Cinque Terre consists of five fishing villages on the northwestern coast of Italy. It is difficult to capture in words or photographs how unique they are. Below is a photograph I took while sitting on the bed of my rental apartment in Manarola and a look back at the village from the cove.
One reaches the cinque terre by train or boat as there are no vehicle roads leading to or between the towns. Once you arrive, there are hiking trails between each village - ranging from the easy twenty minute stroll from Riomaggiore to Manarola to the challenging two hour hike between Vernazza and Monterosso. The trail between Manarola and Corniglia was closed due to recent rock activity and I wasn't interested in tackling the more difficult hike, so I walked from Riomaggiore to Manarola and completed the 1.5 hour hike between Corniglia and Vernazza. I took the very short train ride from Manarola to Corniglia and then realized I had to climb a seemingly unending series of stairs up and up from the train station to the city on a hill. Below is a photo of the stairway to Corniglia - notice the train tracks in the upper left hand corner. The beginning isn't visible, but I was about 3/4 of the way up when I took this photo. Though it was October, it was still quite hot in the beautiful sunshine, so I was pleased to have a chance to rest before beginning the 1.5 hour hike to Vernazza.
When my children were young, we'd stay in state parks during vacations and loved hiking to waterfalls. My boys would always wait for me to offer a hand or an arm during uneven or difficult transitions along the trails. I really didn't need their help, but I loved that they honored me in that way. While I was on my hike to Vernazza I so wished one of my strong, caring boys was there to offer a hand as I climbed up and up, then winded my way back down and around, only to climb up once again. Over and over. The view was spectacular and I enjoyed most of the hike, but you can imagine how thrilled I was to round the bend of the trail and glimpse my first view of Vernazza. Below is the photograph of that first glimpse. Beautiful, no?
It would be unfair, but if I had to choose a favorite of the five villages here, I would have to choose Vernazza. It is the classic definition of a quaint fishing village. The rocky cliffs, colorful houses, and fresh selections at the restaurants are similar in all of the villages, but Vernazza has that little something that gives it a slight edge in my mind. I'm not sure what it is; perhaps it's because my favorite restaurant in the area was the Blue Marlin in Vernazza - it played blues music and had a menu board posted outisde with the 3 or 4 selections of the evening -- there was no printed, permanent menu. The offerings changed daily based on what was fresh. My only problem was that they didn't begin serving dinner until after 8pm and the train schedule from Vernazza back to Manarola (where I stayed) was such that I had to either eat as soon as they opened with only an hour to enjoy dinner before hurrying to the station or hang out in Vernazza until 10:45 in the evening. I did manage to eat there twice, however, and it was worth the scheduling difficulties. Below are some of my favorite Vernazza photos.
I have never been able to capture sunsets with my camera, but the ones here screamed to be documented. I took the 5-15 minute train ride to a different village each night to experience the sunsets and I can assure you it was worth making the effort to not miss a single one. They were glorious. Here are two of my favorite shots.
I returned to Rome on October 12 and on October 25 Vernazza and Monterosso were hit with 20 inches of rain in 4 hours resulting in flash flooding and landslides leaving debris up to 12 feet. Residents have moved to nearby towns. The tenacity and determination of the italian people makes me confident that they will rebuild and soon be hosting new friends. They have already opened a "new Monterosso" - with work continuing on the old parts of town. Vernazza hopes to welcome visitors by spring or summer. I am grateful that I was able to visit when I did and hope to once again return. I will leave you with a slideshow of this special place.