Published: October 16th 2010July 1st 2010
I do not know how people see the Cinque Terre in only a day or too. There is so much sitting and so many views and little swimming holes and stores and coffee shops to explore, not to mention the costal trail and the hundreds of kilometres of foothill trails.
We slept in, had a leisurely breakfast of fruit and corn flakes on our balcony, and headed to the costal trail with bathing suits, snacks, and water in our pack. We planned to train over to Riomaggiore, then do the easy walk from there to Manarola, then after lunch hike to Corniglia. Alas, the best laid plans. We hit the train station around noon, only to find there wasn’t another train for an hour. So, we decided to do the walk back wards! We started hiking.
Sam and I do some hiking in Nova Scotia, but not a lot. Neither of us was in peak physical condition during this trip. But, we found the Corniglia to Manarola hike fairly easy. It was under two hours, with only a few steep climbs. It was a hike though, make no mistake: dirt paths, rocky parts, a need to navigate around tree
routes and other obstacles. We had a view of the ocean almost the whole way, and it was fantastic.
We stopped for a swim about three quarters of the way out, on a rocky little hamlet with questionable steps leading down to it. We changed using our towels to camouflage ourselves. The water was pure aqua and perfect after an hour and a bit hiking. We swam out a bit, looking over the path we had trod. We could see Corniglia in the distance one way, Manarola the other. We dried off in the sun on the rocks, though I made the mistake of leaving my bathing suit on (this would make me cranky later). We resumed the walk to Manarola.
Though we could see it from the water, we couldn’t see the town once we got back on the path. It was an amazing sight when, about fifteen minutes later, we rounded a corner and - ta da! There was Manarola! Like it appeared out of no where.
Our first entry into Manarola was less impressive. There was an American tour group of teens whom we’d seen the day before, and they were all in Manarola’s
little cove off its main square, jumping and diving into the water. It gave the place a water-park feel, and turned Sam right off. We went to explore, but Manarola itself didn’t impress - its shops seemed touristy, its main street fairly dull, and its restaurants overpriced. We got a mediocre foccacia pizza slice for lunch and just sat on a bench next to the shop to eat it. Unfortunately, we were soon joined by some of the American teenagers. We just shook our heads at their behaviour (littering, swearing, and of course the ever present teenage politics towards one and other), and after they left speculated on how we were going to survive those years with our own (future, non-existent) kids. We also debated whether we would let them come on a tour group like this, given that not one of those kids seemed to appreciate the wonder of where they were.
We continued on the path to Riomaggiore. This was more of a stroll than a hike, and it was the path we liked the least. It’s called the “Lover’s Walk”, but I really didn’t find anything romantic about it. The path was paved; a good deal
of it was in a tunnel-like setting where you could hardly see the ocean; and it was swamped with people. The only good thing about this part of the path, in my opinion, is it provides the opportunity for people with less mobility - due to age, disability or the fact that they are travelling with young kids - to experience a piece of the Cinque Terre costal trail. It was a shorter stroll than my morning walk to work, and then we were there.
Between the disappointment and the damp bathing suit, my mood when we hit Riomaggiore was edging on extremely cranky. We got some gelato hoping that would perk me up. It was good, but it didn’t. We explored the main town and then I had had it. Sam said we could train back, but I knew he wanted to see the crumbling tower and to climb up the hill. I told him to go ahead. He set me up on a bench in the town square, where I watched some local children play and some local moms chat. I also had a nap. He explored for about 45 minutes, and declared Riomaggiore to be more
“real” than Manarola, and that he liked it better.
We trained back to Corniglia, and Sam inquired about dinner. It was edging on six. I, who normally loves to eat out, was so tired I suggested we grab something to make at the store and eat in on our balcony. Sam, who will always choose to eat in, was delighted with the suggestion, particularly given our million dollar view. We got wine, pasta, sauce and a bottle of the Italian delicacy, Limoncello. We said “buon serra” to the elderly locals again on the way to our apartment.
We sat on the balcony, enjoying what must be one of the best views in the world while ate some pasta and salad, and drank our way through a quarter of the Limoncello.
There are more photos below