Friday, April 17, 2015

La Dolce Vita in Liguria - My memorable travels to Cinque Terre

Riomaggiore - Panoramic viewIt wasn't in our original plan to go to Cinque Terre. I am glad we ended up going to Cinque Terre because the five towns of Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore are absolutely stunning.

Our trip to Cinque Terre was relaxing at the same time a feast to the senses. This Filipino guy was in travel heaven!

Cinque Terre is a sub region in Liguria. Liguria is located on the Northwest of the peninsula and borders France, Piedmont, Tuscany and Emilia Romagna. The region is mountainous and steep rugged cliffs. The region's center is Genoa but we skipped Genoa. The Cinque Terre is composed of five small seaside towns - Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore.

From Milan, the train ride to Cinque Terre took a little less than three hours. The ride slowed down after we reached Genoa. Our stop was Monterosso.

[read my travels to Milan at Bakasyonista]

Milan - Tickets to Cinque Terre 

From our quick research, we learned that we won't be able to cover enough sites in only a few hours of stay in Cinque Terre. This is why we decided to stay overnight in one of the Cinque Terre towns. 


Monterosso seemed to be the best option for overnight accommodations. Luckily, we found a small place around Monterosso's old town called Affitacamere Monica.

Monterosso - Train station 

We arrived in Monterosso around 11am. The sun was out and the sky was blue. We were blessed with great weather that day. The town has two areas. The old town and the new area. From the train station, the old town can be reached by walking to the left on the esplanade.  The new town is toward the right.

Monterosso has a long esplanade with a picturesque view of the Ligurian sea. There is also a beach. I can imagine this area is packed during the summer season. 
Monterosso - Esplanade Monterosso - Town proper Monterosso - Beach

We were able to check-in so we left our overnight bags at the hotel and walked around Cinque Terre. Here's the view from Affitacamere Monica.
Monterosso - View from Affittacamere 

Going to the old town, you'll pass through a tunnel. On the right of the tunnel entrance is a more picturesque leisurely walk on Capo San Cristoforo where there are remains of the old citadel. From there, you get a great view of the old town.
  Monterosso - Panoramic view
Monterosso - Trail Monterosso - Start of trail Monterosso - Rocky trail 
Monterosso - Coastline Monterosso - Cliff statue

While walking around Monterosso, I saw lots of pretty little restaurants, quaint cafes and stores. I will learn later in the trip that Monterosso is the biggest of the five towns of Cinque Terre. Having stayed in Milan for a couple of days, I could tell the difference in the looks of the locals and the pace of the daily life in Cinque Terre. This is difinitely coastal living.

Monterosso - View of Corniglia Monterosso - Chiessa Monterosso - Town street
Monterosso - Wall messages Monterosso - Street Musicians Monterosso - Restaurant and church
Monterosso - Plaza Monterosso - Piazza

The next day while waiting for our train back to Milan in Monterosso, we went to this enotica cafe called 5 Terre for coffee and apple cake. The apple cake is out of this world! I was told it is a long time family recipe. I was expecting an apple pie taste but I was pleasantly surprised to taste something different. It on the buttery side and the apple is incorporated in the cake.
Monterosso - Coffee and apple cake 


After our quick tour of Monterosso, we hopped on the train to go to Riomaggiore. Riomaggiore is the southernmost town of the five so we decided to go there first and then work our way back going north.  According to the train schedule, it looked like the towns are separated less than five minute train ride from each other. There is a hiking trail called Via dell'Amore that connects the five towns but we were not up to the challenge.

Here's a picture I took during our train ride from Monterosso to Riomaggiore.
Monterosso - Train windown

Here are the panoramic views of Riomaggiore from the marina. The houses and the buildings look truly rustic up close and from afar they are hanging dramatically from the cliffs. It is easy for me to romanticize the place.
  Riomaggiore - Panoramic view 
  Riomaggiore - Cliffs

From the Riomaggiore train station, there is a pedestrian tunnel to get to the town but we took an elevator up to the top of the old castle that overlooks the town. 
Riomaggiore - From the train station Riomaggiore - Via dell amore

From the top, you get a nice bird's eye view of the train station, the picturesque coastline and the old town. We also passed by a beautiful church called the San Giovanni Battista church. I heard water gushing underneath the main street which is Via Colombo. I learned that there is indeed a stream under the street.
Riomaggiore - Train station Riomaggiore - S Giovanni Battista
Riomaggiore - Coastal views Riomaggiore - Coast Riomaggiore - Clay wall plaque

From the top, we walked down Via Colombo until we got to the marina.
Riomaggiore - Chapel Riomaggiore - Fishing boats 

We decided to break for lunch. We found this restaurant by the marina called Dau Cila. We ordered the tipical Ligurian fare with anchovies and sea food. The food was fresh and very light.
  Riomaggiore - Dau Cila pasta Riomaggiore - Dau Cila Bruschetta 
Riomaggiore - Dau Cila birra Riomaggiore - Dau Cila anchovies Riomaggiore - Dau Cila anchovies plate 


We got to Vernazza by mistake. The next town is Manarola but because we couldn't decipher the train schedule correctly, we got on a train that was not going to stop in Manarola. It stopped in the next town which is Vernazza. We decided to get off the train.

Going down the stairs of the train station, there are pictures and signs about the destructive flood which devastated the town in October 2011.

Here is a panoramic view of Vernazza from the marina.
The marina is an easy short walk from the train station on Via Visconti. Somehow, it felt like there were more people in Vernazza than in Riomaggiore so our leisurely walk on Via Visconti felt lively. Mijo and I lingered for a while in the marina to relax and enjoy the views.
  Vernazza - Panoramic view

We even had time to enjoy a cup of coffee and a scoop of gelato from the local cafes.
Vernazza - Caffe Vernazza - Gelateria Vernazza

After the relaxing break, we found this cave that leads to a rocky beach. I tried dipping my feet on the water and the water felt cold. It was still winter, after all.
 Vernazza - Cave
Vernazza - Beach Vernazza - Coast

Afterward, Mijo and I walked up past the train station. We reached Piazzetta dei Cadutti toward the hiking trail. We followed the sign that says Corniglia and got far enough to be near the vineyards. While the vines are still dormant, I can see rows and rows of vines on the slopes of the hills. This made me wonder if there are local places to wine taste.
Vernazza - Trail Vernazza - Piazzetta di Caduti
Vernazza - Going to Corniglia Vernazza - Enotica

Here is a breathtaking view of Vernazza from where the vines are. Such a pretty place!
Vernazza - View from the hills

The sun was going down so we decided to go back to the hotel in Monterosso. We decided to see the towns of Corniglia and Manarola the next day.


The next day, we checked out early from Affittacamere Monica in the morning. We took the train to Corniglia after a quick and light breakfast.

Corniglia is different from the rest of the Cinque Terre towns because it does not have a marina. The town is perched high up on the hills.

From the train station, you can reach the town by either taking a shuttle or by walking up the stairs. We took the stairs but we paced ourselves. Just imagine the stats - over 350 steps. However, we were rewarded with these picturesque views from the stairs.

Corniglia - View from top of stairs 

There's the train station below to give you an idea how high the climb is.
  Corniglia - Middle of Hike 

When I do repetitive things, I find that my brain comes up with the most interesting ideas or I become more observant of my surroundings.  I realized how beautiful the stone fences up close. I also got close once again to vines. They carved the side of the hills to create terraced vineyards. I heard that they make good white wines, or vinni bianchi, in the part.
  Corniglia - Hikers on stairs Corniglia - End of Hike Corniglia - Hikers
Corniglia - Looking north Corniglia - Church Corniglia - Altar by the stairs

While the town does not have a picturesque marina, I liked how the buildings are better kept and they look more medieval and less rustic.
Corniglia - Train station Corniglia - Streets
Corniglia - Sign Corniglia - Plaza 

Finally, we reached the area of town where we enjoyed a panoramic view of the coast. 
Corniglia - Panorama


 After Corniglia, we were down to the last town. The weather turned from sunny to cloudy to cold. I was just thankful that it didn't rain. Nevertheless, the town's rustic beauty still shone through.
Manarola - View of sea 

What I like about this town is that it has the best area for taking a panoramic view of the town. The area is called Punta Buonfiglio. You can get there if you walk along the promenade on the right side going to the hills.
  Manarola - Panoramic view 

Here are the other panoramic views.  
Manarola - Panoramic view high 

We lingered around the Punta and we saw ruins of an old church and the statue of The Lady of the Grape.
Manarola - View from side Manarola - View from below
Manarola - Lady of the Grape Manarola - Ruins

We also found a restaurant called Nessun Dorma so we decided to break for lunch and relax. We also took this opportunity to sample local Ligurian wines to pair with the very tasty bruschetta. We sample a white wine by Azienda Burasca. Mi piace!
  Manarola - Bruschetta Manarola - Azienda Burasca vini bianchi

After the relaxing lunch, we walked around the old town toward the church of San Lorenzo and the bell tower. Like the other Cinque Terre towns, I could hear streams of water flowing underneath the streets of Manarola.
   Manarola - Via Dell amore
Manarola - Via Discovolo  Manarola - Piazza
Manarola - Piazza Castello Manarola - Church of San Lorenzo

What can I say? I love Cinque Terre. The good thing about the area is it is close to Florence, as well. If we go back to Florence, we will definitely go back and maybe hike the Via dell'Amore.
 Corniglia - Train ticket

Manarola - Ticket validation

Grazie Cinque Terre! Ci vediamo, arrivederci!

Monterosso - Cinque Terre magnet


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