WELL, it’s been a while since I’ve made my first post, so I’ve got some catching up to do!
The weekend of January 29-31 was the first possible weekend to travel independently from school. So, Kiki (my dear travel companion and fellow nature lover) and I put our heads together a few days before our departure and realized we were both craving the kind of beauty that a city simply doesn’t hold – the great outdoors. And so it was our desire for nature that led us to Cinque Terre.
Just a few highlights from the weekend:
- Discovering each town’s own feel/environment
- The time Kiki and I accidentally made an 1 1/2 hour long hike from Corniglia to Vernazza a 4 hour long hike – we’re still not quite sure how that happened
- The constant breathtaking views
- The sea air
- The town of Manarola
- Friendly strangers
- And making it to the Cinque Terre back and feeling proud of ourselves for our “adulting” skills
Early on in our trip, Kiki and I came to know and love the feeling of independent travel without a strict schedule. Throughout the weekend, we did a lot of meandering (what a great word!). Usually we found empty streets and closed shops, because it’s off-season time for this tourist destination. But sometimes we’d come across the sights, foods, and smells that made the tired feet worthwhile.
The day we arrived in Corniglia, the town we stayed at for both nights, we hiked to Vernazza. We began our hike at around 1400 hours with plans to arrive at about 1530 hours, where we explored, watched the sunset and ate dinner. With paper maps we couldn’t read in hand, we set out, content to follow the occasional signs and arrows pointing us toward Vernazza.
For the first hour or so of our hike, we were surrounded by lush, deep green vines and trees that occasionally formed green tunnels for us to pass through as we walked. By about the second hour, we were spit out on to a paved winding road, which we followed for some time until we spotted the trail markers we thought we’d seen earlier.
It was not the same trail. On this trail, the trees were now far below us as we clambered down steep, rocky, and muddy paths on the mountain side. It was a difficult hike filled with a few frightening slips, sharp cliff edges, a bit of rain, and some torn pants, but it was breathtaking and energizing nevertheless.
In Vernazza, we wondered about as the sky grew darker until we felt as if we’d gotten a solid feel for the town. Back in Corniglia, we stopped at a cozy caffe near our airbnb and ordered pasta and white wine, nibbling on soft bread in the presence of a large and smiling pup as we waited. Our food quickly disappeared after it arrived, and we sat in the warmth of the caffe, running throughout the events of the day. Not long after the vino and warm food began working their magic in our tired bodies, we said goodnight to the sleepy town of Corniglia – a peaceful end to a great first day in the Cinque Terre.
On our second and first full day in the Cinque Terre, we got an early start and trained to Riomaggiore. There we checked out a couple churches and a castle, took some pictures, and even chased a few pigeons. We had hoped to hike to Manarola from there, but the coastal trail from Riomaggiore to Corniglia was closed at the time. So, after we felt satisfied with our time in the Riomaggiore, we trained to Manarola.
Manarola was slightly more touristy than all the others, making the town feel more alive. We ate lunch at a little pizzeria along the main street and WOW. My first experience with pesto pizza and it was delicious! We actually ended up eating next to a large group of young adults who also speak English. They were traveling together for work, and it turned out that some were American as well. One of them is from good ole’ St. Louis and is even familiar with SLU, so that was a neat, coincidental run-in!
After lunch, we hopped on the part of the coastal trail toward Corniglia that wasn’t closed, which was full of lovelocks and great views. Oh, and a playground. So, of course, we did what any young adult would do and squeezed onto the small teeter-totter and merry-go-round even after a passer-by kindly informed us in Italian that the toys are usually for the “bambini.”
One of the best parts of the weekend came next. We reached the end of the coastal path and could go no further toward Corniglia, but a separate, open trail led us down to a ramp that disappeared in to the water. And above the ramp was a small cliff with a flat top that we reached with only a bit of climbing from the base of the ramp. There we sat, talking, drinking the rest of our miniature bottles of vino from the pizzeria, and taking in the beginnings of the setting sun over the Mediterranean Sea. It was happiness on a stick. All of it.
After we watched the sun set completely in Manarola – with some of the deepest and richest pinks, purples, and oranges I’ve ever seen – we headed to Monterosso. We wrapped up the day with a walk around the town, dinner, and a test of agility down at the beach – jumping out of the way of the crashing waves just as they came in.
To friends considering a journey to the Cinque Terre, I absolutely recommend it. But be warned. It’s very likely that the only word to escape your mouth for quite some time after you’ve witnessed the beauty it contains will be “WOW” or “Magical!” or even “Daaammmnnn.” It’s that magnificent.