The stunning coastline of the Cinque Terre
Having worked for Cottages to Castles for many years I had heard a lot about the Cinque Terre but had never actually visited it. In September 2013 the chance finally came when my partner and I decided to visit the area for a few days whilst en route to Tuscany.
We stayed at the gorgeous Casa dei Limoni one of Cottages to Castles many cottages in Italy. It is conveniently located just above the coastal resort of Bonassola and because we were travelling by motorbike we like to be able to walk to shops and restaurants so it was ideal. The walk down into the town from the property takes just 15 minutes (and only slightly longer on the way back up). Bonassola is a delightful town and has everything you could need for a relaxing holiday. But one of the ideal facilities is the train line which takes you to the first down of the Cinque Terre (Monterosso) in just two stops!
We actually decided to go to the furthest town (Riomaggiore) and work our way back from there with a combination of walking and taking the train. So we set off at around 9.30am and arrived in Riomaggiore approximately 30 minutes later. Whilst it was busy with other visitors it was not unbearable and after a stroll around the village we found a great bar for morning coffee and a second breakfast! We were already enthralled by the steep, narrow ravine this village has been built in yet the surrounding slopes are covered with vines. How on earth is that possible? We kept asking ourselves. We strolled down to the tiny yet lovely and much photographed harbour of Riomaggiore where we discovered that there is a boat service which serves each of the towns except for Corniglia, the highest one. As it was a lovely, sunny day we decided to use the boats rather than trains. As it turned out the path that we wanted to walk was closed anyway so this was a great alternative. It also proved a great way of getting some great photos of the villages as they are tricky to photograph close up.
The boat services which links the villages
We bought our tickets to the next village of the group (Manarola) and only waited a few minutes for the boat to arrive. A short boat ride later and we were in Manarola. This is a bit smaller than Riomaggiore but still absolutely stunning – beautiful pastel coloured buildings simply clinging to the cliffs. Lunchtime had arrived and we found a great restaurant on the main street. Of course, we had to go for seafood and opted for the deepfried mixed dish. What a fantastic choice! It proved to be one of the best meals of our entire trip. It was cooked to perfection and washed down with a glass of the local white wine – ottimo!!
Speaking of wine, it was really interesting to learn how important the area’s vineyards have been in its history. From as early as the 11th century there have been vines planted on the cultivated terraces. Today it is still very much regarded as ‘heroic winemaking’ because of the enormous effort that has to into producing the grapes. There is very little mechanical help so all the work must be done by hand. If you come here you will see for yourself how truly incredible this is.
After lunch we took the boat along the coast passing Corniglia on the way to Vernazza. Yet another great village awaited us. Unfortunately, this one was severely affected by landslides back in 2011 and the effects are still apparent on some of the buildings. It made us realise how fragile this entire area is.
Vernazza’s lovely harbour
The last town we saw was Monterosso al Mare, perhaps not in such a stunning location as the others but still good to visit. With lots of bars, restaurants and shops to explore as well as the lovely beach there is certainly lots to do here.
After a look around Monterosso we headed back to Bonassola on the train and enjoyed an aperitivo on the beach watching the sunset before heading back to Casa dei Limoni. What an absolutely fantastic day it had been! It was just about the amazing scenery and great villages but also the food, the boat experience and indeed the people we had met and chatted with, locals and fellow visitors alike. I would love to do it again sometime and highly recommend it to anyone visiting the area.