Liguria: the Cinque Terre

Liguria is a narrow, rugged sliver of Italy’s north-western coast centred on Genoa, and is famous for the “Italian Riviera“, especially Portofino and the spectacular scenery of the Cinque Terre.

We spent a couple of days in the Cinque Terre (literally “five lands”). In one whole day we walked from Manarola up to Volastra, a small hilltop village, and down again to Corniglia where we had lunch and several drinks (it was a very hot day – 38C), then took the train to Vernazza, had a swim and a granita, took the next train to Monterosso at the North end of the Cinque Terre and  swam again before taking the train back in the other direction to see Riomaggiore at the Southern end.

By then, unsurprisingly, it was evening and we had fish and chips from Tutti Fritti in the main street (yes, that’s a free plug, but the place deserves it for selling the best fried seafood I’ve ever had). If you want to know more about the famous walks in the district, this wikivoyage page will answer most of your questions; all I will do here is post a few photos to whet your enthusiasm.

Looking up from Manarola to the terraced hillside and the beginning of the hiking path

On the path near the beginning of the walk

Before too long we were high enough to look back down on our starting point and along the coast to our destination.

Looking back down to Manarola, tucked into its narrow valley

The terraces (all dry-stone walls) represent an unimaginable amount of manual labour, but over a couple of thousand years. Grapes are the main crop.

Looking north along the coast to Corniglia on the headland and Monterosso in the hazy distance
Corniglia from the inland side, some hours later. Walkers are just visible on the path at lower left.

Trains between the villages run frequently and are almost the only alternative to walking, since roads are minimal and don’t, in any case, reach the centre of most villages – the streets are far too narrow even when the hills aren’t too steep.

Swimmers in the tiny harbour at Vernazza
Swimmers in the tiny harbour at Vernazza

The church (left foreground) dates back to the 13th century, although its bell tower is considerably later.

stone church
Interior of the church in Vernazza, beautifully cool and calm
beach umbrellas
The main part of the beach at Monterosso

Beach space is at a premium in Cinque Terre because the beaches are few and small. Our tour guide told us that Monterosso provided the best swimming (and it does) but most of the beach is “private” and one hires a lounge and umbrella by the hour or day. That doesn’t seem to dent its popularity with the Europeans but we Aussies preferred to make use of the small public section down near the headland.

Riomaggiore, just on sunset

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