Is not as simple as it sounds! Cinque Terre a group of 5 villages perched along the coastline, accessible by foot and train. Cars are limited to residents only and to be honest having to drive here could send you prematurely grey!
Most visitors arrive by train, we were recommended to catch the train from La Spezia! We did not manage an early start, coffee on our patio was hard to resist and our Satellite Navigation system decided that it was going to take us on the scenic route & that it would send us round in circles looking for the train station!
La Spezia is a big, bustling city with like many of these places, tortuous, twisting and as convoluted as spaghetti! Add to that a total of 3 train stations, limited parking and a time limit! Our expedition abandoned, we headed down to Portovenere, this is a picturesque village built on a rocky toe jutting into the Mediterranean! This place is as enchanting as any of the Cinque Terre villages, a lot easier to get to with fantastic views especially from St Peter’s Church, you can also visit Byron’s Cove and taste the fresh pesto!
Portovenere has a ferry service which runs to Cinque Terre several times a day for about $30 you can get a fisherman’s view of this beautiful spot. We determined to come back and just maybe catch that ferry!
Our interest was definitely peaked all we needed know was to find the best way to get to Cinque Terre, after extensive research (praise to Google) we discovered that you have to get to the Central station in La Spezia, also that parking is a nightmare to find. However you can drive to Levanto which is a turn off just up the highway from La Spezia followed by a short windy drive, lots of sharp bends, cliff wall one side, plummet the other!!! No problem, we have been practising.
The station was easy to find as was the parking which cost about $10 for 8 hours, 10 minutes later we are onboard with our 24 hour train and trail pass in hand! (There is now a access charge for hiking the trails). We decided to ride the train to Riomaggiore and work our way back using trails and trains!
We took the trail to Manarola which was a gentle stroll along a level path hugging the cliffside, how very civilized! Next was Corniglia who teeters on the edge of a cliff, the sea has had its way and this seaside village now has 365 steps down to sea level! The station is almost at sea level and there is a long climb us said steps to the top! The village is worth a vista, however the trail to Vernazza was closed! Down all those steps to the train!!!
You might also want to check the train schedule in advance so that you don’t end up sitting at the bottom of those stairs during the one and half hours where there is no train service!
Vernazza was a hive of rebuilding and a gorgeous place, revolving around its narrow, steep, main street, finding the beginning of the trail took some time, perseverance won out and we set off, going up, up and up! This is not for the faint of heart and high heels and flip flops are deterred. I was glad to have my hiking boots! We were also very glad that it was a overcast, cool day, there was many a shiny, slick, red face including mine to be found among our fellow climbers. This is not a gentle stroll, however anything worthwhile doesn’t come easy, it is worthwhile, including the climb down to Monterosso……. where we accosted by a voice emanating from a hole in the netting walls! Freshly squeezed lemons, grown in his own garden and squeezed on the spot, add sugar, ice water and heaven is served!
If he is there when you visit, do try the lemonade or even the Lemoncella and maybe he will regale you with how the youngsters don’t want to work anymore! They just want to drink, play on their computers and smoke marijuana! What is the world coming too?
Monterosso is a place I would like to visit again, however our parking ticket was expiring! Levanto to Riomaggiore by train 27 minutes, back by train, foot, trails and the odd beverage 8 hours!