September 21st, 2009 – by: vagiano11
After being in France (Monaco and Monte Carlo) for a week in a work/fun related trip, I could not wait to enter Italy. So, rented my overpriced little Fiat in Monaco, and drove east on the Autostrada to Genoa. My little Fiat was a blast on the Autostrada.... that little thing can fly! Europeans really understand highways so much better, they serve the purpose intended (imho), and much safer at speed, than in the U.S.
Arrived in Genoa (Genova, in Italian) in the late afternoon, exhausted from the 5 hour drive from Monaco. Landed in a pensione near the University (nothing fancy, clean and well priced 3 star at 60EUR - plenty of these around the University area). Went to dinner and to sleep early.
Monterrosso Al Mare
Next morning began my usual 'get lost walk' through town (which I love).... Gorgeous! It reminded me of parts of Rome
but without the 1000's of tourists. The criss-cross streets were quaint and maze like in the old town (literally, I got really lost here but never felt un-safe). There was an aire of sophistication in Genova.... an intellectual town, with many galleries, museums, and historical societies. The cafes, even in the student rich University area, had a quiet feel - it was a very peaceful and introspective city. Even in the hustle & bustle of trafic, it felt serene... perhaps it was just me actually listening rather than joining in the chatter.
Morning Market in Monterrosso
A great start to the trip!
Next was the drive to Cinque Terre. "The 5 Lands" is along the Ligurian coast of Italy. A rugged, cliff dropping coastline with 5 towns magestically connected by a hiking trail. The 5 towns, going from West to East are: Monterrosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore. I decided to stay in Monterrosso, the largest of the towns, since I was there during low season (March) and had no pre-made hotel reservations. Finding a room was an adventure... literally had to knock on strange doors, ask in cafes and finally was lucky to find a barternder to call his Aunt to show me a room.
It turned out to be a gem!!! A clean, large room (very modern amenities), overlooking the sea. The large window opened over the water to let in a cool breeze... ahhh.... wonderful! It was called Pensione Alberto (no website :( and since I was probably 1 of 20 "tourists" in town, I got a great low-seasson deal. I decided to come to Cinque Terre this time of year since I was already in France (compliments of work) and had looked at the weather for Liguria for the coming week... I was VERY fortunate, for I hit "warm" temperatures that are perfect for hiking (high 60's low 70's).
Monterrosso is a typical Italian cliff-nested fishing village gone tourism. Pretty busy new hotel / pensione building-expanding work going on in the off-seasson getting ready for May.
The large church near the train tracks, San Francesco, is quite charming and has important art work worth a visit. There was a street market on SAT morning which made the town come to life (in comparison to my previous days). But I loved how quiet it was... this trip for me was to relax, reflect, read, and hike, hike, hike. My favorite restaurant in Monterrosso was "Belvedere" right next/below the train track in the town center - great food and fantastic service at a fair price. STAY AWAY FROM Restaurant CIAK... it was terrible food, way overpriced and they were extremely rude and mocking of the few non-italians in town... and I even "look" italian! :) Hated Ciak.
The hike began the next morning. The "blue trail" connecting the 5 towns is 11 km long.
I started in Monterrosso early in the AM with the thought, on the first day, to go to the end and back on foot. It did not turn out that way... the towns are so beautiful and the views from the trail are breathtaking, that you must take time to savour it. Vernazza was the first town I reached going East. The most 'photo' ideal in my opinion... pic above! Climbing the tower offered nice, serene views of the Med. The town center was lively for this time of year. Great cafe to the right of the church tower/dome pictured (left). Sitting in the plaza, listening to the wind, sounds and watching people was very enjoyable. Walked around the interior part of the town, going up-hill, and got lost (purposely) and found my way back to the center an hour or so later.