Thursday, 2 February 2012

Cinque terra, Italy

Cinque Terra literally means five lands. Its called 5 lands because of the 5 little picturesque towns that made up Cinque Terra. These five tiny villages – Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore – are cut off by mountains choked with olive groves and dry-stone-walled vineyards, where farmers have eked out a living over the centuries. Cinque Terre is one of Italy’s treasures. Part of its charm is the lack of visible corporate development. Paths, trains and boats connect the villages, and cars cannot reach them from the outside.

The best way to get to Cinque Terra is by train to La Spezia from any city (Rome & Florence being the most accessible), then take another train that comes every 15 minutes and stops at each of the 5 towns.
We stayed at Riomaggiore as it is supposedly the main town where you can buy tickets to the national park. To hike or walk the trails, you will need to pay €3 per person. We took the day package of €10 per pax which includes unlimited train & bus services + the fees for the trails.  Unfortunately, the last 2 towns were damaged by flooding last October, so we couldn't walk there.  Good thing we got our exercise in walking to Veladros after missing the bus.  A straight up the mountain 1 hour hike left us breathless but the view was equally breathtaking.

Riomaggiore is connected to Manarola via the Via del'Amore boardwalk. It is also known as the Lovers' Lane. We saw a lot of padlocks locked on every chains or metal grills along the boardwalk and graffiti on the rock walls with love messages. It is a very lovely walk as it overlooks the Ligurian Sea.

The hike that connects from Manarola to Vernazza to Corniglia was tough. You need to wear proper hiking shoes as the terrain consist of steep climb and plenty of loose rocks. The hike was well worth the muscle aches after because you actually get to walk through all the vineyards, pass by houses of the farmers & get the great view of the entire place from the top of the hills.

If you are ever tired of seeing all the architectural stuff in Italy, Cinque Terra offers a good change of environment. The serenity that envelops you during the hike is priceless.  The only kicker is that in the off season and due to the flooding, there was no food in the last 2 towns.  NONE.  So we had to head back to Manarola for dinner.  Also, NO gelato shops were open in the off season, so that's our main gripe with Cinque Terra in January.

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