After I’d taken it, I couldn’t be faffed walking back down, so thought I’d continue onto the next village. There was a lot more walking up before there was any walking down.
Ahhh… the Cinque Terre.
The towns were what I imagined perfect Mediterranean towns to look like – coloured houses, sparkling sea in the background, nice locals, good restaurants and a few gelati shops. The pace was relaxed, no doubt helped by the lack of cars and the fact that cinque terre ‘natives’ seemed to pretty much run everything. There were a lot of tourists, but being an ‘active tourism’ destination, they mostly kept to themselves and did their own thing.
The Cinque Terre is on the Ligurian coast of Italy, located between the towns of Sestri Levante and La Spezia. What’s so special about this beautiful part of Italy is that all five villages are part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and comprise the Cinque Terre National Park. Only one village – Monterosso – allows general traffic to drive through parts of the town.
All the towns are perched on the Mediterranean Sea bar one – Corniglia, which is perched on a cliff above the coast. The best thing about this area is that it was only in recent times – 20? 30? years ago – that the villages were ‘discovered’ so to speak, and linked to each other and other parts of the outside world by proper roads. Prior to that, the villages were linked to each other by walking trails.
Which leads me to the coolest thing about the Cinque Terre: the National Park. The Park area covers all five villages and the land in between, and pays for the maintenance of the walking trails between the villages (which range from really easy to really quite difficult. We did one of each). The NP controls the number of visitors who enter, keeps the cars out, and maintains an eco-friendly bus service that runs from each sea village, up to smaller villages in the hills. There is also a train service that regularly runs up and down the coast, linking the villages.
We stayed in one of the villages – Manarola (which I loved – it seemed quite small, well kept and very quiet) – so we caught the train straight to our town and headed for our B&B – da Paulin – run by a lovely man called Ernesto (I think). His house was up the hill and surrounded by lemon trees (yum) and the guest level has only two rooms with a big shared common room (we never saw our neighbours, who seemed to be rather struck with the delights of tramping through mud every day).
Upon arrival, Ernesto gave us each a glass of his wife’s home-made limoncino (which he told us is the same as limoncello, but named in a different dialect) and two lemons (which hopefully wasn’t a reflection on our personalities. We brought them back to Kyiv and enjoyed them with some asian food later).
Other than walking, seafood was the name of the game in the Cinque Terre, and from the moment we arrived, anything we ate either had seafood, lemon or both. On the first night, I copped out and ordered a seafood pizza (I can’t remember what Mr Moi had but I do remember that it was forgettable). On the second night, in the main town of Monterosso, we followed the smell of the reefer (!) and the advice of a local and ended up in a crowded little restaurant where we ate the most delicious seafood risotto out of a clay pot. On the final day, we visited a restaurant that’s renowned for its ‘Seafood Pot’. It literally is a pot of seafood – all sorts: lobster, crab, mussels, prawns, fish, scallops – cooked in a clay pot, in broth, for an hour. Yum yum.
We bought a three day pass for the national park, which allowed us to: 1) walk on the trails between towns, 2) use the train for free, 3) use the buses for free, and 4) visit some museums (which we didn’t do). As I said earlier, we did one really easy trail, and one really hard one (where the photo above was taken from).
Mr Moi and I spent three nights in the Cinque Terre, and we decided to depart on 1 May – which we discovered was Labour Day in Italy. On the day we left, there were people everywhere, so we weren’t sorry to bid farewell. Unfortunately, the day we left was also the first fine day since we’d arrived, but we still thought it was beautiful under clouds anyway.
(Strangely, there were a lot of Aussies in the Cinque Terre, which, after a year and a half of only hearing each other speak Australian, seemed a blast from the past. And to our ears, they all sounded like Kath & Kim).