Our second day in Levanto was an exciting one! We were planning on traveling through the Cinque Terre, a now national park in Italy comprised of five towns: Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, and Monterosso al Mare. Now that the area is considered a national park =, there is a fee. There are two options, a ticket for just hiking the park for 12 euros or a ticket for hiking the park and unlimited use of the trains and buses in the area. For 16 euros. I would definitely recommend the latter. Though we had only expected to take the train twice, the ticket ended up paying for itself and we were happy to have it. A single ticket for a train is 4 euros. The tickets also include free use of bathrooms and a wifi code for the hotspots.
Our plan was to take the train from Levanto to Riomaggiore, the first town of the five and the furthest away. From there we would take the leisurely coastal path between all the cities. Our rest day had done its job and though we were still sore we weren’t in a lot of pain.
Riomaggiore is a beautiful town. The houses are all colorful and built together, nestled into the landscape. There are amazing restaurants and café’s but also old churches and monuments. We didn’t spend much time in Riomaggiore, but because it was so early in the day it was lovely and peaceful. And then we were in for a surprise… The Via del Amore, our lovely coastal path, was closed. Which meant the only way was to hike up and through the mountains… Which was not our plan. The walk from Riomagiore to Monarolo was only about 50 minutes so we thought we could manage. And we did, but not before Mirco’s knee started bothering him. We only had to walk about a million steps… We ran into a lovely couple on the way who gave us some tips. We definitely didn’t want to walk from Manarola to Corniglia because that was a three hour hike! And there were some great places to go swimming in Manarola; you could even jump off the cliffs!
Manorola was lovely as well. A bit larger than Riomaggiore, but just as quaint. Same colorful houses nestled into the mountain, same lovely charm. One of the most incredible things were the views of the ocean. Every time we walked past a break in the trees or the houses the sun glinting off the ocean made it seem so alluring. It was also because we were hiking in 85 degree weather and we knew how refreshing it would be! We didn’t end up going swimming here because it felt a bit crowded to us. We took the train from Manarolo to Corniglia and I’m glad we did! The trail did not look fun at all.
Corniglia was special in its own way because it is the only one of the five town not directly on the water. It was full of amazing restaurants and color and many, many people! It definitely had a charm to it that was different from the other’s because it wasn’t on the water.
We walked from Corniglia to Vernazza. The hike wasn’t the worst but it was difficult enough that we both started hurting again. It took about an hour and a half and we were more than happy when we finally reached Vernazza. Vernazza was my favorite of the cities. It was one of the larger of the five and directly on the water. It was busy but not too busy and the color of clothes and the smell of food from street vendors were great for the senses. But what ,ade it the best was not what we saw but what we did. Mirco and I walked underneath a big cut out of the cliff (almost tunnel like) to an almost secret beach. It wasn’t as crowded and it was clearly more natives that tourists. We claimed a spot on a large warm rock and relaxed in the sun. we had brought our suits with us, and I cannot tell you how refreshing the ocean was after the long day we had had. We floated in the salty water for a while before returning to our rock to dry off. It was a special experience.
We took the train to the last city: Montorosso al Mare. Although similar to the others, it was my least favorite. It was definitely the most crowded, had a lot more tourists, and a lot more hotels and buildings that disrupted the serenity that the other cities had. And the beach was ridiculously crowded… The historical part of the city is the better half and we wandered around for a bit before looking for a place to eat. Unfortunalety it was early, only around 5pm, and most restaurants don’t open until 7pm at the earliest. Our first two choices were closed so we finally settled on our third. It was a nice restaurant and I had the best salmon appetizer. Thinly sliced pieces of raw salmon marinated in lemon juice and spices! Mirco had beef carpaccio and it was a wonder I didn’t steal it all from him!
We both got the mixed grill for dinner, which was a bit of a disappointment. There were two pieces of mystery fish, three whole crayfish, and a whole bunch of grilled squid. Much too much in my opinion. But we still enjoyed ourselves over our bottle of wine trying to figure out how to get the most meat out of our crayfish, which we had never had whole before. Dessert of course was gelato.
For us, only staying a day in Cinque Terre was more than enough. We loved exploring and wandering around and you could easily spend a day in each city. But we are happier off the beaten track with less tourists, so we were happy with just our one day. The we trained back to Levanto for our last night before we left in the morning for Sienna!