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.