Friday, November 14, 2008
The Cinqueterre - from Vernazza to Monterosso
view of Vernazza from the harbour
I didn't know about the Cinqueterre before I started planning for this trip, but after I read about it and seen such gorgeous pictures I knew we'd have to go there. It fitted right into our itinerary, halfway between Tuscany and Lago di Como.
The Cinqueterre is currently a Unesco Heritage Site, located in coastal Liguria and comprised of 5 villages by the sea: Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore.
In retrospect, I can say that although I enjoyed our time here, it was maybe a bit too much touristy for my taste. Prices are therefore not cheap, and expect some places to be a bit crowded. We were told that it's usually quite busy all year round except for the winter months, September and October being some of the busiest months.
The best way to get there is by train but since we were driving we had to leave the car at the parking place above Vernazza and catch the park bus down. There's limited traffic inside the Cinqueterre and the best way to explore the villages is either by boat or hiking the paths between them.
We had chosen to stay in Vernazza, by far my favorite village of the five, and stayed in one of Tonino Basso's rooms. A great choice, for many reasons: it's located right next to the bus stop (very convenient if you don't want to be lugging your bags all around Vernazza, and trust me there can be a lot of steps to climb), far enough from the train station so you won't hear the trains passing by, and most important, located downstairs is the best pasticceria of all the Cinqueterre (more about that later)
So after we checked in we went in search of a place to have lunch and found a nice trattoria on the main street.
lunch at Trattoria da Sandro
We knew we would want to hike between all the villages (12 kms in total with a few steep climbs) and decided to split the hiking in two days. The first afternoon we would take the Monterosso-Vernazza path, and then the next day we would hike all the way to Riomaggiore, passing by the remaining villages. So we took the boat to Monterosso first, and hiked back to Vernazza hoping to catch the sunset on the way ...
leaving Vernazza by boat
Monterosso is the largest village, and the only one with a sandy beach, but in my opinion not as charming as the rest.
The hiking path starts at one of the beach ends, and it's a little less than 4 km to Vernazza, which we were able to cover in about 1 1/2 hours (2 hours if you go slower). It is the most difficult part of the whole path, so it was good we decided to do it separately. Especially going in the Vernazza direction there's a lot of steps and somewhat steep climbs to go up. Nothing too dramatic, especially when compared to Iceland.
In the middle of a particular way up you'll find an improvised refreshment shack run by a very talkative guy, and it was nice to rest for a few minutes and drink some fresh lemonade !
The views are worth it, especially coming down to Vernazza ...
Arriving back in Vernazza again, just time for some ice cream while watching the last specks of sunset from the harbour.
Later that night, an early dinner at Gianni Franzi and time for some rest.
(can't help myself and have to post some photos of the cats we found in Vernazza .. too cute and cuddly)
More photos at Flickr here