Cinque Terre is a UNESCO World Heritage site on the northwest coast of Italy. It is named for 5 towns Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore. Cars are not allowed in the 5 towns, so visitors must arrive by rail, ferry (April to October) or by hiking trail.
We arrived in Cinque Terre from Nice, France. There was a bit of switching of trains and much travel on the slower regional trains before we got to our destination. Sometimes the best places are the most difficult to get to.
Cinque Terre is also a national park. When you go there you should purchase a park pass. Passes are available at different prices depending on how many days you plan to use them. The pass gives you access to the hiking trails and allows you to travel on the trains between Levanto and La Spezia. This is great because if you are not a great hiker you can take the train to one village and hike to the next or even take the trains from village to village. Cornigila is the only village that is not directly accessible by train and you will have to wait for a bus, hike up a hill or walk the steps. The park pass comes with a map of the park including the hiking trails with the distances and times for walking the trails.
We stayed in Vernazza. Our reservation at Vernazza Rooms was not honoured and we had to scramble to find other accommodation. We went to the cafe just down from the train station called The Blue Marlin, where they also serve a great breakfast. The bartender suggested we check around the waterfront square for someone renting rooms.
The father of Martina Callo, who also rents rooms, was sitting on a bench in the square, and although his daughter didn’t have any vacancies, he found us a room right on the square for one night. We couldn’t believe our luck. We had a beautiful room overlooking the harbour and square. The next day he introduced us to a young woman who had a room available for the duration of our stay. It was a bit more expensive and not on the square, but was a lovely room and we were happy we could stay. Vernazza has tall buildings built along a narrow piece of land near the water. The towns narrow alleys are fun to explore and lose yourself in.
It was early October and the water was still warm enough for swimming. I was quite excited to be able to swim in the Mediterranean in Vernazza’s sheltered harbour. We did a few of the hikes and took the train as well as the ferry and visited the 5 towns.
We were fortunate to arrive for a festival in Monterosso. It is always fun to join in the festivities in a different country, even if you don’t quite know the reason behind them.
The Cinque Terre was an unforgettable place and well worth a visit. The only problem was that lots of people felt that way. During the day the towns could be fairly busy, but by evening most people had left for hotel rooms outside the park. There was always something to do and three days was not enough time to spend here.
In October 2011, Vernazza was hit by a devastating flood. It was heartbreaking to see the damage that was caused to this beautiful town. Efforts to help restore Vernazza are being supported by http://www.savevernazza.com.
This started as a post about doing your research before you travel and veered off course in a wonderful way.
I love the research part of travelling. I suppose years of working as a theatre tour coordinator taught me to be an organized traveller. Don’t get me wrong. I leave everything open when I arrive at a place. I just like make sure I have my accommodation booked and know how to get to the room so I can dump my knapsack and explore.
I think I spent as much time researching places to visit, where to stay and how to get there as we spent on the trip. It was worth every minute. My husband was always a little dubious when I would hop off a train in a new city and start looking for the next bus or subway, or even more unnerving for him, start walking to our accommodations. We usually ended up right where we were supposed to be-or pretty close.
The times I didn’t have our route figured out so well were also ok, because we were able to meet the people who lived in a new place. It always amazed me that no matter where you went, you could always find someone who was willing to help you find your way.
In Siena, Italy we had gotten on the correct bus at the train station to take us into the city, but didn’t know when to get off the bus. I asked a younger woman, who I figured would speak English, where we should get off the bus to get to Via della Sapienza. While she was pondering an answer an older woman and man jumped into the conversation. By the time our stop came, lots of helpful people were telling us to “go, go now”, or something like that in Italian. The man who had made suggestions earlier met us at our stop, we must have looked incredibly confused on the bus, because he had gotten off one stop earlier. He very kindly walked us part way to where we needed to go. We were still in trouble. The old city is full of narrow alleys and streets. After conversations with shop owners and a police officer we found our accommodation, Albergo Bernini. It was worth getting lost for.
We also ran into a large crowd of very helpful people in Naples who helped us figure out which train to catch to Sorrento. A wonderful young couple on the express bus from the airport to the port of Athens (Piraeus), used their blackberry to find directions to our hotel and even talked to the bus driver to make sure he was aware of our stop. These encounters with people are what make travel worth while. There is natural beauty and wonderful examples of art, architecture and engineering all over the world. But, when you travel and are blessed by the kindness of strangers it reaffirms your faith in humanity, and the memories of these encounters become more remarkable than the sights you have seen.
The following is the itinerary for 6 weeks in Europe. We travelled in September and October 2010. I carried a print copy of this and sent a copy to my gmail account. It covered a lot more ground than most people would like, but we enjoyed the pace.
I tried to balance urban area stays with smaller centre visits and changed the number of days we stayed in different places. The smaller centres were usually serviced by regional trains or buses, and sometimes both trains and buses had to be used. This made getting there part of the adventure.
|Flight LH 6741||11:45 PM||Confirm Hotel t Keizershof||2494.22|
|Arr: London, LHR 9:35 am||Hotel t`Keizershof c||Cash only, 44 e per night, incl bkft||240|
|Pancreas Stn Dep 14:34||to St Pancras, underground directly from Heathrow to Kings Cross-St Pancras, follow signs for St Pan international|
|arr Brussels 5:33||Keizerhof: cross square in front of stn. Diagonal towards traffic lights on left, cross ring road at traffic lights, follow signs, Site Stl Jan or Minnewater. Hotel on Left # 126||44euro|
|Brugges||Htl t`Keizershof c||44 euro|
|Dpt Brugge||Moevenpick Amsterdam||Confirmation # 15718SY055882 , 250.77 paid in full||250.77 us|
|City Centre c||15 min walk fr station, Take harbourside-north exit from stn, turn right continue about 12 min, will see tram line, pass 2 traffic lights, after 1st light go over bridge, Hotel is between main road and water and is visible shortly after leaving station.|
|Arr: Amsterdam||Piet Heinkade 11||traffic lights, after 1st light go over bridge, Hotel is between main road and water and is visible shortly after leaving station.|
|Dpt: Amsterdam||Jugendgastehaus c||Inc Bkft and dinner 24.40 +7.50 + 3.10 hostel stamp|
|Bacharach||turn right from train stn. 1st stairs are on left shortly after leaving stn. Steep climb, 2nd stairs are further into town next to church.|
|Arr: Bacharachfirstname.lastname@example.org||Michael Kumpfe|
|Rhine River Cruise||Jugendgastehaus c|
|Dep: Bacharach||Gaftehaus Raidel c||59 euro w bath pay cash||59 euro|
|Romantic Road||Norry Raidel owner|
|Rothenburg de Taber||Wenggasse 3,||Raidel@romanticroad.com|
|Depart Rothenburg||Hotel Merkur c||Package 298 incl breakfast 2 nights plus both spas||298 euro|
|Merkurstr 8||# 145405|
|Arrive Baden-Badenemail@example.com||take bus line 201 from train stn, get off at Augustaplatz bus runs every 10 min|
|tel: 07221/30 30|
|Baden-Baden||Hotel Merkur c|
|Depart Baden Baden||Maison Martin Judd||35.euro+ 2.60er tax +6 er each breakfast||49.60 euro|
|Centre of town near Cathedral St Martin||12 rue de l’Ange, tel. 03 89 41 58 72 take bus #1,2 or 3 from the stn to the TI, walk from Unterlinden Museum past Monoprix and veer left on rue des Clefs. Left on rue Etroite and right on rue de l’Ange, this is not a hotel so there is no real reception|
|Dep Colmar||Hotel du Champ de Mars||98 eruo||98 euro|
|13:06 Colmar Stn||7 rue champ de Marfirstname.lastname@example.org|
|tel: +3314515230||No brkfst|
|Arr Paris 16:37||c|
|Paris||Hotel du Champ de Mars||Subway: Ecole Militaire||98euro|
|RER: Invalides—Pont de l’Alma|
|c||Bus: 28, 80, 82, 92|
|Paris||Hotel du Champ de Mars||98 euro|
|Dep Paris 15:15||Hotel Boquier Avignon||64 euro La Camargue||64 euro|
|Arr Avignon 17:56||No brkfst|
|Avingon||Hoetl Boquier Avignon||64 euro|
|Dep Avignon 12:15||Best Western Alba||90 euro||90 euro|
|Arr Nice 15:34||41 Ave Jean Medecin||# 169.870.658|
|Depart Nice||Vernazza Rooms||San Franciso rm 5||75 euro|
|Arrive Cinque Terre||Vernazza Rooms did not keep our reservation so we had to find other accommodation in Vernazza.|
|Cinque Terre||100 euro|
|Depart Cinque Terre||Casalagana B & B||95 euro incl brkf||95 euro|
|Arrive Venice||Calle Ruga Giuffa 4902|
|Venice||Casalagana B & B||95 eruo|
|Venice||Casalagana was awful, we left Venice a day early and spent extra time in Siena||65 euro|
|Travel to Florence||Siena||65 euro share bath||65 euro|
|Travel to Siena||Via della Sapienza 15|
|We hoped to rent a car, but ended up travelling by train||Montepulciano||70eruo spa discount, parking||70 euro|
|Via San Donata 14||ref: IHR9194058|
|+39 0578 757473|
|Getting here was a bit of work by train and bus, but well worth it.||Bagnoregio c||80 euro inc bkfst, park||80 euro|
|Hotel Romantica Pucci|
|Piazza Cavour 1||0761-792121|
|Sorrento||309 euro for 3 days full use of spa and brkft incl||309 eruo|
|Train to Sorrento||Ulisses Deluxe||Vial del Mare 22|
|Wellness pkg||80067 Sorrento|
|Sorrento to Rome||Dreams Pireaus||60 euro (owe 51 euro, as paid deposit on room)||60 euro|
|Flight to Athens||79-81 Filonos Str and 78-80 Notara Str||Ref: 1572971||130.44 euro|
|Ferry to islands||Anemomilos||232.00 euros for 4 days incl bkft & transfers||232 euro|
|Booking .com / 144.154.194 4767|
|Arr 3:00 pm|
|Bus to Oia|
|Ferry to Paros 15:30 (3:30) arr: 18:45 (6:45)||Anna Platanou Hotel||32 euro per night nobkft||32 euro|
|Dimitris will meet at ferry||Bath, incl, close to town and beach|
|Anna Platanou Hotel||32 euro||32 euro|
|Ferry to Athens||Athens||72 euro|
|Dep 10:45 arr15:00 (3 pm)||Attalos Hotel||Booking id: 45421|
|Athens||72 euro||72 euro|
|Athens||Attalos||72 euro||72 euro|
|Athens||Sofitel Airport Hotel||208 euro paid||208 euro|
|Int# 15351172844||No bkfst|
|Flight LH 5917||Athens 8:35 am|
|Aegean Airline SA||Munich 10:14 am|
|LH 474||Dep Munich 11:50 am|
|Arr Montreal 2:15 pm|
|LH 9558 Air Canada||Dep Montreal 6:50 pm|
|Arr Halifax 9:10 pm|