Cinque Terre – ITALY
Five villages like five beguiling sisters cling to the rugged cliffs on the Ligurian coast of Italy; their names are Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore. Colorful houses are stacked upon the hillsides where grapevines flourish, and fishing boats bob in the little harbors. Ristorantes and trattorias serve delectable seafood and pasta dishes. All five villages are devoid of motorized traffic, but the swell of tourists can be overwhelming at the height of the season and even at certain times of the day in the low season when boats and trains disgorge tour groups.
We chose Corniglia as our base. It’s the smallest of the five and lies right in the middle between Manarola and Vernazza. In late September, the weather was glorious, grapes were being harvested, the sunshine was gentle and the evenings were mellow with only a trickle of tourists mingling with the locals in the tiny piazza, enjoying the unparalled sunsets, a glass of wine, and fresh seafood.
We set out at 8:00 a.m. in the cool of the day along the path that leads along the cliffs to Manarola. The views of Corniglia nestled among the jagged rocks behind us and Manarola perched above the ocean in the distance, were breathtaking. As we drew closer to Manarola, the mingling aromas of freshly brewed coffee and bread baking in the oven wafted towards us. We followed those delectable aromas to their source and indulged in a leisurely breakfast of hot fresh bread, cheeses, fruit, and coffee, before continuing on our walk to Riomaggiore. There, we wandered the charming back streets where locals hung laundry out to dry, swept their front steps, chatted with neighbors, and went about their daily chores.
In Riomaggiore, we caught the train to Vernazza where boatloads of tour groups clogged the tiny village until the lunch hour when they boarded the tour boats and took off leaving the picturesque little harbor and village to heave a sigh and settle into a mellow afternoon.
In the late afternoon, we boarded the train once more bound for Monterosso. There we rented beach chairs, donned our bathing suits and spent several hours enjoying swimming, sunbathing, people watching and reading on the beach. We capped off the day at a little trattoria sitting outdoors and enjoying a glass of wine and antipasti. A perfect ending to our day with the five beauties that comprise the Cinque Terre.