This has been a bucket list trip for awhile. I meet up with 2 of my buddies in Miami. We flew from Miami into Milan. A driver picks us up at the airport and takes us to the Milano Central Train Station which is about 45 minutes away. Finding your train is a lot like riding the subway. It helps to know what the end of that route is. It makes it easier to find the line you want to be on. Also, you can watch the board at the track and it will scroll with each stop. So, if you are not sure, just take a minute and watch the scroll for your stop. Easy Peasy! We grab some sandwiches, which are amazing by the way, and head to our track. Italy is one of those places that you can grab a snack at a train station or about anyplace on the street and get great food. We board the La Spezia train and head to the Cinque Terre.
As soon as you exit the train in Monterosso, you walk down the stairs and there is a bar on your left that overlooks the Mediterranean Sea. We stop and sit in the sun and drink a Prosecco to celebrate arriving in this amazing place. I love to just sit and watch people walking by and take in a new place for a bit. There is a huge rock in the water to our left with waves crashing and mountains behind it.
After some time relaxing, we head down the street and through a tunnel towards the Piazza to find our hotel. The tunnel has waves painted on the inside walls with insets of art work at the crest of each wave. We stay at a lovely place. Hotel Margherita. Francesca is at the front desk and is very sweet. She gets us checked in and answers some questions about directions, hiking the trails, etc... We throw our stuff in the rooms and head out to explore.
We walk down the cobblestone street towards the water and find a restaurant that is opening for it's first day of business. It overlooks the Sea.
I am not a huge fan of anchovies, but they are a specialty in this area. We order the Chef's specialty, stuffed anchovies, and they are wonderful!
One of the fishing boats all tucked in.
We watch the sunset over the Sea and head back up the cobblestone streets towards our hotel. We run across a little blues bar that has a Stevie Ray Vaughn poster on the wall. We ask the bartender if he has limoncello. With a smile and an "absolutely we do," we find our tribe and sit for a while listening to blues and old rock. We head back up to our hotel and I go to the front desk because in flight, my suitcase locks had gotten damaged and I needed help getting into it. Francesca tells me the owner's husband looked at it and the only thing he can do is cut the locks open. I asked if he will please do that for me. While all of this is going on, I lay my Nikon D750 with a 24-70 mm lens on the hotel lobby counter. I am so thankful about my suitcase, grabbing it with the locks cut open and head up to my room leaving my camera in the lobby. About 5 minutes after being in my room, the owner's husband knocks on the door with my camera in hand. My camera is like one of my appendages and I cannot believe I left it. I don't think it had anything to do with the itty bitty glasses of limoncello and multiple toasts we made at the blues bar down the street?!?! So thankful they were so honest and brought it to me! Love, love, love this hotel!
We are up early on Day 2 and head down to the train station. For 16 euros, you can buy a trail pass and all day hop on hop off train ticket that is good until midnight. Perfect. They also give you a handy map.
We are told by the guy selling the tickets at the train station that the most difficult of the hikes between the towns is Monterosso to Vernazza. That is our first leg and we head down the coastline to the first trail head.
I post several path pictures so that you can see what you are getting into when you go. It is hundreds of steep steps made out of rock and narrow paths. I walked a lot at home before this trip and climbed steps to prepare. I was so thankful that I did.
There are vineyards and homes up in these mountains. As I am walking, I am thinking, how do they get what they need up here? Lo and behold we come across the cart on a pulley. Question answered.
The views are breathtaking. What I can't show you in these pictures is the rest of the story. There is a waterfall on the left of the trail going up. You can here it running. The sound of the waves in the Sea are on the right of the trail. As you hike up, you hear the waterfall, the waves, and all around you in the distance are hikers speaking in many languages. Talk about getting your zen on! There were quite a lot of people on the trails. In some narrow areas, you had to wait until a group went by before you could keep going. We went in April , during off season, and I am thankful for that. Not as crowded and more peaceful!
Along the trail were people selling, wines, limoncello, and fresh fruits.
Where do you live? Oh, I live on the hiking trail between Monterosso and Vernazza.
Overlooking Vernazza with the vineyards above.
Vernazza is beautiful!
Yep, we did it!
Looking back towards Monterosso.
In Vernazza, we sit at a little outside cafe and have a slice of pizza with water. We meet people around us from all over the world. Many are very serious hikers with poles and big boots. Many are just like us, walking along and enjoying the scenery.
Our next destination, Corniglia.
Corniglia is the only one of the five towns that is not built directly on the Sea. We took the train to Corniglia because the trail was closed between Vernazza and Corniglia due to rain the day before.
I have a thing about laundry hanging out on lines in Italy and doors. Be grateful I don't post all of the door pictures.
I love the entrances to the shops.
The stairs from the train station up to Corniglia are their own little magical hike. You can take a shuttle, but we are wanting as much of this experience as we can get.
After the first hike, then the stairs up to Corniglia, we decide to take the train to Manarola. "Why kill ourselves, we say? I don't have anything to prove at 60?"
When we are in Vernazza, we meet a mother and daughter who are visiting from the United States. They are going the opposite direction of us. They tell us to go to a wine bar called Nessun Dorma at the top of Manarola and have a drink and take in the views.
We arrive at Manarola and wind our way through the city. We take another killer stair climb to the top to this wine bar. We stand in line for about an hour and are seated. Worth the wait and worth the climb. We have Prosecco and a lemon cake that was made by angels. Thanks for the tip fellow American gals!
Down the staircase and back to the train station. By now, legs are a little ouchy, so the train to the last of the five towns it is! On the train, a sweet lady sits next to me and starts talking. She tells me she speaks French and Italian. We use hand gestures and facial expressions to talk to each other in a hodgepodge of English, Italian, and French. She was a delight!
Riomaggiore was the busiest of the towns. When you read about them, it usually says this is the quietest town. Hmmm. I did not see that. We walk through the busy streets and stop at a sidewalk cafe. We have Rossini's (Champagne or Prosecco with pureed strawberries) and the usual snacks they bring you with every drink order in Italy. Nuts, lupine beans, olives, pesto, and chips. These are the stops that I love to take. Have a sip of something nice, visit with people around you, talk to the wait staff. This is where I find out everything I need to know about a place. Where do the locals eat? What is the one thing I have to see or do while I am here.
As we are sitting there, a tourist starts feeding the pigeons. Big mistake. I never understand why people feel the need to feed the wildlife. Anyways, a Seagull comes dive bombing in and whips a pigeon over a chip. The pigeon runs under our table and hides. A good 45 minutes goes by and the pigeon peeks his head out to make sure the seagull is gone. He ventures out a little roughed up and walking a little cockeyed, but otherwise looked like he was going to be fine. It brought new meaning to the old saying, "getting your feathers ruffled."
We strolled down to the harbor. Stopping at shops that looked interesting and watching life go on around us.
We made our way to a restaurant overlooking the Sea and ate a light dinner. I had Bruschetta with cream cheese, ham, and walnuts. A new taste that was wonderful! People are laying all over the rocks below. They reminded me of seals sunning themselves.
We finish our meal and head down to the harbor for a sunset shot. Afterwards, we hop the train and head back to the Hotel Margherita.