Any visit to Italy would be incomplete without a stop at Cinque Terre – the five World Heritage villages that sit like living jewels on the Mediterranean coast. These are the five small coastal villages (hence the cinque in the name) of Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso.
We spent a couple of days here back in 2014, though in recent times the tourist hordes have prompted the local administration to consider limiting the number of visitors. We took a train from Milan to Monterosso, the northernmost of the villages and the one we had booked a hotel at. Arriving with a bunch of other tourists, we walked down to our hotel on the beach. The whole place is beautiful – every little path, every little house, every shop contributes to the look. Of course, it stands to reason that being designated as a World Heritage site by the UNESCO contributes in no small way to the villages being maintained as they are.
It was summer, and the weather was kind to us – the clouds stayed away and the brilliant sunlight played off the sea and the colorful little villages on the coast. The main activity was simply walking around the villages and taking in the beauty. That was it. We fully played our parts, walking about, having a cup of tea in a quaint little place and a gelato at yet another. One thing that took up a lot of our time was photography – we were stopping practically every five minutes to shoot something or the other, either with our cameras or our phones!
This was also the time when the FIFA World Cup was happening, and we had had the mortifying experience of watching the Azzurri lose 0-1 to Costa Rica with a thousand unhappy Italian fans on the banks of the Navigli in Milan a couple of days ago. This time, we spent the evening in a small restaurant watching the Germany – Ghana game with some German fans. They were disappointed as the Black Stars held the Germans to a 2-2 draw. The World Cup wasn’t doing so well for any team whose supporters we were watching with!
The next morning, we took a train down to Riomaggiore, the southernmost of the villages. This was even more colorful – an entire hillside facing the sea was covered with small and colorful houses, making an amazing backdrop as we walked in the small lanes of the village. We spent a few hours walking around and exploring the village and sampling the fare at the local cafes. A broad walking path took us to a beautiful viewpoint from where we had a panoramic view of the village as well as the pier. Again, we went crazy with our pictures, snapping away like mad!
We took the ferry back to Monterosso, stopping at Manarola and Vernazza on the way for short explorations.
The time spent in Cinque Terre, though short by any standards, was quite memorable for us. We’re happy we were able to do that before the place became overcrowded and painful to the locals.