Thursday, 17 July 2014

Italy: Cinque Terre

A special meeting that happened while I was in Italy, was to meet up with my friend (more like exchange-sister) Stefy. She came to stay with my family in our Grade 11 year for a term, during the 2006 Fifa World Cup. We watched the final of Italy vs France in our lounge. I remember being cuddled up with blankets because it was a cold evening and when Italy scored their winning goal, I have this vivid image of Stefy quietly but excitedly fist-pumping the air and then giving me a huge hug because her country had won!

In 2010 she came to South Africa again for my 21st, while we were hosting the World Cup and I got to show her a bit more of our lovely country. And this year, I got to travel to Italy and see Stefy during the 2014 World Cup. This time we got to explore some of her country together. 

On my Saturday in Italy, Stefy and I woke up, got ready and then had a cup of coffee and a pastry for breakfast before going to the train station to buy tickets to La Spezia - the starting point of our day out. We had an hour to kill until the next train, so we walked through some pretty gardens a little way down from the train station. 

Me, in front of the gardens near the train station (see the flower beds
in the shape of ships in the background?)

Looking toward the train station. 
We arrived in La Spezia around lunch time and had time for a quick walk around the town and lunch near the harbour before it was time to catch the train to our first Cinque Terre village, Riomaggiore.

Stefy at the La Spezia harbour.

Cinque Terre is a set of five small villages/towns along the northern coast of Italy. They are all part of the Cinque Terre National Park and this is definitely a place I would like to go back and spend more time in! After putting my toes in the water, I decided that I would need to find myself a costume to experience this incredibly warm Mediterranean sea before the day was out!  

Riomaggiore Houses

Riomaggiore - Town 1

Cinque - five. 

Terre - lands.

All too soon, it was time to catch the train to our next stop, Manarola. I managed to find myself a lovely blue cozzie in one of the shops, but before I had a chance to try it on, we needed to catch the next train.


Sea bird flying

Manarola - Town 2

We arrived in Corniglia and needed to walk up a rather imposing looking hill to reach the village. Once we got to the top, we heard the irresistible call of some ice-cool gelatos and decided to take a breather and put our feet up for 5 minutes and then heading off to explore a bit more of the village.

Ape little green bakkie pickup in Italy
Corniglia - with a little bakkie that is called an ape (bee) due to it's small size



Corniglia - Town 3
The time passed quickly and all too soon we found ourselves bounding down a set of stairs (that we wished we had known about on our way up) in order to catch the train to our second-to-last stop, Vernazza. After all that exercise, I decided that this was the place for a swim and I spent some lovely time immersing myself in the med - I plan on spending full days in the sea, next time I visit Cinque Terre. Stefy also introduced me to Aperol Spritz. This is a not-so-sweet pre-dinner cocktail that suited sundowners perfectly!

Vernazza Pink flowers and sea view

Sunset over the sea at Vernazza

Swimming in Vernazza
Vernazza (finally, a swim!)

Vernazza - Town 4
Last but not least, we arrived in Monterosso. This is the northern-most village and is definitely the most "touristy". It's also the biggest town, with actual beaches and sand instead of concrete slipways disappearing into the blue. We spent another happy hour exploring the town before it was time to head back.

Monterosso sea and deck chairs
Monterosso castle
Monterosso - Town 5
I would have loved to spend more time exploring Cinque Terre, but you can definitely get to all 5 towns in a day. 

  • Stefy and I spent 1 hour in each of the towns
  • You can hike between the towns if you're feeling outdoorsy and have a bit more time. 
  • If you want to be lazy (or don't have time) I would suggest buying a Cinque Terre day pass train ticket, which is what we did.

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