Cinque Terre

The Cinque Terre - five lands - is on the northern coast of Italy, on the French Riviera. I was told the weather between this and the Amalfi Coast varies, and that CT's a safer bet in April. It was rainy on the AC and hot here, but it turned out that was just a coincidence, as it started raining in CT the day after I visited. It's quite a different experience though - unlike the AC, where towns are very far away from each other, you can hike between the villages in CT, with fantastic views along the way. Unfortunately, after floods a few years ago, most of the easy trails have been shut, and only the longer, slightly more arduous ones remain. They're still not exactly difficult for people with reasonable fitness, but they do take a lot longer to do. So if you're visiting CT for just a day, you invariably have to pick between lounging around in the villages, enjoying their beaches; or hiking through the majority of the day. 

It wasn't a particularly difficult dilemma for me, as my priority was (shamefaced, but not really) food. The Italian Riviera is where focaccia and pesto are said to have originated. So, of course, I bought the day pass which let me take trains/buses if I needed to. I hiked some, lazed some, and took the vehicle whenever it felt too hot, carefully planning my day around where I wanted to eat (more on that later). My moment of nirvana for the day happened at Monterosso, the highest village, as I waited eagerly for the best bakery in town to start producing their focaccia. I got the first batch, literally hot from the oven, after a short wait while it baked. Best start to the day ever. 

Oh, and the views were pretty cool too. The is-this-real-life? blue of the water is the same as on the Amalfi Coast, and there are painted houses hugging mountainous shores, but the two are very unlike each other in ways that are apparent in person, but hard to describe in words. For that matter, each village is so different from the other, despite being about 10 minutes apart by train. Quick summary: Monterosso was the best place to sit and sunbathe. Vernazza's the fishing village with the most photographed laundry in the world. Corniglia has more terraces/vineyards and no direct views of the sea, as it's on top of a promontory. Manarola is the one I wouldn't mind missing if I went back - a bit uncharitable, I know, but I say that to be practical rather than because I disliked it. Riomaggiore has the postcard views and, therefore, the biggest crowds, but is unmissable. My favourite view was from Volestra, where I hiked from Manarola. 

I will say this: if you feel bad about missing out on the hiking to do the arguably more touristy lounging - the people I know who hiked have pictures that they caption 'I think this was xyz village', but if you walk in and spend time in each, you can't possibly mistake one for the other. 

That said, Rick Steves is largely responsible for the popularity of Cinque Terre. It's within a national park, and is a very man-made attraction, unlike some of the rustic places you may find if you were driving down the coast line. For me, the villages themselves lacked the raw charm of the Amalfi Coast, but the real magic lay when I walked off the beaten path. That's certainly where I met the most interesting people. So I'd recommend hiking at least a little if you start to feel overly touristy when you're in the villages. 

If you're trying to figure out how to optimally day-trip to CT, I'm rather pleased with my hack, described here, along with my food reccos and other notes. And pictures are here.

No comments:

Post a Comment