Saturday, October 9, 2010

Days 13 - 15 La Cinque Terre

Prior to our journey, I read or heard a comment about Italy's La Cinque Terre being an "undiscovered jewel." Perhaps that might have been the case many years ago, but it is certainly a popular destination now. Located on the coast of the Ligurian Sea in the northwest of Italy, La Cinque Terre is a group of five small towns perched precariously on the sides of mountains that descend sharply to the sea.

Home base for our three days in La Cinque Terre was Riomaggiore, the first village encountered by those arriving from La Spezia or Pisa in the east or south. There are few hotels or B&Bs in the area, and we rented a room for three nights from a rental agency made up of American ex-pats.From our little balcony we could barely see the sea between other buildings, so we could say we had an ocean view. Better - we had a prime spot to watch the little kiddies play while moms jabbered away in the piazza below us. Riomaggiore's little harbor is pictured below.
After checking in, we took a walk on the "Via dell Amore," an easy seaside trail which leads to Manarola, the nearest town on the Cinque Terre.
Manarola is even smaller than Riomaggiore, so exploring its streets does not take long. The highlights of such places are, of course, the local people and their way of life, vineyards, church, cemetery, etc.
The next day we boarded a ferry boat to Vernazza, third along the coast.
Vernazza is a charmer from the moment you get off the boat at the picturesque little harbor, which also serves as the town's main piazza.
Our first order of business was to make the climb through very narrow and steep passageways to one of the towers of the 11th century wall surrounding the city. Very strenuous for my old legs and heart, but the view was worth it.
The local church dates to the 13th century and also faces the harbor. It was worth looking in to; someday I'll show the forbidden photos I took of the interior.
On our last day in La Cinque Terre we visited Corniglia, the smallest and most off the beaten track of the villages and the only one not directly on the sea, as well as Monterosso al Mare, the largest and most "developed" of the villages. Each had an allure of its own.

For those interested in a quiet hideaway in a relatively non-touristy setting where you can wander the back streets, Corniglia is a charmer. Below is a picture of a typical neighborhood, one where you don't have to worry about keeping your fence in good condition or your lawn mower blade sharp.
Following a Rick Steves suggestion, we stopped in to this little store to have paninis made using local bread, meat, and cheese. We took our sandwiches down to the train station and huddled under an umbrella to eat them while awaiting the next train to Monterosso. Not exactly the romantic kind of seaside dinner we were anticipating, but...
Monterosso del Mare is the oldest, largest, and most "developed" of the five villages. Not that there was a McDonald's on every other corner. If there was one at all, it must have been in the newer part of town which we avoided. Monterosso does have a beach - not that many folks were braving the water on this early autumn day.
We were surprised to see this on our walking tour - a German gunnery bunker from WW II,
and fascinated by the sights at the village cemetery
and in the Oratory of the cathedral which we learned to be a meeting hall of an organization along the lines of the Knights of Columbus.

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