View from our window at night. Riomaggiore
We arrived at Riomaggiore after 8pm, so all was dark. But as soon as we stepped off the train, we could hear the surf crashing on the rocks below and see the moonlight reflecting off the water. Awesome! We walked through a tunnel to get into town and then up the hill to our room rental place. The little towns of the Cinque Terra are built in river valleys on the coast, so the roads are steep and narrow and the buildings are nestled together. Only the main road actually has vehicular traffice (and then only for deliveries and businesses). Most "roads" are actually about 10 foot wide (or less) pedestrian alleys. We got our key and a map to our room, since the rental place was closed, and set off on our own to find our room.
View from window - ocean view!
Okay, back down the hill, turn right, go up some steps, turn left, go up some steps. Shouldn't be too hard. So down the hill we went, turned right, went up some steps, turned left. And then looked up at the incredibly steep many stepped steps ahead of us. Do we really have to go up there? So we lugged our bags up to the top, panting and sweating, and looked for our room. Hmmm, no doors with our number on them. Wait a minute, this isn't the right street either! Maybe we have to go up the next set of steps. Gulp. I volunteered to go check those out. I got to the top of the narrow, steep, uneven steps to find out that indeed it was NOT our street.
We had no where else to go but back down, so jelly-legged down we went.
This time Michele went in search of our room. She found it at the end of a long hallway and up a few more steps. Woo hoo! Almost there! We opened our door to a cute little room complete with double bed, small table, tv and super small bathroom. Yay! We dropped our bags and opened the windows so we could listen to the ocean and cool off. Yep, this is going to be a great stop for us. We weren't even sure if we could see the ocean from our room, but for now, the sound was all we needed. We had to close the windows most of the way because it cooled down too much for us to handle. But we still wanted to hear the ocean at night. I slept great that night. Michele did not. Apparently I was snoring and kept her awake, or at least from listening to the ocean.
Via Columbo - main street - Riomaggiore
The next morning we woke up to dismal weather (but an ocean view!). Clouds had rolled in and it was gray and gloomy and looked like rain at any moment. We were still a little worn out from our frantic travel and jet lag, so we decided to sleep in a little bit. I hoped maybe it would clear, but it didn't. We turned on the tv and watched the news and weather in Italian. It looked like it was supposed to be decent, but it sure looked like rain outside. We decided we should bring our rain coats on our hike between the villages of the Cinque Terra. If we didn't bring them, it would rain. So we grabbed day packs, sweaters and jackets and took of. The first stop was a little food store for sandwiches and beverages.
Tunnel to Riomaggiore
And then off we went! Back through the tunnel, buy our National Park hiking passes, and then begin the hike!
Riomaggiore - Via dell'Amore This is the first village (from the south). The trail begins as "Lover's Lane" and is a wide, level, paved path to Manarola. This was also the most crowded stretch of trail on the Cinque Terra and the easiest. We were in awe of the steeply dipping rocks and the waves crashing down below. Being the Lover's Lane that it is, there was a significant amount of graffiti along the trail. Soon enough, we arrived in the next town
Manarola - The level trail ends at the train station.
Via dell'Amore view from start of trail
Down some steps and through the tunnel to get into town. We had read about a vineyard walk in Rick Steves, so we set off up the hill to find it. True to his word, the trail started where the wooden fence met the road. We followed this narrow gravel trail with a nice, sturdy wooden railing and got great views of the town of Manarola, the terraced vineyards and the ocean. Along the way we stopped and ate our sandwiches at a bench we found. We drank some delicious pear juice that I found at the store. Mmmm. So we continued on and came out near the cemetary. I wanted to go left (I heard there was a great view that direction), but Michele went to the right. I said something about going to the left and she said, "are you kidding?" and kept going to the right.
Me on "Lover's Lane"
Actually, no, I wasn't kidding, but clearly she had no intention of backtracking so I just followed her. I walk too fast, so I had to keep letting her lead to force me to slow down. The next part of the trail had a little more variation in topography, but still wasn't too steep yet. It also had some nice views of the towns behind us. The next town is
Corniglia (pronounced "Cornelia") - just before the town, there are some steps down to the rocky beach. We knew we'd be taking a lot of steps once we arrived in town, but we decided we couldn't pass up a rocky beach. The beach had some smooth round stones, perfect for skipping. So we spent while on the beach picking up rocks and skipping others.
Via dell'Amore view to Riomaggiore
It was pretty tough to skip them with the waves coming in. But it was so peaceful and relaxing there. I could have sat on that rock beach all day, but it felt like the tide was coming in or something, so we decided to leave. Corniglia is the only town not on the shore, so you can only access it by climbing a million stairs or waiting forever to take a shuttle bus. We decided to tackle the stairs and very slowly made our way up to the top, all 400 some steps. We didn't stop in this town, just followed the road out of town and got back on the trail.
This next section of the trail was a killer. Lots and lots of steps, up and down, up and down. We were already in the town on top of the cliffs, so why was the trail going up? There couldn't be that much land higher than us, could there? It seemed like we just kept climbing steps.
Michele on Vineyard walk - Manarola
The trail was fun, though, more like a hiking trail with rocks, roots, etc to trip on. We got some nice views and some non-existant views. Parts of the trail were highly vegetated and we felt like we were hiking in the woods or a tropical rainforest, minus the tropical part. We were sure that the next town was just around the next bend. Or the next. Or the next. We could see another town off in the distance. That better not be it! Thats too far to walk! It should be closer! Oh wait, that one has beaches, so it must be the last town, Montorosso. So then Vernazza must be around this corner. Nope? How about this corner... About 15 minutes before eventually finding Vernazza, the sun finally came out and we roasted.
view of Manarola from Vineyard Walk
Good thing we had our raincoats! Just more for us to carry. And then finally we rounded a corner and saw
Vernazza - this is a gorgeous, though touristy, town with lots of gelato shops. Somehow we ended up in the little street/alleys and got off the main trail, but we found our way into town and stopped for some gelato. While eating our gelato, we noticed that the town seemed to be run over by kids and teenagers. School must have just recently gotten out and the kids were waiting to take the train home. We stopped in a souvineer shop so Michele could get some incredibly overpriced sunscreen. I got talked into buying a shirt that incidentally shrunk before I even got to wear it. We had a change of plans.
Michele decided she couldn't make it to the next village, so we would be ending our hike here. I wanted to go on, but was okay with it as long as we got to lay in the sun for the rest of the afternoon. So we compromised and went to go sit in the harbor and rest on the beach and sunbathe. We sat up on the harbor among lots of kids, mostly wearing black, apparently hanging out after school until they had to go home. The boats were all pulled up in the square and the harbor was pretty quiet.
We sat and rested and tried to sun, but it clouded up and got too cool again. And I was bored. So we went back up the hill into town and caught the train back to Riomaggiore (for only 1,40 Euro).
lunch in the vineyard
I wanted to hike the Via dell'Amore again, down and back, but Michele would have nothing to do with it. I did get her back up there to take a few photos now that the sun was hitting the rocks and they were glowing. We sat on a bench and ate apples just as a school group came up and sat with us (we passed them earlier in our hike). They had a little spiel that most of the kids didn't pay attention to. We felt a little out of place, but decided not to move. We then decided to try to find a nice place to watch the sunset, so we hiked from the train station on the trail around the cliffs to the harbor. We got partway there and couldn't figure out where to go. There didn't seem to be a trail going down into the harbor square, though you'd think there would be one.
the trail to Corniglia
On the lower platform was a group of older gentlement no doubt b.s.ing the day away. (They happened to be blocking the steps down into the square we were looking for). We decided to go up some steps and found out they went right to our room. So we stopped in for a little rest.
We went back into town, looking for a great sunset and a restaurant with a view. We went to the harbor, and through a tunnel to actually get there. We ate at the Lanterna restaurant that had pretty good food, but Michele's shrimp still looked alive, complete with antennas. I suppose some people like this, so they know their shrimp is fresh, but it scares us. We also enjoyed a bottle of the Cinque Terra wine, getting a little buzzed in the process.
We have to go all the way over to the town way up on the hill?
In Europe, meals are seen as relaxing and social, but for the busy Americans, they are extremely long and slow. We were finished for quite some time before the waiter came back (as is considered good service among Europeans), but we had a long day and were ready to hit the hay. I practiced how to ask for the bill in Italian and it must have been passable because he did indeed bring our bill. We walked (maybe stumbled a bit) over to the lookout over the harbor and got a great view of Riomaggiore by night.
Just for the record, the sun set behind a big cloud, so there wasn't much to see. Then we headed back to our room via the missing/hidden stairs and checked on our laundry hanging from the window. Socks weren't quite dry, so we left them out overnight (just in time to be rained on).
Looking back toward Manarola
Off to another wonderful night sleeping with the waves lapping on shore. How perfectly relaxing. I wish we had a week here.