Wednesday, July 29, 2009

European Vacation 2009 - Cinque Terre, Italy (Days 16-19)

In a word...breathtaking.

In a few words...hills, steps, more hills, oh my!

Cinque Terre (5 lands) is located on the west coast of Italy, just north of La Spezia and south of Genova. The 5 villages (from n. to s. Monterrosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore) are all part of the National Park and has been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Home base for us was Manarola at the La Torretta Charm & Relax (more to come on this topic). Manarola is a beautiful and charming town, that requires a bit of effort to explore. From the waterfront to our hotel room we had to climb 110 steps and go up 7 inclines...and it was hot...and humid.

Cinque Terre is a hiker's paradise (from the die hard hiker to the leisurely walker). There are trails of varying degrees and at various elevations. Aside from hiking / walking, there are a few (minor) museums about the local history and the sweet Sciacchetrà dessert wine, swimming / snorkeling / scuba diving, shops, and wonderful cafes and restaurants.

The Via dell'amore trail runs from Manarola south to Riomaggiore. It takes about 20-30 minutes to walk and is relatively flat. It runs along the coast, so the views are magnificent. You can walk from Riomaggiore in the south to Monterrosa al mare in the north in about 5 hours...but the terrain is quite steep and I think you'd be crazy to walk it all in one day!

A train connects all of the cities, as do water ferries, and some eco friendly green buses. We took the ferry from Riomaggiore to Monterrosa al mare and then took the train south stopping in the other cities along the way to Manarola. Once you buy your train ticket, you can use it all day as long as you continue in the same direction.

I liked all of the cities, with the exception of Monterossa al mare. It appeared to be nothing more than a big beach filled with umbrellas and chairs (which you have to pay to use).

A few pictures from Cinque Terre...

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