Overlooking the town of Vernazza

Alora!

The Cinque Terre is a string of 5 small coastal towns known since Roman times for white wine, and unfortunately, for piracy. There is a path that connects them all and it has become a favorite Italian destination to do ‘the walk’ and visit all 5 unique seaside towns in a day.  The largest of the 5; Monterosso al Mare is the most northern followed by Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore. For those who choose not to walk there is a local train that runs every 30 minutes and a ferry for options. Unfortunately, there had been a horrific mudslide days before we arrived which hospitalized a handful of people. Therefore the infamous trail #2 that brought many people to the Cinque Terre had been closed. Upon arrival, we discovered the weather forecast had been incorrect and the sea breeze brought warm sun and air. But, we should have known better, winds off the water can bring more unpredictable weather. Our hotel was located in the newer section of Monterosso Al Mare named La Villa Degli Argentieri; a converted villa with large rooms, windows and some rooms with picturesque balconies and a great view. Our ‘sea view’ room happened to be tucked on a side alley, but you could still smell the salt water. On the roof was a large terrace with comfortable chaise lounges and bar service available.

The Vin Diesel look alike who checked us in recommended a restaurant down the street for the local specialty; trofie pasta with pesto. Trofie differs in that it is made of small pieces of pasta dough that are hand-rolled into a noodle and reminded me of a small dog’s chew toy, but with a noodle texture.  That night, the food was horrible. Half the menu was not available, the spaghetti we could order was undercooked and the seafood platter looked questionable at best. So, we drank wine and Limoncello before sending back our food and continuing down the main drag for some decent pasta. Even with the bad food, after a good night’s sleep and waking up refreshed with the sun shining it was hard not to love this place.

Since Trail #2 had been closed, Chris and I thought it would be just as easy to take the ‘upper’ path. While the Italians do many things right, I would say we experienced some national park trails that could use some work. The trail was barely marked, and would be a slick downhill spiral if you were to try the slippery limestone path during a rainy day. Three hours of a hike climbing straight up and we had made it…. To a beautiful and secluded converted Monastery connected to an age-old Church. Here, we shared some Prosecco (Italian sparkling wine, similar to champagne) with some Swedish visitors.They were incredibly generous with their Prosecco and ridiculously kind! Since they were still waiting for the rest of their group, we bade them good-bye and joined a few other hikers on the journey to find the continuation of the trail to the town of Vernazza. We would be arriving from above and it would be another few hours before we would end our trek in the next town over – a much different and more straining path than I’m sure #2 would have been. However, on our descent we came upon an Australian psychologist who had spent time in the States. He had just ventured from our next stop, Lucca, where he was attending a conference for work. We chatted for the rest of the walk and before we knew it we had landed the best view of the idyllic, small town.  It was the same view that you see in most magazines or travel journals/shows and like always, much better.

There have been many heavy rains and mudslides that afflicted the Cinque Terre in recent years. While the majority has been re-built, the town, with its famous marina full of colorful boats and waves crashing on the sea-break, has photos and an emotion reminiscent of what the townsfolk had endured. We met our first Vernazza character while finally eating some trofie and pesto. Sitting by the sea at a nice restaurant we enjoyed all different sights – from the elderly wearing multiple layers, to swim-suit wearing sun bathers and swimmers, and many different tour groups as they passed by. Our waiter was someone so peculiarly fascinating that we doubted the most creative person could have invented him. A pot-belly, dirty Italian who smoked in between waiting on his customers, coughed into his hands before touching dishes or refilling drinks and he didn’t even try to hide his contempt for his job and everyone he saw. He muttered to himself in Italian. He rarely smiled unless it was put on just for show, and wanting you to know that. While oddly pleasant and halfway decent, he definitely was not up to our 20% gratuity standards.  The afternoon was spent lying on the large multi-colored boulders haphazardly placed as the sea-break.  We watched the ferry that traveled from town to town ride the waves and people board and un-board. The sun was warm and even though it was the beginning of October, it felt like a warm beach-y day. We headed back to Monterosso al Mare for one last dinner. We had some Limoncello, strolled the boardwalk and dipped our feet in the Mediterranean. The next morning we had no schedule, but hoped to arrive in Lucca sooner than later to maximize our time there.  Many tourists walk away every day from the Cinque Terre, enamored by it, I was one of them.

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Hannah

Hannah

Leisure Travel Specialist at Travel Leaders (Stillwater Office)
Hannah

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