Cinque Terre

The Cinque Terre — a series of small, connected coastal villages — has been on my, admittedly rather long, list of places to visit for some time, but when I first flew out to Tuscany I didn’t quite know how achievable it would be. Sure, Google Maps said that it would be a two hour drive from the villa, but I wasn’t completely sure that I was using the right address and I have been late several times when relying on directions cribbed from the Internet.

Having been there nearly a week and roughly established the time required to get to Pisa, more or less the half-way stage to the Cinque Terre, I decided that I might as well try to get there.

By the time I got past Pisa I was questioning my sanity. I’d had to get up early which is something that I never consider to be a good start to a day. I’d have been willing to overlook that had it not been raining. Heavily. It was the kind of rain where the water bounces from the bonnet and the wipers running at full speed still result in a blurred windscreen and visibility barely beyond the front of the car ((I may be slightly over-dramatising events here. Nevertheless, the rain would have made walking from village to village incredibly soggy and miserable.)).

Still, having made it that far I decided to continue.

As I approached La Spezia — the last big town before the five villages — it cleared up and when I got to the first village, Riomaggiore, the clouds had lifted slightly and there was even some blue sky. How lucky could I be?


Not lucky enough! When I pulled off the highway I found that the car park was full. What to do next? Head back to La Spezia and get the train or continue on to Manarola hoping that the car park was less full?

I decided on the latter. Taking the turn off the SP270 I was surprised to see plenty of parking by the side of the road. At the bottom of the hill was a car park which is where I stopped.


The route down to the water-front was further than I was expecting. First I passed a church which was perched over a great view. The path continues, looking worryingly residential for a while. Am I going the right way? (Given the lack of other options I assume so.)

I round a corner and a long stream of cafes and restaurants starts, pausing only temporarily for a slightly raised square. Many of these places have greeters encouraging passers-by in, and most have pictures of the food on the menu — always a bad sign in my book. I’m pretty hungry by this point and am forced to stop in one for a quick sandwich, which the waitress somehow manages to drop in my drink!


By the time I finish my latte the sun is out properly and it’s getting comfortably hot. I decide that I’ve come all this way so I will, at the very least, walk along to the next village. There are no obvious signs but there’s only one path along the coast so I guess it must be that one.

It is. And it’s beautiful. Before long I can see back to Manarola, and from this distance I can’t see the pushy waiters and the postcard stands. The walk is along a decent path and is fairly flat, which means that I can concentrate on the views rather than my breathing.

[photopress:IMG_5003.jpg,thumb,alignleft]That is right until the final approach to the next village, which I now discover is called Corniglia. Just past the train station ((All the towns are connected by a train line that starts in La Spezia.)) there are approximately a million steps heading up a steep hillside.

By the time I get to the top I am desperately in need of an ice-cream. Perhaps it’s just the locals way of keeping the good stuff for the worthy, but the gelato here looks much better than that in Manarola.


I sit and relax, looking out over the sea, admiring the view and thinking how happy I am that I made it here. True, it was a long drive and I only managed to quickly have a look around two of the five villages but it was worth it. I’d happily come back and try to give the area the time in deserves.