If you ever get tired of life, bypass the therapist and decamp immediately to Cinque Terre. - Lonely Planet
On my first visit to Florence, I wanted to do the trip to Cinque Terre but somehow it never happened. This time it was going to happen and it did. Like the good traveller, I had pre-booked everything beforehand, and had planned for this trip. It was a hike, and not just a cutesy walk about town. So I had upped my incline sessions during my workouts (lol) - ready to go. However, one can plan and plan but you don't cater for:
1. Blisters - all this tourist walking in Venice and in Florence had taken a toll, and I got blisters, as I always seem to while on vacation. Not cool. I soaked my feet the night before, hoping for the best.
2. Pre-hike drinks - While I was not drunk or hungover, I was tired after a night out in Florence. And while I put my sunglasses on, pulled the blinds and slept on the bus, I was in no shape for walking 4.5km!
3. The HEAT!!!! - It was 40 degrees Celsius. Nuff said. It was horrible.
So when we got to Cinque Terre, I already figured this hike was not going to happen. When given the option to take the train and wait for the group - I did. lol. All my morning workouts down the drain.
But it did not make Cinque Terre any less beautiful. For those who don't know, Cinque Terre which translates to the Five Lands is situated along the coast of the Italian Riviera, in the Liguria region of Italy. Five ramshackle yet beautifully quaint villages - Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore - built along the cliffs, along steep terraces overlooking the ocean. Actually our guide told us there are more than 5 villages but Cinque Terre just had a nicer ring to it. lol.
Just a note on our guide, Fabian, who was funny, knowledgeable and so friendly.
The views from the terraces are breathtaking. We arrived in Manarola and the views were immediately taking our breaths away.
|View from the terraces of Manarola - this was a downhill hike, but careful of the terrain|
|The village itself - Manarola|
The villages each have their own unique spirit and again, food and wine played an important part of the day.
I don't remember much about the first village but we lunched in Corniglia, in a cute family run place with great views of the ocean. This however came at great cost, as it was quite a hike up almost 400 steps to get there, in the punishing heat. And this was the easy part.
Lunch though, was well worth it. Pesto has its origins in the Liguria region, so of course no lunch would be complete without it. Pasta with the best pesto I had ever eaten was preceded by a seafood starter comprising of such lovelies as octopus and anchovies.
|The first plate in Corniglia consisted of stuff like octopus, crab balls, calamari and anchovies|
I really enjoyed this and ate it all.
|So simple and yet pesto is always so amazing|
There would be no wine with lunch, in preparation for the 4.5km hike up the steep cliffside in the 40 degree heat. It was at this point, I said - not today, and took an easy stroll to the bus stop and to the train station. I was not the only one either. It was terrible how hot it was. So while the others continued on the hike, we took the train to the village of Vernazza. It was in Vernazza that I found a table under an umbrella and took in the sights of people sunning on the rocks on the beach, licking sticky rivers of gelato from their arms or just having beer or wine in the shade.
|The worn elegance of the town of Vernazza|
|Beautiful coastline views in Vernazza|
|View from behind my wine glass in Vernazza|
I met up with my tour group peeps, who were all sweaty and busted, and one was so surprised that others had taken the train because he was too embarrassed to admit he wanted to pass on the hike as well. Funny. After a few more gelatos and soaking our heads in water, we took the train to Monterosso.
In Monterosso, I did some wine tasting. Where Chianti is known for its red wines, the Cinque Terre DOC produces lovely white wines - which are my preferred wine, so of course - bring it.
|Cinque Terre DOC white wines - all for me!|
|One of the beautiful spots in Monterosso|
By now, the sleep debt was weighing on me, but so much more to do and see. Next we hopped on a ferry which would be a 40 minute ride along the coast - where you could get a different view of the five villages. The ferry would drop us off at what was my favourite of all 5 - Riomaggiore.
|We took a ferry from Monterosso to Riomaggiore and got to go past all the villages we had been to before|
|Ferry views - one of many on the 40 minute journey|
|Oh how lovely - Riomaggiore|
Oh how I loved this village. The energy was different. The people seemed more passionate, friendlier, the village itself, more contemporary. I found while the town itself still had a worn appeal about it, there were touches of the 21st century which made for a lovely contrast. Maybe it was because it was the 'youngest' of the five villages, built up around the 1300s. Yeah - that's the kind of cougar bait we are talking about.
And my fave part was the seafood mix - which is as 'fast food' as you get here. Various types of seafood, battered and fried, and for 5 euros, you get a huge cone of niceness - calamari, anchovies, shrimp, anything you want - you customise your cone.
|You could have deep fried veggies or fries as well with your seafood mix. |
Wide assortment of yumminess
|My seafood mix order consisted of vegetables, shrimp and calamari. This was beyond beyond good!|
Cinque Terre is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a must visit. I would recommend the hike as well, which is offered by Walkabout Florence, but August is probably not the best time to try this. But it is a must - really. It is the only one of the tours that ensures you visit all five villages.
After a great day in Cinque Terre, I took it easy for the rest of my time in Florence before heading to the City of Lights. So we go to Paris, up next.