Saturday, June 22, 2013

Cinque Terre

Most people I speak to here in Malaysia have never heard of Cinque Terre. We too only found out about this beautiful cluster of five villages in the north east of Italy when I received advice from my colleague who visited this place a couple of years ago. After a bit of researching and viewing the many beautiful photos of Cinque Terre, we decided to add two nights of Cinque Terre into our itinerary. And we were so glad we did!

We took an early train from Rome, arriving late morning and stayed for two nights.

Cinque Terre marked as "A" above
Cinque Terre ("cinque" means "five" and "terre" means "land" in Italian) consists of five villages, all having the similar features such as colourful buildings hugging cliffs, vineyards and fishing as a main source of income. 

Had I not immediately named this picture, I would have forgotten where I took this! This is Manarola.
However, I think nowadays tourism contributes a large part of their income too since it was difficult to find a place to stay despite trying to book 1.5 months in advance. Each village was also packed with tourists when we got there. 

Streets packed with tourists

Another similarity is the narrow steep paths that coil around each village. Sometimes you never know where you'll end up, which was quite exciting!

Each village has a church that looks almost similar.

Usually at the front of the church, there is a little square for the congregation to gather, I suppose.

Most of the train stations in Cinque Terre are beside the sea so as you step off the trains, you're greeted with a gorgeous view of the sea.

Train station at Manarola

After visiting each village, we discovered each of them had their own charms, one has a beach, another is located on top of a hill so you have to climb many flights of steps to reach the town etc.

We stayed in Manarola, the second village from the main station La Spezia. We splurged on our accommodation but it was worth every Euro!

Our own private balcony with two deck chairs facing the sea
A picnic table where we had our meals overlooking the sea. KS enjoying the sea breeze.
The sea view from where you can see the other town Corniglia from here
The rocks are purposely placed there to calm the waters before it hits the cove where all the fishing boats are launched from. 
View from our window
So where is this place we stayed? It's called Vandiris Room #3. The view was so beautiful that I didn't want to leave to explore the village!

Here's the famous postcard shot Manarola is famous for:

If you stay in Manarola, it is recommended you eat at this place:

Recommended by my colleague, we made reservations on our second night (as they were closed on our first night). The place was packed when we got there at 8pm. However, the owner made sure we got one of the best seats outside, gave us two glasses of white wine while we waited for our table to be ready and the seafood was fresh. KS declared this restaurant made him decide Manarola is the best of all the villages!

The first day we arrived, we hung around Manarola, walking up the hills of vineyards and exploring the tiny paths. I also napped that afternoon, enjoying the cool sea breeze on a hot afternoon. Actually, it was the perfect weather to go visiting the other villages but we didn't know the next day was going to be cloudy and rainy. Oh well. 

So the next day, we took the train to the furthest village, Monterosso al Mare, the only village with a beach (two beaches, actually). This village was the flattest, with the least climbing required.

We made our way down south to the next town, Vernazza. We sat by the fishing boats and had our lunch here. 
Colourful fishing boats at Vernazza
View of Vernazza from the top
The next town was Corniglia. Sorry, because of your many many steps, I didn't quite like you, Corniglia. Still, it was a charming village.
See the zig zagging stairs? :(
Corniglia buildings facing the sea
Manarola was the fourth village from the north and the last village was Riomaggiore.

A dramatic "V" shaped cove with tall buildings on both sides.
If I were to do this again, I would spread my visit to the other villages on both days so that I spend a bit more time in each rather than a quick visit each. Since we visited the other four villages on a single day, my legs were aching by the end of the day!

The morning we left, a storm had hit Cinque Terre. Waves below our balcony pounded on the rocks. It was quite amazingly scary. So do take note of the weather if you are to visit otherwise you'll be limited in your activities such as hiking (the trails were closed when we visited the other villages) or swimming.

Would I recommend anyone to visit Cinque Terre? Definitely! Be prepared for a lot of climbing and hiking but it would all be worth it for the magnificent views. It certainly is a different part of Italy, giving you a short break from ruins, large basilicas, churches or ancient history. 

I liked Manarola, Vernazza and Riomaggiore but if you asked me to name them in order, I can't. This is more of by elimination (Corniglia is too steep, Monterosso is not steep enough - I'm hard to please, huh?).

We bade a sad goodbye and left for a day trip to Pisa before heading to Florence

For more information, visit KS blogpost on Cinque Terre.

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