to us and had a nice dinner comparing journeys. Creighton was hoping to try an authentic Tiramisu, however, the Sicilian owners informed us that it was the worst Italian dessert and therefore, we were given a different treat. While the chocolate dessert was good, the panna cotta we tried earlier was far better.
The next morning, we caught an early train to Florence, but not before one final pastry at – you guessed it – Il Pirata! We were sad to leave the beautiful town of Vernazza in Cinque Terre. This stop has definitely been a favorite but the Most Excellent Adventure must continue!
After our rainy, relaxing day in Nice we woke up refreshed the next morning ready to grab a pastry and head to the train station for a nearly full day of traveling, consisting of five trains to Cinque Terre. When we got to the packed train station, we overheard some girls speaking in English and saying all trains were canceled for the day due to the flooding in southern France. Fortunately, at the information desk we found out that one track was still open going towards Italy, however trains were severely delayed. Luckily, after juggling a few train schedules, we were able to make it into Cinque Terre only a few hours later than scheduled. Unfortunately, we had to take a regional train from Ventimiliga to Cinque Terre, making 33 stops along the way (11 of which were in Genoa alone).