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Monday, October 31, 2011

Cinque Terre, Italy

During our only full day in Tuscany, we decided to leave. 

Tuscany that is. We drove northwest to Liguria. The weather was supposed to be amazing and we wanted to take advantage of it the only way we knew how - by hiking. Before we left on our trip I did a quick Google maps search and found out that the famous Cinque Terre was only an hours drive from our hotel. So, after a leisurely breakfast at Locanda al Colle we were on our way.

At the recommendation of Riccardo we drove to the town of Portovenere and took the ferry to "the five lands". I had visited Cinque Terre with my friend Kelly during the semester abroad that I spent in Florence. I remember it being one of the most beautiful places I had seen that spring. The hiking was amazing, the towns were picturesque and the spaghetti we had for lunch was, for serious, out of this world.

Sadly, that was over eight years ago.



Sorry, I just had a heart attack at how old I am.

I'm better now.

Right, back to Portovenere.  Riccardo, amongst countless others, claimed that seeing Cinque Terre by boat is the best way to see it. I had only hiked between towns on my last visit, so we hopped on the ferry at Portovenere and were on our merry little way.  Portovenere is a great little town in its own right, we wish we had more time to explore the churches and wander the steep streets.

We were approaching the towns from the south, so we decided to take the ferry to the fourth town and then hike back towards the first. For those of you who haven't heard of Cinque Terre, it is a collection of five small towns along the coast of the Ligurian Sea. The five towns included are Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso. Originally the only way to get between towns was to hike along the coastal path. Some of it is steep and rugged, some of it is a walk in the park. The distance between Monterosso/Vernazza and Vernazza/Corniglia are the longest and the most challenging. If you were to hike between all five towns without stopping it is said to take at least five hours. We were on a schedule (we had a four course dinner to get back to after all), so we decided to split the difference.

We took the ferry to Vernazza so that we could hike to Corniglia and then on to Manarola. From Manarola we were going to take the ferry back to Portevenere.

The best laid plans...

The first town we came across on the ferry - Riomaggiore
Amazing cliff in Riomaggiore
The second town - Manarola
The third town - Corniglia
The fourth town - Vernazza

We did, in fact, take the ferry to Vernazza. First item on our agenda - FOOD. We found a place that overlooked the water to have our pasta. It wasn't as amazing as the spaghetti I remember from eight years ago, but it was pretty tasty.  After fueling up and a quick stroll around town, we began the hike.

And man, was it a hike.

For a girl who can't remember the last time that she worked out (I'm not proud of that, but it is the truth!) - this was almost as bad as when we hiked Mt. Triglav in Slovenia. Ok, maybe not that bad.  In the end though, as usual, all the breathlessness and achy muscles and wheezing was worth it. 

It took us about an hour to hike from Vernazza and Corniglia and that was at a fast pace and with limited time to take photos. Like I said, we were on a schedule!

Once we got to Corniglia there was little time for play. We took a quick look around and then headed straight on to the path to Manarola. It was confusing to get on the right path, but as soon as we found it we were on our way. Or so we thought.

We noticed that the path was a little...quiet. Granted, it was the end of October, but the previous path had been busy with other hikers, so much so that at some points we had to wait for a line of people to pass before we could continue. On this second path we passed....two people. And they were going in the same direction we were, we passed them for being slow. We walked on until we reach a gate. That gate was closed, and locked and had barbed wire all along the top.


That wasn't going to work.

So we hoofed it back to the train station where there was an information desk and they confirmed that the path from Corniglia to Manarola was closed due to a land slide that hadn't been cleared. 


Our time was coming to an end anyways so we decided to head back to the first town, Riomaggiore, and get some gelato while we waited for our ferry back to Portovenere.  We were disappointed that we couldn't do more hiking, but the hiking we did do was fantastic. You would never guess that it was the middle of fall - there were so many incredible flowers in full bloom, mixed with cacti and pine trees - often all growing together side by side. The weather was perfection - bright blue skies and warm, but not too hot.

Pretty much, perfection.

Last Wednesday, October 26, the region of Liguria and Tuscany were hit with torrential rain and severe flooding. One of the worst hit areas was Cinque Terre. Not longer than five days after these photos were taken the five towns suffered severe damage. It is reported that two towns, Monterosso and  Vernazza, were the worst hit of them all and were essentially washed away. The Mayor of Monterosso said, "Monterosse no longer exists". My heart goes out to those who were effected by these damaging storms. Our thoughts and prayers are with those who have lost everything and wish you all a quick recovery from the devastation.

Read more here from The Telegraph


  1. Wow, so beautiful & so devastating!!! Thank you for sharing!

  2. did you find that lady with the pot of pasta on top of the mountain between the second and third town!!