The Five Villages of the Cinque Terre
No wonder the Cinque Terre is a Unesco-protected heritage site. The landscape is extreme, green clad mountains dropping sharply to the sea. Both the second and third day, there was foggy mist encircling the hill tops.
The five villages which make up the area cling to the cliffs, literally built precariously on rocks, and brightly painted in quaint fishing village style. The area relys heavily on agriculture and tourism. I think they are experiencing a wicked population decline, as there's not a lot to do, and they're quite remote.
We stayed in Riomaggiore, which is a town with a VERY steep central street, up which we needed to walk a good 200 metres, then up steps, to get to our apartment. Sheena's suitcase on wheels has the advantage that it is easy to hand over to a man to lug (as they often ask if you want help). My pack however, is a lot more cumbersome and less easy to offload, and in this case I was incredibly jealous of Sheena while the apartment guy took over pulling her heavy suitcase, while I was left to gasp and stagger my way up the fifty billion steps by myself :-)
We also discovered that the seaside can be incredibly cold. Our apartment was decked for summer, with tiles, no rugs, no heating, no insulation, no kitchen, and one blanket each. We wore about 5 layers of clothes to bed, and by the end of our stay, I'd caught a cold.
Day 2 we set out to walk the trail between the 5 villages. The walk was cheerily described as a "9km long, easy day walk", with every leg of the trail rated either easy or mild. Well, I'm not sure which mountain goat wrote it, but they deserve to be thrown off one of their darn cliffs. The walk was steep vertical climb, then sharp decline, then steep vertical climb etc for 4.5 hours (aparently it usually takes 5 hours). We did this in the heat of the day too, and also hadn't realised it was a national Italian holiday, so there were hordes of people for the first bit (even some Italian women attempting it in high-heels!!!!) Anyway, the crowds died out as the climbs got steeper and the day hotter.
The scenery was worth it... we were walking through plantations of olive groves, citrus orchards and vineyards (the vineyards had a complex lift system so they could haul the harvests uphill without killing themselves with the weight - wish they had a lift for fully-laden backpacks) and then you'd come out onto openings looking down on the villages from up high. Pretty spectacular.
By the end of the day we were shattered. We dragged ourselves into the nearest cafe at the last village, Monterosso, and recovered over a well-deserved wine or three overlooking the beach, where we could people watch, and then caught the train back to Riomaggiore.
The last day, we caught a ferry (nice to see it all by land then by sea) to Vernazza, which had been our favourite village. It has a lovely little enclosed inlet with crystal clear water and is incredibly pretty. We were still shattered, tired after being so cold we couldn't sleep, and I was sick with a cold, so we just mooched, soaking up the sunshine, watching the tourists, (it gets quite easy to pick nationalities... Americans are easy, as are Japanese, and then Germans and British have their own distinctive look too) watching the Italian families who had taken their kids to the beach for the weekend. Italian kids even look stylish when they're messing about in the rockpools at the beach.
Back to pick up our bags, and off again to the station, on route to Venice...
Posted on 16 Apr 2007 by Anna