Cinque Terre

April 26, 2013-5TerreRiomaggiore-5565

There are lots of photos in this post (25ish) – give it some time to load so you can enjoy them all!

For the next five days (including today), I will be posting a photo of one of the Cinque Terre villages, in order from South to North (the same way I traveled).  In each post, I’ll give a very brief background on the village itself and what it has to offer.

The first village of the “Five Lands” is Riomaggiore.  First settled back in the 13th century, the town of roughly 2,000 residents is home to a small beach and a main street (Via Colombo) filled with shops and restaurants.  The outskirts and hills of the town are littered with small vineyards, producing some of the best wine in all of Cinque Terre.


What a day.

Did I run to see the Leaning Tower of Pisa for a minute just so I could run and catch another train? Yep.
Did I make it to all five Cinque Terre towns by hiking? Yep.
Did I sweat more than the average human doing so? Maybe.
Would I do it all over again? Instantly.

After a 5am wake up alarm, I headed to Stazione Termini to catch a regional rail to Pisa (remember I’m at the tail end of the most expensive three months of my life, so I take the slow, uncomfortable trains now. More on this later).  I had decided while planning this trip, I might as well see the tower since the regional rail stops in Pisa. My plan was to hop off the train, jog the mile to the area where the tower is, then quickly jog the kilometer to another train station closer to the tower – sound doable? Well, it was, but it was definitely tense.

I got off the train at Pisa Centrale (which was 5 minutes late) at 10:20. My next train was leaving at 11:11, so it still seemed within reach. I pull out my phone and remember I completely forgot to screen shot the map of Pisa. No worries there are signs. A funny thing about signs in Italy is that they tend to send you a slightly longer route so you hit the main shopping streets.

April 26, 2013-PisaRiver-5535River Arno in Pisa
April 26, 2013-PisaLeaningTower-5538Leaning Tower of Pisa
Oh well, still got there with enough time to take a few photos (it’s hilarious to see how many people do the picture of themselves ‘holding up the tower.’ I wanted to leave myself 20 minutes to make it to the next train station, which I had done, but now I had no idea how to get there.  I remembered that the station was west of the tower, so west I went hoping to run into train tracks. It worked! With a few minutes to spare, I stood on the platform ready to go to my main destination – Cinque Terre.
April 26, 2013-PisaPeople-5545Note the people trying to hold up the Tower..

I had hoped to catch a train to the first village, but I was expecting too much for the train to arrive on time. We made it when the other train was departing, so I took a moment to go into the tourist office to check trail status. Unfortunately (and also kind of fortunately) the main tourist trails (closest to the water and easiest to complete) were still out of service due to a landslide in the fall. The forced me to do what I had originally intended by hiking around north of the cities and higher in the mountains. Oh and I saved 5 euro having to do so (that’s close to a days worth of food folks!).

So the first town is called Riomaggiore. I spent the first 15 minutes there attempting to find the first trail head..  The touristic trail of Via Dell’Amore is closed due to landslides – and it’s probably not the best look to walk down “The path of love” by yourself…
April 26, 2013-5TerreViadellAmore-5555Via Dell’Amore
I took a bit of a guess (going the opposite way of the map) and found the trail. The first one I chose started straight up the side of the mountain until it met a road. I could have continued with this trail, but it looked as if it’d skip the second village, so I followed the road over to another trail down to Manarola.
April 26, 2013-5TerreTrail1-5569This first trail wasn’t the most traveled.
April 26, 2013-5TerreFarming-5559The farmers of the area over the ages have done a great job of making their farms accessible.
April 26, 2013-5TerreCat-5581Lots of cats in the area!
This village is probably the village you see in most images of Cinque Terre. It’s picturesque colorful houses are built right into the side of a mountain that touches the Mediterranean Sea.  Walking down through the valley into the village, the winding road went by a few vineyards lucky enough to get relatively flat land to farm on.  The village itself was beautiful.
April 26, 2013-5TerreStreet-5591Streets in Manarola
April 26, 2013-5TerreManarola-5588Manarola – a view from in front of a Church from the thirteenth century.
I made my way through the small alleys to find the next trail that would take me through a really small village (not even part of the 5 villages) called Volastra.  The guide book I had read made mention of its vineyards and beautiful views of the villages on either side.  The hike took me up the side of a mountain that was covered in small terrace farms, mostly of grapes.  I was able to look back at the beautiful view of Manarola and enjoy a steep winding climb back up into the mountains.

April 26, 2013-5TerreManarola1-5617A view of Manarola – the path to the right was the path I took up to this spot.

April 26, 2013-5TerreDownCoast-5620A view north down the coastline

April 26, 2013-5TerreSign-5637Some very fitting graffiti on an old billboard/sign

Passing Volastra, I was about halfway to Corniglia.  The hike was amazing.  With cliffs over a hundred meters high and more terrace farms, even if you’re tired it’s hard not to appreciate the beauty.

April 26, 2013-5TerreFarn-5648It’d be tough to hate this view while working.

April 26, 2013-5TerreCliffs-5657The trails through the vineyards

April 26, 2013-5TerreFarms-5667Not surprising the most of the land up here is terraced for farming.  Corniglia to the left.

April 26, 2013-5TerrePaths-5670The trails were awesome – not for those that are afraid of heights though.

April 26, 2013-5TerrePaths1-5680Trails sometimes curved back inlands, so you’d get to enjoy the forestry areas.

Corniglia is the only village not actually on the water.  It is perched up on a cliff, still next to the water, but the water isn’t accessible.  I stopped in the village very briefly to check out the buildings and walk through a few alley ways.
April 26, 2013-5TerreCorniglia1-5701Corniglia
April 26, 2013-5TerreCornigliaVespa-5698There aren’t many cars in the area, but there are always Vespas.
I took the 7b trail that would connect with the 7 trail to Vernazza.  The hike looked like it’d be the longest (at around 7km) of steep trails.  The map I was given at a tourist stand had estimated times for each trail, basically making it a game for me – beat the estimated time by half.

April 26, 2013-5TerreCorniglia2-5711A view back towards Corniglia

April 26, 2013-5TerreCornigliaBlossoms-5714Everything was starting to blossom, perfect timing!

It wasn’t too hard to beat the time, but I had to keep reminding myself to slow down and take in all the sights and sounds of the area.  Hiking alone isn’t the smartest thing to do in general, but for me it was extremely relaxing and gave me plenty of time to reflect on the past three months of my life (that are sadly coming to an end very rapidly).  Being able to sit down on a bench staring out over the Mediterranean Sea, with no one else around, and only the sounds of leaves rustling in the wind and birds chirping, was an unbelievable atmosphere to enjoy compared to a city with horns, people yelling, and motors 24/7 I’ve been living in for the past three months.   I am extremely blessed to have been able to experience everything I have while in Italy.
April 26, 2013-5TerreCats-5762The lower cat had some bright blue eyes, unfortunately another picture didn’t show that!  These two buds were hunting something in the weeds.
Anyways, back to the hike.  I got to Vernazza a little over an hour later.  Vernazza is a village that has a beach and some castle ruins that add to it’s allure.   I stopped down on the beach to listen to some waves for a few minutes, but wanted to continue my hike – before it got dark!  Four villages down, one to go.
April 26, 2013-5TerreVernazza-5768Vernazza
I started out on the trial, first attempting to go on the touristic trail, but they were checking passes, and I decided it wasn’t worth the 5 euro toll to save myself an hour of hiking.  This forced me to head up back into the hills/mountains to wind my way around to Monterosso al Mare.
April 26, 2013-5TerreMarking-5641Trail markings
The Parks program has done a great job with trail maintenance and a relatively good job labeling the trails WHILE you’re on them, but trying to find the start of their numbered trail system is tough. You can get a map from them, but it’s almost virtually pointless when actually thing to navigate with it because the trail lines look a little random, and the cities don’t have any of their streets marked. If people are paying 5 euro to walk in their touristic trails, you’d hope they’d put a little more into the entire park. Over all though, I was pleased.
So why did I just rant a little about the map/trails?  Well, it was about 5:15pm and I knew I’d probably have two hours of sunlight left.  The trail on the map said the distance was around 5km, so it wasn’t a big deal – if I could find the trails.  I was hiking up to what I thought was the correct trail (8b), but after a few minutes (well 30 minutes) I could tell I wasn’t going the same direction as what the map showed.  I knew I was on a trial due to the red/white stripes along the side, but it definitely wasn’t the right one.  I carried on, knowing I may have just added a couple kilometers onto my hike – no worries.  Even with some sore feet (thanks to my flat footed Nikes..), I knew I could still make it in time.
Eventually, I found where the two trails were supposed to meet.  I found my correct trail and kept moving forward.  Earlier in the day, I had thought about trying to hike to the highest point, but decided it wouldn’t be worth it due to time restrictions.  Well here I was, just about at the highest point of the northern villages – whoops.  At least the view was nice.
April 26, 2013-5TerreVernazza1-5784The views were gorgeous looking back towards Vernazza.
My (roughly) 20km of hiking for the day along the black path that I marked. I guessed a little on the trails, so it’s not exact.
Descending back down into Monterosso was a bit rough on the knees, but I knew a bench would be waiting for me while I got to spend the next few hours waiting for my train.
April 26, 2013-5TerreMonterossoBeach-5808Sun setting over the beach at Monterosso al Mare

As I sit here on a bench in front of the ocean town Monterosso, couples and families walked by giving me weird looks.  Not sure if it was because I was all alone in a beach resort town, or if I had a disheveled look on my face after a long day of hiking.  I did meet a nice couple from California who were spending a few weeks in Italy touring around.

I jokingly (or not jokingly) thought about how if I happened to run into my future wife here, I would have proposed on the spot.  This place was unbelievable perfect.

With roughly seven (yes the number 7) hours until my train would be departing from La Spezia Centrale, I wanted to spend more time by the water than in the train station.  All was well till it got dark and very windy… and cold.  I took a train back to La Spezia around 11:00pm to begin the six and a half hour wait.

To be continued tomorrow…

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  • Dad April 29, 2013

    Absolutely spectacular Cam!!! Both your pics and blog and your amazing journey (20K!!!!). Definitely priceless. Love, Dad

  • Gwen Tynes April 29, 2013

    Cam, what an experience!! I enjoyed EVERY pic and every word. Thanks for sharing! Love, Aunt Gwen

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