This past weekend I was able to go on a little adventure farther down the coast to Cinque Terre, or “Five Lands”. I had heard about these villages before from travel articles and novels set in Italy, and had the general impression that they were pretty close to Genova. I knew I wanted to see them if it worked out, and I am so glad it did. It turned out to be about a one and a half hour train ride to get to the village where I stayed from Genova, which was a cool experience in and of itself. I haven’t done much long distance train travel recently, and not at all in Italy, so it was fun to get that experience. A lot of the way we were inside tunnels, so there wasn’t a ton to see, but every once and while we would pop out into the daylight between tunnels and there would be an incredible view of the Mediterranean, or a colorful seaside town.
As is implied in the name, there are five villages in Cinque Terre, each one not easily accessible by car and most often visited either using the convenient trains, by boat, or on foot. The five towns are each small and picturesque. They are all different though, and it took me a lot of time and research to decide where I wanted to stay. In the end, the real deciding factor was that only one of they villages has a real hostel, the other mainly offering private rooms (and these were generally for at least two people). So I ended up in Manarola, four villages in when coming from the direction of Genova. The hostel of course had some quirky aspects (taking a shower was very interesting), but overall comfortable and the owners were friendly and accommodating. There was a little restruant in the hostel, where I ended up having delicious pasta both nights I was in Cinque Terre. Over the weekend I saw four of the five villages, not visiting the most classically touristy and beachy one, which was ok with me.
I arrived in Manarola on Friday in the early afternoon and ended up spending most of the day with a girl from Siberia who was also staying at the hostel. We wandered around Manarola, then Vernazza, and then Corniglia in the dark that evening.
Vernazza seems to be in general a favorite of the five for many people (Rick Steves included), and I definitely can see why. It is gorgeous and has a sort of horse shoe-shape so you can sit in the center of town and be right on the water. It feels quaint and peaceful, but still has a little more in terms of shops and restaurants than Manarola does. As the sun got low in the sky we climbed up through the tiny streets and ended up high on a trail that had both a beautiful view of the town and front row seats for a lovely setting sun.
We decided that on the way back to Manarola we would stop at Corniglia, the village between the two. Corniglia is the only of the five villages that is not directly on the sea and you either can climb some rather steep stairs to get it, or take a little bus for a couple euros. We took the bus, not knowing how far up the village was. It was only six or so when we got to Corniglia, but of course since it’s November already (crazy!), it was totally dark. I think that Corniglia is the quietest of all the villages normally, but with it being dark and low season on top of that, it was dead. It took us about 20 minutes in total to see pretty much every corner of the village, and then head back down to the train. On the way down we met a guy from Argentina who was of course also staying at the hostel, because it was the one and only. We all waited for about an hour for the next train (didn’t plan this part so well), but got back to the hostel in time for dinner, so it all worked out. I had trofie (a type of pasta) with pesto, both foods very typical of the area, and we talked about traveling and laughed at the huge group of loud and happy Italian men that had just arrived and were having an elaborate and joyful meal. It was all warm and delicious and really perfect.
The next day it was sunny, which was unexpected and so, so great. I ended up going to Portovenere, yet another beautiful town on the water that I had heard a lot of good things about. It was an incredible visit, and definitely deserves it’s own post. Stay tuned!
I decided to watch the sunset at Riomaggiore, one of the villages I hadn’t seen yet. It was not a disappointment in all it’s pink sun-navy water-wispy clouds glory.
When I got back to Manarola it was dark but the sky was still warm from the incredible sunset. I bought some warm focaccia and headed down to the rocks at the water front. I had bought some fresh pesto in Portovenere, and had a solo picnic there on the cool rocks, the dark sea crashing gently against the stone before me.
Back at the hostel the evening consisted of more pasta, reading, swapping travel stories, and a late-night skype with siblings.
Sunday I had a leisurely morning at the cafe, where I was already a regular and the barista said “cappuccino?” as soon as I walked in (: Afterwords I did a little more walking around the edges of the village, climbing up the hillsides and sitting under grape terraces to soak up the view just a little bit more.
I ended up back in Genova in the late afternoon, tired, fulfilled, and smiling at how familiar this city already feels to me. Since this week’s weather forecast is looking exceptionally pacific northwest-y, I am so glad I was able to go on this beautiful getaway when I did.