For those of you who have been to Cinque Terre – a trip down memory lane.
For those of you who haven’t – a little armchair travelling to one of the most beautiful places in the world.
Five tiny villages clinging to the steep coast of north-western Italy, the Italian Riviera, and in late September/early October the weather is glorious, about 27-30 during the day and warm overnight. All of the five villages and surrounding area form the Cinque Terre National Park. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage site, and very few cars are allowed in any of the towns.
We stayed in Monterosso, the most northern of the towns, in an ordinary hotel, with an adequate room, up three flights of stairs. Nevertheless this is the view from the breakfast terrace.
On our second day here our friend Ruth joined us from the Netherlands. Don and Ruth swam just about every day. Sometimes I watched them, sometimes I napped or wrote instead. We walked a lot. There are trails winding around the coast connecting the towns. We hiked from Monterosso to Vernazza, taking about 2 hours, explored the town, had lunch, and then caught the ferry back, a short ride over calm sparkling blue seas. And that night had a fabulous dinner of seafood risotto with mussels and langoustines, and local wine, and tiramisu and profiteroles to die for.
A two hour hike up and down, and amongst the olive trees and grape vines brought us to the next village:
The next day we got the ferry all the way south to Riomaggiore, the most southern of the towns, and possibly the most charming, though all of them are wonderful. There is such a sense of authenticity about them. These villages have been here for centuries and have grown in a completely organic way as people carved their homes from the rocks and a living from the sea. Now they also make a living from tourism. Cinque Terre is full with tourists from all over the world. The thing about going to places where there are lots of tourists is that there’s usually a reason for it, and Cinque Terre is no exception. If you want to see the best places at the best time of the year it’s safe to expect that many others do too. The place feels crowded and alive and prosperous.
After exploring Riomaggiore we walked to Manarola, an easy 20 minute stroll along a flat walkway.
We stopped to explore Manarola and had lunch there before setting off on a three hour hike to Corniglia. I had tomatoes on bruschetta and it was wonderful, though I must say the bread served at most of the places we’ve eaten has been uninspiring. I’m not much of a foodie, but apart from the bread just about every meal has been fabulous. One night I had squid ink (black) tagliatelle with langoustines and thought I’d died and gone to heaven. And at least one gelato every day, but usually 2. An American woman I met on the Sestre Levanti railway station said “I feel as if I’m stuck in the eat part of Eat Pray Love”. It’s certainly easy here to get some really delicious meals, and we try many different places.
The path from Manarola to Corniglia is closed due to a land slide, so we chose to take the alternate route – a three hour hike up into the vine terraces and olive groves above the towns, and then back down into Corniglia. And now finally we were away from the crowds. There were other hikers, though not many, and we got to enjoy the beauty and silence of the area. It was hot and exhausting, but so worth it.
Cinque Terre is magical. I find it had to believe such a place exists. It’s so beautiful, and I continue to be awed and fascinated and inspired with the seemingly infinite variety of ways in which people live.
Now we have seen all five towns and hiked the trails between them all except the stretch from Vernazza to Corniglia, so for our last day in this part of Italy we decided to go to Santa Margherita Ligure and Portofino, two of the main Italian Riviera towns, and just a little north of Cinque Terre. We took a forty-five minute train ride to Santa Margherita and then walked the coast road to Portofino, which is apparently one of the haunts of the rich and famous.
Santa Margherita Ligure
On the walk to Portofino
All words and images by Alison Louise Armstrong unless otherwise noted.
© Alison Louise Armstrong and Adventures in Wonderland – a pilgrimage of the heart, 2010-2015.
Beautiful!! Thank you for sharing your experiences here. I can feel the heat and want to jump into this beautiful water after one of these hikes. Inspires me to make travel plans 🙂 Lots of love to you Alison and Don and a belated Happy Birthday to Don. oxo Surati
Lovely photos, Alison! I spent a few weeks last year in Tuscany, but based in the Marina di Pisa. All the best with your travels.
I'm using google's satellite maps alongside reading your blog, so I'm enjoying this rich travelogue. That's a great pic of you guys; you look so very happy. Hippo birdie, Don!
I'm so glad I asked to be included in your travelogue mail-out.tonight I had the time to drink it all in….glorious…thank you so much, kate brunton (we met at Moni's satsang)
G'day Alison and DonThey talk about 'sea changes' and 'grey nomads' but you folk are way beyond that! Just terrific, great writing and wonderful photos. I'd love to turn some of those photos into paintings – if you'd let me – but being busy as usual I may never get to it. I'm looking forward to more from you. Cheers…
Hey Jim, glad you're enjoying the blog, and yes of course you have my permission to turn any of the photos into paintings. Hope you get time to do it.
Hmm, I was wondering why I am an "unknown" commenter but I suppose it is due to the fact that I did not sign in initially. Let us see if name appears now.
Hi Surati, and Kate, and Kate, and Liz, and Emmana – glad you're enjoying the blog. And Emmana, glad you're not unknown anymore! Axoxox
Hi AlisonThe ABC News website is reporting deadly floods in the Cinque Terre area. There's a photo of the remnants of a mudslide filling the street and a cafe in Monterosso. I imagine that you walked along this same street only a few days ago. I hope that you are both well clear of this area by now.
We just heard about this today. Just heartbroken for the devastation to this beautiful town, and the people. Yes we are well clear of it. We are in Positano, way south of there.
Such a beautiful window into the colourful days of your lives, Alison and Don ! Thanks so much for sharing.
We walked those streets and paths last year. I have seen new photos of the flooded areas and it seems recovery is underway alrady! I have great faith in these people and think that we will see new beauty rise from the devastating muck and rubble sooner than anticipated. Ciao. ~ edie
I have been to Riomaggiore and Manarola only and your pictures make me want to go back and visit the other villages .
Thanks for your post – it made me look at all the photos of Cinque Terre (and read what I’d written) for the first time in a long time – brought back some wonderful memories.
Wow these pictures are amazing. Looks like you had a lot of fun. I can’t wait to go and see it for myself. 🙂
Thanks Angela. Yes, we had a great time there, the weather was our friend, and it’s so beautiful and magical. Glad you put it on your list 🙂
did you plan your lodgings ahead, or just look for them as you walked. my wife and I are 65, you are an inspiration for us, keep up the good work Larry
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Thanks so much Larry. In Cinque Terre we stayed for the whole time in a hotel in Monterosso which we had booked ahead of time. I think we were there for five or six days. All the travelling between the villages were day trips and we returned to our hotel in Monterosso each evening. There are ferries and trains connecting all the villages, and you can walk between each village in just a few hours. Even the trip to Portofino was just for the day. I hope this helps.