Saturday, May 24, 2014



In picking places to travel on our journey, we wanted to
1. Dig deeper into places we had been before, and
2. Visit places that had been on our wish list for years.

The Cinque Terre (pronounced CHEEN|kweh TEHR|reh) is one we had been waiting years to visit, it translates to Five Lands.  Each of the five towns are little gems and when seeing each village up close or from the hillsides or from the water they are like nothing we had ever seen before.  A vigorous hike for about 4 miles up and down the stunning hills, a beautiful lunch overlooking the Mediterranean and finishing with some local vino before a bus ride back home. Italy is growing stronger in its pull on us and unlike some countries where you start to become less enamored with local habits, (see Random Notes) Italy gives you more reasons to stay. Amorevole Italia!!!


Note to self:  Do not drink 3 cups of coffee before a 2 1/2 hour bumpy bus trip.

A view of the city La Spezia, an historical Naval port and the entrance to the Parco Nazionale delle Cinque Terre

We were dropped off close to the city of Manarola, the smallest of the 5 villages.  

Since there is virtually no flat ground, you can see in the background the land is terraced so it can be farmed.  The Bell Tower stands in front of San Lorenzo church which dates back to 1338.

The primary industries are fishing, wine-making and of course, tourism.  The local wine is called "Sciacchetra" (pronounced "shack-eh-tra) - it is an ancient and legendary sweet wine made from naturally dried grapes.  Pictured are the cones of a variety of fish you can eat as you stroll the town (almost better than a gelato cone!).  I think we should start hiking....
Time to leave Manarola and head to Corniglia - our lunch stop!  Corniglia is the village above a cliff - we had to climb 365+ steps to get to it (one step for each day of the year).  
Whew.....really, I think it was more than 365 steps. 

Lunch was at Ristorante Cecio Camere.  We had a fish antipasti plate and linguini with a pesto sauce they are famous for (so we were told).  The pesto sauce had secret ingredients of potato and green beans.  It was delicious!!  
The region of Liguria is renowned for it's Pesto (where it is said to have originated) all over Italy.  Basil, the key ingredient of Pesto loves the climate of Cinque Terre.  
After the long walk, we were so hungry I forgot the picture of our fabulous meal or maybe we were just captivated by the view.....

View from our restaurant.  The village of Corniglia is 100 meters above the sea.  It is the highest and steepest of the 5 towns and the toughest to get to, hence not as many tourists.

Time to head out again to the village of Vernazza.  The hike is about 4 kilometers, so I will be ready for a gelato when we get there!

We are walking the trail and you can see Corniglia in the background - I'm in awe at this point... 

The view in front of us as we were heading towards the 4th village of Vernazza.  Normally 4 kilometers is a piece of cake - but the trail was like a black diamond if you are a skier.

Yay!!!......we finally reach Vernazza.  See that beach down there - that is where I am heading....

Happy Feet!!  Soaking your tired feet in the Ligurian Sea is refreshing!  The next leg of the walk will be much easier.

 Vernazza is the most picturesque of the 5 villages.  It has a town square that overlooks the sea - I didn't want to leave, but we knew there was one more city we needed to see.  We were done hiking for the day because the trail to Monterosso al Mare was closed due to extensive flooding and damage to the trails and village from a torrential downpour a few years back.  
We jumped on a train and one stop later we were at this magnificent beach.....
Monterosso is probably the most visited by tourists because of its beaches, this is also the largest of the 5 villages and one that has cars. (boo!)....

....still, they are known for their many lemon trees, white wine grapes, and olives.   If only I had room for the lemon honey, the lemon vodka, the lemon soap, all the pesto sauces, and the wine.....

...only room was in our tummies, so we have to eat our souvenirs!  Eating this delicious "Pane fritto" or fried bread with cheese was  so yummy it makes you crazy - just look at the baker.

Our day is about done - we jump on a boat and head back to the first city Riomaggiore, where we will end the day with a glass of wine before heading back to Florence.

We docked in what is known as the first of the Cinque Terre towns - Riomaggiore.  A stunning village that is famous for the white wine produced by the town's vineyards.  Unfortunately, we did not have time to fully explore the town (we were bone tired) but we did make the time to taste all the wine Riomaggiore had to offer!  

This UNESCO World Heritage Site is one we recommend to all friends who love incredible views and own a good pair of hiking shoes!  
Ci Torneremo!!!