Cinque Terre, Part Two
All the literature indicates that you can walk the trail between the five towns of Cinque Terre, Italy in five hours but as far as I am concerned, that would be a sin. Instead, I chose to split the hike over two days, beginning with the western portion from Monterosso al Mar to Corneglia, which I completed yesterday. Today I started at the eastern end of Cinque Terre, in the village of Riomaggiore. The train let me off near the bottom of the hill, at a piazza overlooking the town’s pretty little harbor and once again I was overwhelmed by the colors and scenery.
Here, pastel painted wooden fishing boats are “parked” along the sides of the main street where cars would normally be found, as the village has a tradition of pulling up the boats when the sea is rough. I walked down to the harbor for a closer view of the rocks upon which the waterfront houses perch – their distorted and folded fingers creeping into the sea and attesting to a volatile volcanic past.
Rounding one of these rocky outcrops brings one to the town’s postage-stamp beach, which was in full use, despite its shingle shore.
From this vantage point I looked back to discover that the bulk of the town was up. There is an elevator for the faint-of-heart, incapacitated, or out-of-shape, but since I could not claim one of these categories, I hoofed it up the steep incline that is the main street, snapping photos of the colorful houses that lined the way.
At the very top sat a medieval castle, facing seaward as if still on the lookout for enemies. From its ramparts I was treated to a fabulous view of the entire town, with its houses crawling up the sides of the valley and its old church dominating the landscape.
The walking path was easily seen from up here and I headed down to start the trek to nearby Manarola. Unlike the portions of the path I trod yesterday this part of the walk, known as the Via dell’ Amore (Walk of Love), is wide and paved, with a barely discernible uphill gradient a solid steel guardrails. From Riomaggiore to Manarola is a leisurely 20 minute stroll, with cliff-side cafes along the way should the walk be too strenuous. Also along this portion of the path thousands of couples over the years have written their names on small padlocks, attached them to the guardrail, and thrown the key into the ocean below, signifying undying and endless love, thus the nickname “Walk of Love.”
Soon, Manorola came into view, its multicolored mosaic of houses chiseled into the granite and basalt cliffs. Here again, fishing boats lined the streets beneath these vibrant houses, proving that this is still an active fishing village and not just a tourist destination.
This is one of the things that so appealed to me about Cinque Terre – local residents are still living the way they always have, fishing or farming the land and evidence of this is everywhere. I could feel the realness of the place, unlike San Gimignano, which had totally give in to the “tourist trap” mode.
On the other side of Manarola I again picked up the footpath and completed the remaining hour and ten minutes to Corniglia, so that I could truly say I had walked the entire Cinque Terre footpath. It is really a shame to spend only two days here. I hope to come back someday soon and devote more time to this fascinating region, since there are literally hundreds of trails that can be walked all throughout the hillsides and many other towns to be visited, such as tiny San Bernardino, perched on the very top of a mountain between Vernazza and Corniglia and accessed only on foot. But even if you have only two days – even only one – don’t miss Cinque Terre. It is spectacular and undoubtedly my favorite place in Italy – as I said in my previous post, I think I’m in love!