Tuesday, March 24, 2015

#394 - Cinque Terre - Parte Due

Now that we are actually settled in Corniglia, let me backtrack a bit to explain Cinque Terre.  It is a rugged part of the coast on the Italian Riviera and the name translates to “The Five Lands”, which are five villages:  Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso al Mare (going south to north).  I also read that “Terre “comes from the terraces that people have built over the years on the cliffs, while cinque is Italian for “five”.  The coastline, five villages and the hillsides around it, are all part of the Cinque Terre National Park. 

We slept well in our little farmhouse by the sea and had a nice breakfast downstairs.  The night before Lorenzo told us that someone would arrive to drive us to town in the morning.  After breakfast we stood around and waited.  And enjoyed the view.  And waited some more.  We asked the woman at breakfast about a ride, but she spoke limited English.  We were getting impatient.  While we appreciated an impending ride, we didn’t want to spend all day up there. 

Julie at the back of the farm house after breakfast, day one.
It was approaching 10 a.m. so we decided to walk on our own.  There are many trails around Cinque Terre of varying difficulty (some people come just to hike), and we planned to do a little hiking anyway, so thought we’d try walking down the hill to Vernazza.  I saw a trail by the driveway and later spotted some hikers.  We followed the trail but took a wrong turn in the vineyards.  Eventually we got on the right trail.  We asked someone how long it would take to walk to Vernazza and they said about half an hour.  We could do that! 

It was a beautiful day - sunny and cool in the morning, warming up to near 80.  We packed some athletic clothes for hiking (and sturdy shoes).  I even wore my stylish sun hat.  The trail was obviously mostly downhill, but was very rocky so we had to watch our steps carefully.  Walking sticks were prevalent along the trails and a popular item at some shops around town.  One nice couple along the trail agreed to take our photo. 

Every so often we’d stop and just look out onto the sea.  And then look back from whence we came.  Our yellow farmhouse got smaller and smaller.  I can’t believe we walked all that way down! 

Our farm house. 

Vernazza from the trail to Monterosso.

After exploring Vernazza, we continued hiking to Monterosso, which took two hours.  Along this part of the trail we encountered a group of high school kids who were very annoying.  They would not shut up!  Counting, singing, OMG WILL YOU BE QUIET!!  I think they were German or Danish.  We’d let them pass, they would stop to rest, we would pass them, and then they were right behind us again. 

Monterosso is the only village with a beach, so we had to check it out.  It felt great to take our shoes off and enjoy some down time enjoying the water and the view.  This particular beach is made up of little rocks – no soft, white sand.  But it was a beach nonetheless!  After our break we had pizza and salad at a small cafe right next to the marina. 

View of Monterosso from our trail.  

Monterrosso is the village furthest north, so we took a ferry all the way to the village furthest south, Riomaggiore.  It was cool to see the villages from the perspective of the sea.  And there was our little yellow farmhouse way up on the hill!  Again, we were amazed we had walked all that way! 

You can just make out the yellow farm house at the very top center.  We walked on a trail that went to the left of that.  

One of my co-workers had been to Cinque Terre two years prior and had dinner at Bar de Pie du Ma, a restaurant on top of a cliff in Riomaggiore.  After finally finding it, we decided to have a drink and enjoy the view.   

We then took a train to Manarola.  We had planned to hike a bit more, but I believe the trail from Riomaggiore to Manarola was washed out.  That is our excuse anyway.  We wandered Manarola and found a playground on top of a hill.  We are still kids at heart so had to play. 

Our last train of the day was back to Corniglia.  This time we ate at Food and Sea, which was right next to the restaurant run by the owner of the farm house, Ristorante Dau Tinola.  This place was awesome!  Another great view of the sea/sunset.  We both had salad – the best salad so far (and turned out to be the best salad of the trip).  This region of Italy is known for pesto, so I chose pasta with pesto. 

I have to include a side note on Dau Tinola.  We dined there September 23 and then ate at Food and Sea September 24 and 25. In looking up the restaurant online, I found some reviews on TripAdvisor.  There is one dated September 25 (“Dau Tinola is A-OK”)!  It describes a tall waiter with white hair, who could be a bit gruff.  Our Lorenzo!   I agree with the reviewer – a smile can go a long way. 

After dinner I smiled and got Lorenzo’s attention, and we hitched another ride with him to the farmhouse. 

Besides our friend Lorenzo, we met others along the way and were able to chat with them for varying lengths.  At breakfast this morning we met a couple from Israel.  They live near Ramat Hasharon, which was where I lived for about seven months playing basketball.  They knew my coach (and said she is still coaching the team).  Crazy!  They were very nice and had their own dramatic adventure driving to the farmhouse the night before.  (No GPS, the road ended, they had no idea where they were!) 

Another couple we talked to (in Manarola?) was from Marseille, France.  I lived in Aix-en-Provence, France for a couple months, also playing basketball, so we talked France for bit.  (Oui!) It’s so fun to talk to people from other countries, and then when you have something in common, it’s even better! 

While sitting on the rocks in Monterosso waiting for the ferry we chatted with a Canadian woman.  She was traveling mostly by herself.  I would guess she was in her mid 50s.  Brave woman! 

Our second day in Cinque Terre was much less dramatic than the first, but way more scenic and interesting.  We enjoyed another restful night in our farmhouse and were ready to take on a third day. 

Our new morning routine of walking down to Vernazza continued.  However, to save time and see more of the villages, we took trains the rest of the day.  One new discovery - Monterosso has a new town and old town.  How did we miss that?  You have to walk under a tunnel to get to the new town.  If we ever come back to Cinque Terre we will look at staying in Monterosso.  We like the beach and it seems that there would be more hotel options with better access to the village.  We spent a lot of time there walking around town and checking out the market. 

Back in Corniglia, we walked down some steep steps to the marina (this is the only village where the ferry does not stop – it’s very rocky).  We sat on a huge rock watching the others play in the water.  After an exhausting walk back up we sat in a small piazza and people-watched for an hour or so.

I felt like doing this after climbing back up from the marina!

The Corniglia piazza where we people-watched. 
Two older Italian ladies sat on a bench not far from us, and an American woman took a photo of them as she walked by.  They saw here and became very angry, yelling at her in Italian.  She walked over to apologize and a local, who interpreted, said they were upset that she didn’t ask for permission.  They didn’t understand why they were so different that someone would want to take their photo and invade their privacy.  Don’t mess with the Italian ladies! 

Cinque Terre has amazing sunsets, and we watched part of that day’s sunset from a scenic lookout, then watched the rest at our new favorite restaurant – Food and Sea.  This time I ordered a chicken cutlet and fries, salad, and pesto bruschetta.  I love pasta, but needed a break. 

Time for our last ride to the farmhouse.  As I approached Dau Tinola I heard the owner talking on the phone.  I waited outside patiently for about five minutes.  Then I heard yelling.  It was the owner, saying he couldn’t do two things at one time.  I slowly entered the building and asked a young waiter if the owner was angry with me.  Of course, he didn’t understand me.  I then asked the owner about a ride in the morning and he said someone would be there at 8:30 a.m. 

As Lorenzo drove us to the farmhouse, he went on a little Italian “rant” about having to drive us each night.  “No organization!”  We could understand words here and there.  His job was to be the waiter, not a taxi.  He was from Pisa and had worked there several months, and was about to go back to Pisa/Lucca in October.  “Understand?”  We answered, “Si.”  When we got back to the house Julie gave him five euros for petrol.  I told him he was “fantastico!”  He apologized for being so upset and kissed our hands.  We told him it was ok!  We love you Lorenzo! 

Despite some challenges, Cinque Terre is a must see.  Like Venice, it’s the quintessential Italy that you envision.  Tiny villages with winding, cobblestone streets.  The magnificent view of the sea on one side, and the mountains on the other.  If you decide to go, do some research on the location of your hotel to save yourself some drama.  And if you happen to run into a tall, grey haired waiter named Lorenzo, give him a smile and tell him the crazy American girls from Corniglia say buongiorno!  

Our lovely room with balcony.

Last morning - off to Florence!

1 comment:

  1. Good report. Happy to see you enjoed Cinque Terre. Just wondering if you buy some original pesto to cook your pasta back in the States.