Land of the Fives

The colorful five πŸ’œπŸ’šπŸ’™πŸ’›β€

The little path that winds down
along the slope plunges through cane-tufts
and opens suddenly into the orchard
among the moss-green trunks
of the lemon trees…

Eugenio Montale

Little colorful houses, authentic architecture, scenic roads with the fragrance of olive fields, vineyards, lemons, and of course the sea…..

Cinque Terre is an amazing destination what needs to be seen once in our life.

Cinque Terre means Five Lands, and it is in the Liguria region of Italy, between the city of Levanto and La Spezia. As the name says it comprises five famous villages from North to South: Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, Riomaggiore.

The towns are old, first historical documents date back to the 11th century, but the houses were not painted until the late 1970s. The villages were affected by torrential rains which caused flash floods and mudslides with the most damage in Vernazza and Monterosso al Mare. On 25 October 2011 in Vernazza a mudslide left the town buried in over 4 meters of mud and debris.

 

The region is a very popular tourist destination, and the area is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site. At summertime it can be really crowded, so if you want to avoid hot weather with a lot of tourist everywhere I recommend an early (spring) or a late (fall) season visit. We decided to take a trip in March. The weather is changeable during springtime, but we had a lovely sunny and warm day.

The towns are tiny, and the area is surrounded by olive fields, and vineyards. The grapes are used to produce two locally made wines: the eponymous Cinqe Terre and the SciachetrΓ . All of the towns has authentic little restaurants, where you can taste the wines of the region, and seafood as local cuisine. In addition to wines,  limonchello, a sweet liqueur, flavored with lemons is also a popular local drink.

There are more options to explore this amazing area: paths, trains and boats connect the towns. We went for the hardest: getting around by car.

Most of the roads are high above serpentines. If you have motion sickness it is not the best way to make the trip. But in return: the view is stunning, the panorama from the hillside roads is amazing. Usually the roads are two cars passing, but there are tricky parts with bad conditions or only space for one car. Always check the road conditions, some may be closed due to weather.

If you are not a habitant, you are not allowed to enter the towns by car. Some towns has parking places really close (not for free) to the center, but some not. Be prepared to walk, and calculate with one day, if you are planning to visit all the five towns.

If you decide to leave your car behind, you can choose from the following options:

Boat πŸ›₯

The easiest way to visit the towns is by boat. They are operating from late March until early November between four villages, skipping Corniglia. The public ferry’s are very crowded during summertime, so if you want some private space, you can check out sailing trips or rent a private boat. Choosing this option gives you an particular view to the towns from the boat, what is missed by all the other options.

Train πŸš†

It is also easy to visit the fives by train. Each town has a station, so you don’t have to miss Corniglia like by boat. Also each station has a ticket machine. Don’t forget to read the itinerary of the train, because some of them can miss villages.

Hiking πŸšΆβ€β™€οΈ

There is a 10-12 km long scenic hiking trail that connects all the towns. From South to North the path gets harder. Hiking is better around spring or autumn, when temperature is milder, and the trail is not that crowded.

We begin our trip from North to South. The first town was Monterosso al Mare. The town is easy to reach by car, while it has a parking place close to the city and walking to the center doesn’t take long. The city has a little beach, the only extensive sand beach in the Cinque Terre region, located at the center of a small natural gulf. The area is famous for it’s lemon trees.

The following town to reach is Vernazza. The road between Vernazza and Monterosso is quite exiting, requires an experienced driver, cause it has a lot of serpentines and narrow streets. The parking area was about 1.3 km away from the center. The lower parking areas are for inhabitants only. The public parking space is not that big, and of course was full. So we left our car alongside the road, and started our walk following a little river.

Just like the ferry’s, we skipped the third town Corniglia too, because we were running out of time and still wanted to see the last two. We had a little pause during the drive, to see the town from above and make lovely pictures.

The las two towns are really close to each other. First you arrive to Manarola, which was my favorite. Mostly this is the place what you can see on pictures, while searching about the region :).

The parking area was not that far from the town. You have to drive until a gate what separates the public parking space from the local private parking places. Luckily there are more places in the public area, not like in Vernazza.  Manarola may the oldest of the towns, with the cornerstone of a church dating from 1338. There are plenty of amazing photo points during the walk. On the shore side you can make ‘that’ epic photos about this town.

The last town is Riomaggiore, what we reached around twilight. The sunset and the colors were amazing. There was a parking garage at the entrance of the city, making easy to reach the center.

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