Monday, October 24, 2011

Wandering Cinque Terre

Cinque Terre ("the five lands") is a beautiful and rugged stretch of coast along the Italian Riviera composed of five villages -- Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, & Riomaggiore -- that, along with the surrounding hillsides, form the Cinque Terre National Park.  The villages are largely devoid of large-scale corporate development and infrastructure so getting around the region is best by footpath, train, or boat.  (Lisa and I drove to the southernmost village -- Riomaggiore -- rather than take a train since our two-and-half days in Cinque Terre were part of a week-long road trip that included Cinque Terre and Tuscany.)  We arrived in late-afternoon then wandered down to a rocky alcove to lounge around while the sun set. 
Sun setting over the Mediterranean
"I could get used to this!"
"And I to this:  Aperol Spritz and potato chips!"
The primary footpath connecting the five villages -- Sentiero Azzuro -- is suppose to take about five hours to walk although when we were there, the leg between Manarola and Corniglia was closed due to a landslide so hikers were directed on a detour that added one to two hours to their journey.  Most of the trail between Riomaggiore and Monterosso is pretty tame, especially the paved section between Riomaggiore and Manarola. 
The southern terminus of Sentiero Azzuro
Once you leave Manarola, the trail starts to ascend the cliffs overlooking the villages and sea... 
Manarola
View to the south
View to the north
...and continues its up-then-down meander through Corniglia, Vernazza, and then eventually to Monterosso al Mare. 
Vernazza in the background
Afternoon sun over the Mediterranean
View of the Cinque Terre coastline from the northern end
Lisa and I also hiked the following day -- approximately 20 miles -- on a ridge-line trail high above the coast. 
Some of the trail signage we encountered
Looking back from the trail
Looking forward from the trail
Dusk settling upon the Italian Riviera
Another stellar sunset
Our destination on the second day of hiking was Levanto, the first town north of Monterosso:. 
The best beach among all the towns we'd wandered through
And when we arrived, we promptly seated ourselves at the nearest beach bar and ordered a couple of drinks.  No better way to conclude two days in Cinque Terre than this:
Paradise

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