This is a continuation of my series of posts documenting our time in Italy in May 2017. We had been based in Vernazza in our time in the Cinque Terre & had just spent the morning of the second day hiking from Vernazza to Corniglia. (Please see previous post for description and photos of the trek.)
Originally when I had thought of visiting the Cinque Terre,I had wanted to hike to all 5 villages. But unfortunately when we visited (and this has been the condition for quite some time now) the popular blue coastal trail was closed between Corniglia and Riomaggiore. We had neither the time nor the lungs to do the much longer trail high up in the hills. So we took the train from Corniglia to Manarola, the next village in line. Fortunately it appeared as if there was no big cruise ship in the nearby ports and the trains were relatively empty.
The train rides in between villages are hardly 5 minutes and soon we descended in the tunnel that connects the station with the town of Manarola. The main street is typical of the region with narrow cobbled stone road & pastel coloured buildings, Manarola has added black and white photos of the traditional life in the region to give it its own unique twist.
We then walked to the harbour, which anywhere in the Cinque Terre means a slope from where boats can be dragged in and out of the sea. The harbour here had people jumping off from some high rocks into the sea. Exciting to look at from afar!
We then went to the far end of town which has a view point from which you get the best views of Manarola. Though it was not the right time of the day for photos as the sun was right above head, this was the only time I had the opportunity to take these photos. Beggars can’t be choosers!
Manarola has vineyards right above town and it gave us the best chance to walk through some vineyards and see the traditional grape farming of the Cinque Terre. We climbed our way through the terraced vineyards, visiting the town cemetery on the way. The cemetery was super clean and well maintained with multicoloured flowers in front of each grave.
We couldn’t resist taking a selfie in the beautiful vineyards with Manarola as a backdrop
After walking through the vineyards we emerged from the inland part of town which we would have not seen at all had we not ventured above town. This is the non glitzy quiet part of Manarola where there was hardly any crowd.
This part of town also houses the local church and I and my Tokina ultra wide love churches so we ventured inside. It’s amazing to me how there are so few people inside these beautiful small churches even when the town is teeming with people. As is our ritual we sat in the pews for a few minutes, took a few photos and left.
We then walked down through town and down into the station haven done a full round around Manarola. Before we got to the station to catch our train to the next village, I wanted to check out the remaining part of the Via del Amore or lovers path which connected Manarola and Riomaggiore. This wide and even concrete path between the two was considered the easiest and most romantic trek in between villages till parts of it was washed away by a landslide few years ago.
So we walked the available length of this path till it has been boarded off and then returned to the train station to take the train to Riomaggiore. Before we can say Riomaggiore, we were in Riomaggiore, hardly a two minute train ride. It’s so close that we could have ran across the Via del Amore if it were open.
Riomaggiore is a town which literally spills out from a gorge into the sea. Buildings clinging to hills on either end and the main street lining the gorge. The buildings are again (You guessed it!) pastel coloured and make a nice V when shot from the inland end of town.
We then went inside the town church and did our ritual before moving towards the sea. The church is minimalistically decorated but serene nonetheless.
By now we were very hungry but there was no time for a sit down meal. So we bought focaccia pizzas for the better half and a huge cone of fried seafood for me. Sadly I don’t have any photos because I was too busy devouring it, but the huge cone filled with fried anchovies, calamari, octopus, cod (no Prawns since I am allergic!) ,was delicious. We ate our respective take away meals while walking towards the harbour and breakwater.
Since I did not specify earlier, we didn’t have time as we wanted to spend time just sitting on the breakwater and enjoy the calm atmosphere. As soon as we jumped over a few rocks we were almost on our own.
This is the life, sunny skies with views to die for, tummy full of delicious food & the better half by your side. It cannot get better than this! If I had an extra day in the Cinque Terre I would happily spend it lazing on one of these breakwaters but we are never so lucky. So reluctantly we had to get up and leave after spending close to an hour doing nothing. Masterly inactivity!
We got up from the breakwater but were so reluctant to leave that we bought a gelato and promptly sat down at one of the seats lining the harbour.
That is the allure of the Cinque Terre. On paper it has no major sights, just a group of old villages. But once you get there you don’t want to leave.
Sadly even that gelato had to get over some time and we took the train back to Vernazza to rest for a while and then take the more arduous trek to Monterosso when the sun was not so harsh.
But that is a story for another post, another day.
Till then I hope I made some of you want to go to these tiny villages where time stands still.