Thursday, October 10, 2013

Where Your Treasure Is- Cinque Terre, Italy

Five small fishing villages spread across 18km of rugged coastline and unesco heritage National Park is what makes up Cinque Terre- Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso. Each town is a new hidden treasure all somewhat coordinated by their picturesque colour blocking facades yet all very unique in there own special way. 

Staying in the 'liveliest' town of them all, Riomaggiore, worked perfectly for all our wants and needs. Considering it was the largest of the lot it still didn't offer more then a local market store and a few tiny restaurants and cafes. The towns produce and food was extraordinary. When we weren't feasting on the local fresh seafood cones from the tiny take-out store we were cooking up our own feast using locally made pasta, pesto and cheese only to wash it all down with fabulous locally grown wine. I was in my finest Italian glory. 

Cinque Terre is most well known for its production of Basil which means that there is an endless supply of Pesto sold in every store and countless pesto meals in every restaurant. Without fail every meal would revolve around pesto. Pesto omelettes or crepes for breakfast, pesto pizza for lunch, pesto pasta for dinner and even pesto gelati for desert. Some days I would just sit there eating pesto from the jar just because there was no such thing as too much pesto when in Cinque Terre.  

We were excited to hear that the closest town near by and the smallest of all five Manarola was known as the food hotspot. After the amazing quality we had in Riomaggiore I couldn't even imagine it was possible for there to be anything more satisfying. Manarola is exactly how I imagine a fishing village to be with the main street lined with little row boats docked for the night along the sidewalk, its ambience was delightful. We dined in La Stiva and like promised the food was mind blowing. James went all out and opted for grilled octopus which he couldn't help but rave about for hours after. While I was more concerned about keeping the delicious local wine endlessly flowing. The way the towns houses were stacked by the seaside made it the perfect town to end the day and watch the sunset over.

The five villages are all linked by a 9km coastal trail. Due to landslides the tracks from Riomaggiore to the Vernazza have been closed for repairs. To walk the blue trail you need to buy a National Park pass to gain entry. We opted for the Cinque Terre Treno card which gives you a days of unlimited train and walking access. Heading to the furthest town Montorosso we planned to walk the three towns all the way to Corniglia. Monterosso for no real particular reason was my least favourite village. Its wide stretch sandy beach set it apart from all the other towns. Although its what also made it slightly more commercial for me. The walk from Monterosso is the steepest climb out of all the track which we did not find out until we were half way up the almost vertical track dripping from head to toe in sweat under the scolding summer sun. Once reaching the top of the rise the views out over the ocean were spectacular as we took one last look at Monterosso and how far we had already come made every step and struggle worth it. Trekking on it didn't get any easier however we persevered as we understood the bigger picture of it all. 

Turning the corner and being faced with the astonishing colourful Vernazza was a great feeling. Known as the gem of Cinque Terre I could already see why it was a favourite amongst the towns. Finally making our way down we treat ourselves to a pizza and gelati lunch getting ready to carb up for the remaining hike. Getting a bit to excited I decided to reward my hard work with a bottle of Cinque Terres finest Bianco vino devouring the bottle all to myself. Pushing onwards and upwards we continued on. Dehydrated from the alcohol and possibly slightly drunk I realised that I may have celebrated a little to early, but my weakness for wine was just to overbearing. Looking out over the peaceful ocean is what pulled me through all the way to the tiny town of Corniglia. 

Cinque Terre's second smallest town is perched all the way up the very top of a rocky hill making it the only one of the five that doesn't give you access to the sea. I found Corniglia charming with little laneway streets all running off into each other which was what also set it apart from the other villages. Along with Manarola it would have to be my favourite town, despite them being so small they were definitely the most characteristic. After a challenging long day we had finally witnessed the pleasure of each enchanting village of Cinque Terre. 

In the trekking spirit we couldn't go past another hiking opportunity. Up in the far mountain side of Riomaggiore lied another walking trail up to an old church. After concurring the three town trails a 45minute walk up to a church sounded like a walk in the park, wishful thinking. For some reason the words 'up hill' didn't really ring any alarm bells until I was pushing myself to my full extent constantly vertical for 45 minutes. Making it to the top the magnificent views we were graced with like always snapped me right back into overdrive. The tiny church sat there so innocently sombre, but the real highlight of it was the astonishing view that spread out across the ocean and out over all five of Cinque Terre's alluring villages. 

Our last night in Cinque Terre was also our last night in Italy. In celebration of the amazing time we had in this exquisite country we decided to have our last home cooked Cinque Terre pesto pasta which was the perfect meal to end our time. Uncorking our €10 bottle of chiante wine, that we were saving for a special occasion, on the rocks down by the water I was lost to the Cinque Terre spell. There was no where else I would have rather been at that exact moment in time. As the sun disappeared below the horizon in all its pink and orange glory it spelt an end to our Italian adventure. 

The Wanderer's Daughter xx

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