Monday, May 6, 2013

Hiking the Cinque Terre and my $150 Mistake

We are back on American soil!!! I still have a bit of recapping to do, as our wireless connections were less than speedy once we hit Italy.  But I mean, it's Italy, right? So who really wants to stay inside and have a fast wireless connection anyway!

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!


  1. Well this is just incredibly beautiful! And what fun little treasures you found along the way! Love all the photos, do not love the idea of those trails! Eek!

  2. So, so, so beautiful! Now I REALLY can't wait for my trip! I'm not sure where we're staying while we're there, but we have 3 days there SO, I fully plan on eating my face off and enjoying all these beautiful views! Also, you're so brave for doing all that hiking. Me? I'll meet you at the cafe ;)

  3. I LOVE all of these pictures! This is on our top five list right now--and we're trying to figure out Italy for Christmas! Just waiting on the good ole boat to give us a green flag. Also, I really love those cute shoes you got! I love all the European outdoor stuff. It's all so adorable.

  4. That's amazing. Beautiful pictures.

  5. So fun to see your pictures. We're going to CT and Florence this summer. Staying at Hotel Porto Rocco in Monterosso for three nights. I'm glad to know about those hiking trails in advance so I can prepare myself!

  6. I am loving all of your pics and trip recaps. My goal someday is to go to Italy, and have Cinque Terre on my list of places I want to see while there. Hopefully someday soon!!

  7. Cinque Terre Italy is the best trip place where we can spend your time with their family and chidren's .Staying at Hotels,Lobster Cottage, luxurious Apartments, Boats rentals and all other things like shopping arcades which gives your holiday days in a majestic way .. i am very happy to know these place for more details we all can visit there

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  9. My fiance and I was there last year and wow, we missed the view. Those photos brought back memories and those were great ones. We loved the trail and the cove. I'm so glad you were able to discover it! It was like a treasure throve of sights - incredible to say the least. As always, my fiance insisted that I wear appropriate clothes for hiking, etc, etc. :) It was a good thing that I was able to shop beforehand for some hiking gear. Saw their reviews for camping stuff and I was glad I found it: