Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Travel Destination: Cinque Terre, Italy

Along the northwestern coast of Italy is five small villages that make up Cinque Terre. These five villages - Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, and Monterosso al Mare - are connected by a walking trail, known as Sentiero Azzurro, and are easily accessible by train as well. The distance from one town to the next varies with the toughest legs from Vernazza to Monterosso and Corniglia to Vernazza. The entire hike can be done in less than 6 hours in one day, if desired. Because it was scorching hot when I went, I took it easy and did the entire hike in three days.  This gave me time to explore each town. When I was there, the trail was closed off between Manarola and Corniglia, making the hike shorter and easier.

The rolling terrain of this region is a visual feast but can make the hike a bit of a challenge. I found it be relatively easy overall and in fact, I ended up walking the trail in flip flops and sundresses. Although the heat was a bit straining at times, I was purely focused on my surroundings. Not only is the Mediterranean constantly in your purview, the region boasts plenty of local wine and olive producers. The small towns are little treasures themselves, each with its own character.

I am most familiar with Riomaggiore as it was my base. The town was not the quietest out of all the towns but offered plenty of restaurants and markets. I always ended my day here with a swim at the beach, even if it was a little bit too crowded at times. Manarola and Corniglia were smaller towns. At the top of Manarola sits the Church of San Lorenzo and the town's bell tower. I thought Corniglia was the most charming despite the lack of restaurants and shops. The roads in this quant little town were narrow and windy. In order to swim in Corniglia, the descent down to the cove from the town was quite steep. Vernazza was impressive for its natural harbor and sleepy feel. Monterosso was the most touristic out of all the towns on account of its large sandy beaches and crystalline waters.

Cinque Terre was breathtaking.  I intended to stay there for 3 days/2 nights but ended up staying 5 days/4 nights!  I felt relaxed the entire time.  Every day my routine was similar.   I woke up around 8 am to have a light breakfast, then went for a short hike, went to lunch, took a nap on the beach, went for a swim after my stomach had settled and then had a seafood dinner.  Honestly, wish I could live like that for the rest of my life.

Monterosso al Mare
The beautiful sunset.
Fried squid, anchovies and french fries.

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