Walking in the Cinque Terre – I couldn’t wait.
What to pack? My essentials consisted of my trusty walking shoes, loose cotton cut-off slacks and a few cool linen tops, plus a collapsible straw hat. Also, into the bag went a swimsuit, wrap, sandals and a few light cotton garments for lunchtime and evening wear. And, of course, several books.
Arriving in Pisa, I hopped on the train to La Spezia, changing there to the local express for the Cinque Terre and beyond.
I had chosen Monterosso al Mare as my base for the two weeks I planned to stay in the Cinque Terre. It is the largest village of the five, accessible by car and with two large beaches. It has a year-round population of around 1,500, but this figure swells to unfathomable numbers in summertime.
I arrived at sundown.
Monterosso, the furthest west of the five towns, is split in two with the new and old parts linked by a tunnel beneath the promontory of San Cristoforo. On the far side is the old town with its quaint narrow streets and second great beach. I stayed in the new part and wandered through the tunnel every evening for dinner.
There are lots of small hotels, B&Bs, rental apartments and restaurants in Monterosso al Mare and the village has a unique holiday atmosphere. There are rental sun loungers and umbrellas on the beaches and excellent facilities with changing rooms and bars, where you can get a lunchtime panino and an ice cold beer.
The pretty town is full of lemon trees and is also famous for its grapes, olives and white wine.
There is a train station which ferries its passengers between the five towns and beyond. First stop Bonassola….
followed by Levanto….
The other Cinque Terre villages are Vernazza, Corniglio, Manarola and Riomaggiore.
I also took a boat trip along the coast. The high cliffs, dotted with houses here and there, were stunning. i wondered what it must be like to live on, what looks like, a fairly precarious location.
I arrived in Portovenere, a very beautiful town, protected by UNESCO and beloved by Lord Byron, it is just down the coast and not part of the Cinque Terre. A perfect spot for a light lunch.
Walking between these five villages is the real reason I was there. Let me take you along these wonderful trails.
The first morning I walked from Monterosso to Vernazza. This was pretty steep and my heart almost stopped at the sight of the many drops, with very few railings in sight. But I soldiered on and, in fact, I did this walk on two separate occasions.
My next trip began by train when I travelled the short distance from Monterosso to Vernazza. Here I began my walk to Corniglia, the smallest and highest of the villages of the Cinque Terre. I began my climb, looking back at pretty Vernazza.
I followed this another morning, travelling to Corniglia by train, where I walked the much simpler route from there to Manarola.
After that, I found the walk to Riomaggiore a mere stroll. It is only 500 metres from Manarola and can be done in sandals along the Via dell’Amore which is chock full of padlocks and romantic graffiti in its tunnels under the cliffs.
Daily, on returning to Monterosso from my various morning adventures on foot and by train, I headed to the beach, where I had hired a sun lounger and umbrella for the duration of my stay.
I found that swimming in the sea at Monterosso was an absolute treat. Floating on my back in the warm waters of the Mediterranean Sea, while looking up at the mountains towering overhead, was wonderful.
How to get there: Ryanair to Pisa. Then by train via La Spezia.