This is going to be an unapologetic long post....there is just too much beauty in the Cinque Terre to limit images.
We took an early morning train from Nice, France to the Cinque Terre, and our travel day was our only bad weather day, which worked out nicely - minus the 10 minutes we spent in the pouring rain hiking up a gigantic, rocky hill to our hotel, Arpaiu, in Manarola. For those of you who think how little we pack and carry around for 2+ week trips is absolutely insane, this is why. But our hotel here was our favorite so far, and even the rain couldn't beat this view from our window...
or this bathtub, for that matter.
We spent the vast majority of the afternoon indoors, soaking off the previous week of travel, hiding from the rain, and sipping some local red wine.
Oh, and a little unexpected and necessary shopping. Before we flew to France, I decided that since I was going to be sitting on a plane for so long overnight, I would go for a run immediately before we left the airport. And then forgot to put my running shoes back in the suitcase. Not a big deal for any of the places we went in France - I got by in Danskos and flats without a problem. But hiking? In the Cinque Terre? Up a mountain? With loose/wet/slippery rocks from the rain? Not happening. Luckily, there was one small little hiking store in the tiny village of Manarola that happened to have a pair of attractive hiking shoes. I mean, at least they're cute, and I didn't feel too bad given our recent relocation to NC where we'll be doing a considerable amount of hiking in the future.
120 euro down. But hey, every trip has to have its story, right?
Dinner that night was at Trattoria dal Billy, and I would highly recommend it if you find yourself in the Cinque Terre. Incredibly fresh seafood; I had the stuffed mussels and they were delicious. Eric ordered a shot of Sambucca to finish the meal, and they brought him the entire bottle and a shot glass to have what he wanted, for the price of one shot that's on the menu. The more restaurants we went to, the more we saw this happen. We never noticed it when we were in Italy before - is this typical? Anyone know?
|View from our dinner table as the rain started to lift.|
There are five villages in the Cinque Terre: Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, and Monterosso. We chose to stay in Manarola, and if you've heard of the Cinque Terre, chances are you've seen this photo angle before...
The photo above is my own, but I think it's pretty cool that every time we see a shot like this, we can easily spot the building that we stayed in while we were here.
Manarola was a great little town to stay in - but note that it is VERY small, and the restaurant choices (authentic, non-touristy ones anyway) are limited. If you want my recommendation, I would still plan on staying in this village, but plan dinners in others that have a bit more, like Vernazza or Monterosso. That being said, Trattoria dal Billy (mentioned above) was very good, and there were a few hole in the wall focaccia places that were pretty good as well. The Cinque Terre is known for its focaccia bread, olive oil, and pesto, so you can't really go wrong with any mom and pop places that do these.
|The "main drag" of Manarola|
|Alley our hotel was on.|
We were expecting more rain the next morning, but the weather turned out to be beautiful. Luckily, it was still a bit overcast, which made hiking all day more pleasant. We took a train all the way to the northern most village of Monterosso to begin the hike, since the hike between Monterosso and Vernazza is most strenuous. (I say "all the way" but the total train time from end to end of the five villages is about 10 minutes since they're so small.) We met another American that we hiked with most of the way, so we were able to get some shots of Eric and I together that weren't self photos. The first hike took us about two hours to complete.
I tried to take a few shots back every once in a while to show just how far and how high we had come. You can see that we had just left the Monterosso beach behind us here...
We were higher up going through the vineyards here...
And this was at the highest point, almost to Vernazza.
The hike probably wouldn't have taken us quite as long, except the trails were pretty slick and things were slow going in certain places due to the rain the day before. But if there is any hike you want to take slow, it's this one. For one, the views are nothing short of breathtaking. For two, there is a lot of waiting involved; the trail is so narrow in some places that only one person can pass in each direction at a time. I spent a good bit of time with my back pressed against a rock wall letting someone else pass me by.
I found it exciting and fun, but let's just say that this trail would not be deemed "safe" in America, if for no other reason than for the lack of guardrails. Oh, and the crumbling of the side of the trail over a cliff. No big deal. I have never been more glad to be wearing appropriate footwear. And for someone who is notoriously overdressed, I'm often not wearing appropriate footwear.
|This looks like a little stream that we had to hop over, but actually drops off into a waterfall at the bottom of the photo.|
|Going up into the vineyards.|
|The views coming around the corner in a lot of places made me stop short and just stare. Spectacular.|
|This is how wide the trail was in some places - and what looks like foliage, is actually a pretty steep drop down the cliff.|
|How picturesque is this little bridge over the waterfall? Is this real life?|
Some places were this steep to climb up, but then tapered off to nice strolls (as in the second picture below). It was a really, really nice hike. Challenging, but not overwhelming. As you can tell, we were just wearing normal clothes - nothing too crazy. We were expecting cooler, wetter weather than we had, or else we might have put on shorts. Plus, the scenery couldn't really be beat.
As we came around the final bend, we could see Vernazza from afar. This little village had one of my favorite harbor areas of the entire trip.
It was really sad to see the damage done during the mudslide/flooding in Vernazza a few years ago on our way down into the actual village. Whole houses and businesses just ripped apart, completely devastated and buried. Makes me shudder.
But, the village has rebuilt, and while there is still some work to be done, they are definitely back up and running. We had a very fancy lunch of focaccia with pesto and beer in the harbor, and then on our way to the next trailhead, decided to pop into a little cave we saw people walking into to see what was on the other side.
What we found, was this...
Glorious, unadulterated, nearly empty pebble beach with a view. It was so neat being out in the little cove because when you turned around, this is all you saw...
We did some serious lingering, wading, and lounging, and then headed on to our next hike...
Which I'll be covering tomorrow - can't overload you with too much natural beauty in one day!