Thursday, April 16, 2009

Cinque Terre

How we got there:

For the long Easter weekend Rob has both Friday and Monday off. We took off in the car Thursday night and drove thru the Mont Blanc tunnel and got to our stopping point in Santa Margarita. The car ride was about 5 hours from Geneva with a small stop at an Autoroute for some craptastic sandwiches. We stopped on the Italian side of the autoroute for dinner at a place we had been before. They normally have pizza available too, but since it was so late, it was all gone.

We parked the car in Santa Margarita for the night on the street right next to the water in the "blue zone" where the front desk said it would be okay till 8 AM. We woke the next morning and ate our complimentary hotel continental breakfast. Cereal, croissants, and nutella/jam. Not much else you could ask for. We thought Santa M. was going to be a sorta lively town since we drove in and people were still out drinking on the main drag. It turned to to be exactly like we thought, but more resort town like. We were not in a hurray to get to Manarola since we could only check in after 2 PM so we stayed around Santa M. for a while. We walked the coastline (which was gorgeous) and walked around the small town square weaving in and out of the little street. Although we didn't know it yet, it was a taste of what was going to come all weekend.

Santa Margarita

We left Santa M but decided to take the local roads to Levanto instead of the Autoroute. It was a gorgeous drive but took probably 3 times as long since we weren't carving out way thru the terrain via tunnels and bridges like the autoroute. We really felt "at home" with the ocean breeze, the window down, and the mountainous terrain right next to the water. It felt very central coast CA, like driving thru Big Sur. We did end up getting on the autoroute for one section, but freaked out because the machine didn't give us a ticket in the beginning but we drove onto the freeway anyway. We were contemplating how much a lost ticket cost would be since we probably couldn't explain our way out of it. Luckily, we got off on the next exit, and there was a sign in Italian over the machine. We had not idea what it said, but the gate was open and we drove thru! We think it was probably free for the holiday weekend, but maybe it was just out of order? We will never know and hopefully we don't get a ticket in the mail!

We finally arrived in Levanto and knew of a parking lot near the train station. On the internet, somebody said it would be 9 euros a day and we were prepared to pay it. Nobody ever said that the meters only take money for a MAX of 24 hours and that we would have to come back to Levanto everyday to put more money in the meter! Oh well. The local train for the Cinque Terre includes Levanto as the Northernmost stop and La Spezia as the southernmost stop. It was just a quick 20 minutes train ride everyday each way to change out out metered parking space ticket, so decided to leave the car.

We opted and bought the 3 day Cinque Terre card for tourists that allows you to hop on and off any train between the cities and walk the trails. It also grants you access to all the museums of the area and supposedly a free mountain bike hire for three hours? We didn't take advantage of the last two.

The cities are in the order from North to South - Levanto, Monetrosso, Vernaza, Corniglia, Manarola, RioMaggiore, and La Spezia. We went to all of the besides La Spezia since it was a big town and we kinda wanted to get away from it all. The trick is to get a train schedule from any cashier on a small white piece of paper that tells you exactly when each train is leaving from each city. You have to be careful because some of the trains skip towns. They often skip Vernazza, Corgnilia, and Manarola at certain times of the day. Therefore since we stayed in Manarola, we had to be careful to get on a train at the appropriate time. The Italian trains don't have many markings on them when they speed into the station. There are no sign that say which one it is and you have to rely on the announcements in the station and the one monitor that shows arrivals and departures.

Where we stayed:

Since it was Easter weekend, we knew it was going to be a popular weekend and booked about a month in advance. I found a company online that rents rooms/apartments out and had an English website. We did all of the booking thru email and paid cash for the place once we got there. There are a lot of different options for accommodations, but I always think apartments are the way to go. There are actually very few hotel options and a lot of what is advertised in La Spezia (the bigger town in the south). We were extremely happy with out choice and felt like we stayed among the locals. The place was in the "high" town of Manarola and was a serious hike from the main drag up to the place every night. We had a lovely balcony and view and enjoyed in thoroughly.

View from our bed. I love waking up to beautiful views! The hillside in Manarola was covered with grape vines. The side of the town with the our place was full of cute buildings on the hillside. 

What we did:

Friday we decide to take the easiest of the hikes from Manarola to RioMaggiore called the "Via Dell' Amore" or the "lover's walk". Only 20 minutes along the rugged coastline and at the end was a great wine and snack bar that overlooked inlet near the Riomaggiore train station. We stopped and have some cheap local wine (2 Euros a glass!) and some Bruschetta. It was self service since it was a Friday and had open tables right along the balcony edge. Very relaxing! We headed back to Manarola and had dinner three doors down from our place at Trattoria Dal Billy. (See previous food post about this). When we got back to our room we were ready to fall asleep. From the lack of sleep the previous night, and the bottle and a half of wine we drank, we were ready to hit the hay. It was only 10 PM. Right before we totally were in sleepy land, a really loud group singing noise came from the town. We didn't investigate we we could tell that the locals were gathered at the church and signing songs for Good Friday. It was really beautiful. Although, we couldn't understand any of the Italian, we still smiled at the scene and fell asleep.

Saturday and Sunday we hiked around each of the towns and saw some great views. Our camera was constantly on and taking pictures as we uncovered scene after scene of great shots. We hiked up the nunnery in Vernazza, up to the church in Monterosso, up the lemon fields for limonino, and from Corniglia to Manarola (the 2nd easiest hike after the lover's walk). We stopped a lot a just stared at the views. There were lots of spots to sit and just watch the waves crash and people walk by. We noticed a lot of Europeans taking advantage of the picnic areas along the trails and the super touristy type hanging out by the water. The tourists were dressed very "hiker-y" with cargo's, big hats, and hiking boots galore. This place has some magnificent hikes, and people come just for them. Rob and I took a little from both worlds. Relaxing and Hiking. Each town was unique and it was just fun to try to walk down every little path, up every stairway, and into alleyways to try to find new things.

A view from Corniglia up to Vernazza and Monterosso. 

Manarola White Wine Vines. Walking the trail and this is view toward Corgnilia. 

Monterosso Al Mare

Getting Artistic. . . haha 

I loved this archway. Beyond it was small patio and then the ocean!
This photo was taken on the path up to our place in Manarola. 

Happy in Manarola

Monday we decided to take a detour on our way home and stop in Piza for a picture of the leaving tower. I really have always wanted to do this, but had no idea of how HUGE of a tourist trap it is. Piza is a shitty little town with one famous attraction. Luckily it was only a couple hours out of our way and we only paid 1.50 euro for parking across the street from it. It was funny to see all the tourists posing and "lifting" the tower up!

Our detour to Piza

There are way too many good pictures to share on the blog. We took over 900 and I uploaded about 85 to my picasa album. If you would like to check the rest out - Click Here.


Amanda April 17, 2009 at 2:50 AM  

So jealous!! It looks like you had some great weather! That 3 day tourist pass sounds like my kind of deal. I NEED to start planning our trip there...

The Bowers! April 18, 2009 at 12:10 PM  

What a fantastic trip! I'm jealous that you get to spend so much time relaxing and touring around other countries with your lover. Your adventures are turning into my "virtual vacations!"

cinque terre April 19, 2009 at 12:43 PM  

Hi, just want to invite you and your readers to our site about the cinque terre
( in my signature ) and to the blog where you can also vote the nicest of the 5 Terre.
Also a video section is online: Video of the Cinque Terre, a different point of view..

Jessica April 19, 2009 at 2:07 PM  

Awesome. Thanks for the details. So we either have to hire a car or settle in for the super long train ride... I will have to think about it! Either way it looks like it is totally worth it! Can't wait! Thanks again for such a great post.

About This Blog

Tina & Rob have relocated their lives to Geneva, Switzerland. This blog is a story of their adventure during the year and all the details inbetween.

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