Our next adventure took us to the UNESCO Heritage Site at Cinque Terre. This costal conglomerate of five distinct and relatively isolated communities on the western coast of Italy make up the cinq (5) villages.
It is a national park as well as a UNESCO site, and was named as one in 1999 as it exemplifies a way in which the population here have built communities in a way that has preserved its natural heritage and way of life for over 1000 years, as well as respecting and modelling the communities in such a way that it doesn’t disturb the natural landscape. Read more here: http://www.italia.it/en/travel-ideas/unesco-world-heritage-sites/porto-venere-and-cinque-terre.html
We arrived into town and took a cab ride to the apartment as our Airbnb host thought we would not enjoy the uphill walk to the place (it was not bad at all). Yet again, we walked up a narrow flight of stairs to the apartment which was centrally located in Monteroso, and above the best restaurant in town.
We dropped our bags off and headed down to the restaurant, which was at the edge of the beach, so it was great for people watching…but we weren’t in the mood to just sit back and watch the world go by here. The kids wanted to play, so we headed back and grabbed our bathing suits and headed down to the public beach area in the main part of town after a brief stop at the local phys ed facility, a.k.a. playground. To our surprise there was a marching band festival in tow that afternoon, with an evening concert, so it was a welcome surprise and made the whole area festive. I thought they were announcing the arrival of the Travelling Trenholms to the area, but alas, I was mistaken.
The waves were pretty big at that time of the day, so we rode some swells out in the deeper water while Deb played lifeguard. It was all fun and games until Lulu got salt water in her mouth, which prompted exit number one for her. But she came back in to play again. We eased her back in with wave jumping and then we were riding the swells again. Then came the rogue wave that pushed us all into the shore over the rocky bottom (thank goodness it was smooth pebbles), which I got pushed under but I grabbed onto Lulu and held her up as high as I could from what I could tell was above the water. Aaaaaand that prompted exit number two. Wilson and I played in the water again, and then we headed home.
The kids just wanted to chill in the way that kids do, on their electronics, and Deb and I decided to plug them in and go down to the wine bar below and have a drink. We ran into some folks from Western Australia who gave us some good news that it was not going to be crazy hot there, and some advice about where to visit.
Eating out is getting pretty expensive here in Europe, so we are trying to transition to eating in more. Monterosso and this area of Cinque Terre is known for their pesto and focaccia bread. Interesting in that I haven’t seen any basil plants around here yet or pine trees for the nuts. Their focaccia is very good though, and best if you go to a focacciaria (we went here in Vernazza called Batti Batti, and here in Monterosso called Il Frantio).
Everyone had .a great sleep as the kids were finally not sleeping together and were physically separated. We even put bars between them. Haha. Deb and I fell asleep to the 45 minute cycle of an Italian Opera playlist that the wine bar had playing down below, and the smell of good Italian food wafting up from the restaurant down below.
I got up early to go explore and see what the landscape looked like early in the morning without a million tourists buzzing around. It was so calm and quiet, but the town crew was busy cleaning and preparing for another on slot of tourists,,,
Besides the obvious beauty of the area, the rugged landscape, beautiful beaches with crystal clear water, and colourful houses that are jammed in together in an artistic way, the other reason people visit the area is to do a costal walk between the communities.
You can start at the southern tip at Rimaglia or the northern tip in Monterosso, or anywhere in between for that matter as you can catch a regional train to any of the villages. Since we were in Monterosso, we started there. Plus our apartment was 5 minutes from the start.
So, these five villages are perched on the side of a mountain top. As you can imagine, in order to hike from one to the next, you need to go up and over each of the mountainous fingers to get to the next. This meant steep inclines and steep declines with the odd bit of flat-ish spots in between. The ups and downs were often stairs, of varying heights, and varying angulation of the stairs side to side.
Unlike the typical Canadian or American hiking trail that has warning signs every ten feet, and 8 foot barriers to keep people from falling over the edge and down the mountain side to the beautiful blue waters (and sharp cliff rocks) about 500m below, there might be the odd wooden post or low stone wall.
Thank goodness we started early in the day as it started off beautiful with the weather being cool and sunny, and then as the hike progressed, it started to have a gentle rain. Either that, or we were in the clouds as we had climbed so friggen high.
We passed through groves of olive trees, vineyards (and me with my long selfie arms I was able to grab some grapes for a snack), and an orchard of orange and lemon trees. What was the beginning of our walk was the end of many peoples hikes that went from the southern tip to the northern tip. And this guy, who had a tracheostomy probably from head and neck cancer and subsequent resection, was squeezing freshly picked oranges and lemons to make juice for some on course nutrition. Maybe we should have this at the TriMuskokan. Hahaha. No record times if we had that! Anyways, he was at least 85 years old, and it was pretty amazing juice. He had an article in a frame there of an article writing about him and the hike in a Dallas newspaper.
In Venneza, our first town, we stopped to have a swim off of the rocks in the crystal clear waters. No wonder people take this as a place for their vacations. There were a lot of people sunning themselves like otters, and in some cases seals, or even walruses, while others frolicked in the waters. We were the frolicking kind, and the walrus on the rock where we threw our gear was not impressed with all of the noise that we were producing in the fun we were having. Well, let me clarify. We were having fun, but Lulu was afraid of a solitary crab she saw crawl into a crevice of the rocks. She didn’t want to get in the water after that…but she did with much coaxing and screaming.
Oh well, we showered off and got back in our gear, and grabbed some delicious focaccia at Bitte Bitte. Wilson, Deb, and I had the one with tomato sauce and spicy salami, and Lulu, Wilson, and I had a Margherita focaccia with Burrata cheese.
We might have waited a bit too long to start hiking again as our legs were shaking and they felt like lead when we started our uphill climb to the second town. Soon enough that feeling passed and then we were on our way again for another 2.5h hike to Contiglia.
Other than a little bit of rain that made some of the steps slippery, it was pretty uneventful and we called it a day after 8km of hiking and took the train back to Monterosso. The kids were a bit tired….sleeping standing up.
We hoofed it back to our part of town where we discovered a nice little public beach (some part of the beach you have to pay 20euros!) and it was great due to a bunch of rocks that broke the waves up for us and it was relatively calm.
We decided to pack up and head downstairs to the restaurant which always had a line up at it…so must be good! And it didn’t disappoint!
Clothes were hung out on the line outside the front window, and our undies were in full view for the restaurant patrons down below to gawk at. Oh well, at least they were clean!
Off to Nice tomorrow!