Timeline: October 1st – 5th
We’d get in two good hikes during our stay in Cinque Terre. The first took us from Manarola to Corniglia, a rugged and steep walk of about four miles.
We made it a little easier on ourselves, cutting out the first two very steep miles (it would have been six otherwise), by taking a shuttle from Manarola up to the small hill town of Volastra and starting from there.
This is hardy but spectacular hiking, as you lace your way through steep terraced vineyards on a narrow trail with a constant view of the ocean to distract you.
Mostly a smooth well groomed trail, there are a number of ascents and descents that require negotiating stone steps or rocky sections requiring sure footing.
It was quite warm out and so we were mindful of staying hydrated, taking on water at strategic moments, usually when we stopped to take a picture, or to allow any one of many small hiking groups to pass us going the other way.
We made our descent into Corniglia and stopped at a small café near a church, grabbing a big Moretti Beer to begin necessary rehydration.
We then made our way down into the center of town in search of the Steve’s recommended Alberto’s Gelateria. We ordered two items, the light and creamy Miele di Corniglia made from local honey, and a lemon slush (granita) whose tartness only made it more delicious.
We wandered the town some more, stopping for a slice of a corn meal based focaccia topped with a homemade pesto sauce and to purchase a couple of souvenirs.
Instead of taking the more than 300 steps down to the train station, we again opted for a shuttle to make life a little easier, knowing we still had a long afternoon of sightseeing ahead of us. We boarded the train and took it to the next town up the road, Vernazza for a short visit, as we knew we’d be back in the next day or so while hiking.
Steve’s says that Vernazza, with its natural harbor, “overseen by a ruined castle and a stout stone church is the jewel of the Cinque Terre. Only the occasional noisy slurping up of the train by the mountain reminds you of the modern world.” This did seem to be the case, as we stepped off the train and made our way a number of blocks down the main street to the harbor, which we circled a couple of times, snapped some pictures and then headed back to the station for the train to our next stop, Monterosso al Mare.
This is a resort town with a few cars and lots of hotels, rentable beach umbrellas, and crowds. The only Cinque Terre town built on flat land, it has two parts: A new town (called Fegina) with a parking lot, train station, and TI; and an old town (Centro Storico), which resembles the other towns along this stretch of coast with its small, crooked streets and lanes.
We walked out of the train station and past the resort beach, heading up and around the point to get our first view of the breakwater, the harbor it shelters and the old town.
We descended and walked through Piazza Garibaldi to the Church of St. John the Baptist (Chiesa di San Giovanni Battista). Dating back to 1307, this black-and-white church, with white marble from Carrara and green marble from Punte Mesco, is typical of this region’s Romanesque style.
We left the church, briefly stopping at the Oratory of the Dead (Oratorio dei Neri) next-door, home to a Catholic brotherhood (like the Rotary Club) devoted to volunteerism and good works. In this case the members of this club (membership passes from father to son) arrange for funerals and take care of widows and orphans. The Interior is ghoulish, with haunted-house chandeliers and a symbol of the brotherhood: a skull-and-crossbones and an hourglass reminding visitors that death awaits us all.
We walked back to the point and up to the summit to view the Church of the Capuchin Friars (home to a painting of the Crucifixion attributed to Anthony van Dyck) and its adjacent cemetery. Housed in the ruins of an old castle situated here to guard the town from 13th century pirates. This is the oldest part of Monterosso and the dates on the tombstones date back centuries.
It was running late and we landed back at the Deiva Marina station about five minutes after the shuttle pick up time. We waited around another ten minutes or so and figured we’d missed it, so started the long walk back to camp. We’d gone about three blocks when we saw the van coming our way. We flagged it down and after they turned around at the station, they picked us up and took us to camp. Thankfully that day they were running late as well.
Monterosso al Mare: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monterosso_al_Mare