Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Italy - Cinque Terre

The Cinque Terre is a string of centuries-old seaside villages on the Italian Riviera coastline. Each of the 5 towns - Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore are full of colourful houses surrounded by steep terraces of vineyards on either side and joined by a winding road for cars or great scenic walking paths. This was always going to be of our highlights for hiking tracks. We had planned to follow the main coast road up from La Spezia and got as far as the turn off to Levanto (where we were basing ourselves for 3 days) only to find it was closed to traffic. The only option left to us was to backtrack all the way to La Spezia and then take the autostrada north until the Levanto turnoff, then descending into the village.

Our first walk was across the range from Levanto to Monterosso - a 2.5 hour 5 mile hike with spectacular views back across the bay. The track is lined with lemon groves and fig trees laden with fruit that seem to grow so easily in this area, as they do in most of the places we have been. Thankfully a good part of the track was in shade as once again we are battling the heat. Arriving in Monterosso, we were suddenly assaulted with loads of tourists - something Levanto was thankfully spared (in comparison). And being weekend, they were there in their droves with bathers, sun mats and unmbrellas. The bars were doing a roaring trade with the costs of a beer much more than what we were paying around in our little bay. Being day 1, we opted to catch the train back one stop and save our energy for a longer hike the following day.

                              Looking back into Levanto on our walk across to Monterosso


                         The view arriving over Monterosso before our descent from the range

Next day we purchased the Cinque Terre Card which paid our entry into the walks as well as unlimited bus and train travel for a 24 hour period. So catching the train back to Monterosso, we did the next stage of the walk to Venezza, then followed on to Corniglia here we stopped for a cold beer and lunch. Unfortunately the next 2 stages of the walk had been closed for some time since land slides about 4 years ago - wonder why they don't repair them given the number of tourists visiting - so we didn't manage to walk those sections. Corniglia is set high above the water whereas the other villages are set around harbours at sea level. From here we decided to descend down to the water and walk through a disused train tunnel to a black sand pebble beach and cool ourselves in the water for an hour before catching the train back to Levanto.


                             Starting on our walk from Monterosso to Vernezza and onwards 


                            View looking across and down to Vernezza before our descent


             Looking across to Corniglia set up on the hilltop with Manerola in the back ground

Our last day was leisurely spent, after 2 days of pushing ourselves over the goat tracks from village to village. A sleep in, a slow breakfast then a couple of hours spent in a laundromat cleaning our grimy clothes from the last 2 days. Tomorrow we would be leaving before sunrise and heading north into Switzerland then Germany. Our little B and B in Levanto has been great, with our host Luca so helpful with local information and his mum baking home made croissants, plain and sweet for breakfast each morning. Yum!!

Our memories of Italy are mixed. Some of the beautiful locations that should have been pristine were spoiled with rubbish and almost a lack of pride in their country. Many of the historical sights that we visited appear to be neglected without apparent maintenance. It's ok to take the money, but no long term reinvestment. Many of the roads are in serious disrepair and even worse than Montenegro, however, they did improve the further north we went. I am glad we have seen as much of this country as we have had, it is not a place that we will choose to return to. Arrivederci Italy!!

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