Cinque Terre was one of the least populated areas that we visited on our trip. A collection of five villages built upon cliffs overlooking the Mediterranean, Cinque Terre is closed to vehicular traffic and is only accessible by boat or train.
Rejuvenated by our luxurious stay in Nice, we reached Monterroso al Mare – the most northerly village – by train in just a few hours. We immediately set out to explore the small stone village, beach and harbor. Focaccia, pesto and limoncello are the local specialties of this area, which is built into rocky mountain cliffs that protected it – years ago – from pirates. Our hope was to take a day to hike between the small villages via the footpath and national park that connects them. The trail was said to be closed due to landslides and we did not push our luck beating our own path, though heard that some travelers were still making the hike. Instead we took the train down to the most southerly village: Vernazza.
Vernazza is without a doubt the most photo-worthy of the villages with its chalk-bright stucco and terraced hills. We were quite glad, though, that we had chosen to stay in Monterosso, which seems slightly larger and has a sandy beach area for swimming. Not that the lack of sand kept those in Vernazza from taking a dip into the Mediterranean.
We allotted nearly three days in Cinque Terre – plenty of time to recoup and explore the area. After our rushed paced, we appreciated the slow down… though we felt that two days would have been plenty of time to truly explore and enjoy the whole area. On Sunday we hopped aboard the local ferry to view the cities by sea. The train cuts quickly through the mountain and, though it gets you between the towns, does not afford much of a view. This boat ride was the most beautiful way to view the region.
Another attraction we were hoping to view on our trip was the Via dell’Amore, or Lovers’ Lane, which was the only connection between the two villages during the war. Sadly, this was also closed. We were forced to return to Monterroso to rent chairs on the beach and soak in the mellow sunshine of the Italian Riviera. The little swimming cove in Monterroso is gentle and invitingly warm. As we laid on our backs in the bouyant turquoise water, we had to pinch ourselves to believe that we were actually there in that place of the guidebooks, doing the very things we had read about. Life is good.Our hotel offered many amenities such as an afternoon pasta bar, large morning breakfast, beach towels, use of snorkling equipment, bicycles and kayak gear. We had many ambitions on our arrival of Cinque Terre that simply melted away as we strolled the stone walkways of Monterroso.
Thanks in part to Rick Steves and his guidebook, this region has become “overrun” by tourists. It was certainly busy during our stay in July, but not overly crowded in comparison to the bigger cities. The lack of cars also made it feel slower and less busy some how. I cannot wait to return to the Mediterranean and explore its many jeweled ports.