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Friday, June 23, 2017

A Dream called Cinque Terre


The train left the La Spezia station and within ten minutes entered a tunnel which was fairly long. As it sped out in daylight, at the other end what I saw left me agape. The crystal blue sea and sky met the mountain in a never before spectacle. The small boats moored alongside added to the picture postcard setting. I had waited for months ever since the trip had been planned for such sights and more! Within a couple of minutes the train once again vanished into a long tunnel. In the entire journey lasting almost an hour till I reached Moneglia, a small sleepy village, the train crossed more than a dozen such tunnels and each time emerged with a more spectacular setting.

The quiet village of Moneglia
The Italian Riviera, or the Cinque Terre region is not just a jagged coastline on the Ligurian  region of Italy, but the most endearing set of five villages adorning the pearl like formation on a necklace, overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. These five fishing villages were once isolated hamlets, but are now well connected by a narrow highway and an excellent train connection. The region has maintained its authenticity and beauty of small houses clinging to the hillsides with trails which are extremely rich in flora and fauna.

After reaching Moneglia, our hostess Silvia and her daughter picked us up from the small station to take us to our temporary abode. The tiny village with a huge expanse of beach was as inviting as the tall trees that swayed when we checked in.The fresh mowed grass and the green shrubs with locks of lavenders elevated the spirits after a long journey.

A view of Riomaggiore
Next morning we left for Levanto by train from Moneglia.Here we bought tickets for two days of unlimited rides by trains, that connect the five villages (Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia,Vernazza, Monterosso)  buses to national parks, free wifi etc. The first stop was Riomaggiore, the first village of the 5terre region, where via Colombo is the scene of action where most of the major cafes, sea food restaurants, gelateria and fruit shops are located.The entry to the small village is through a long well lit tunnel, where the locals play music. A steep climb brings close to an old church, an ancient castle and a lovely view point perched atop a hill. There is a small jetty by the harbor side where the fishing boats are parked. At night these fishermen explore the sea for anchovy that are very popular in this region.

Pesto Pizza and Focaccia
In the afternoon, we headed for La Spezia a small town by another train and had a lovely lunch at a local pastisseria of pesto pizza, focaccia and farinata.

The pretty Manarola perched atop a hill
Our next destination was Manarola , a sleepy village lined with many colorful boats.The place has several places to swim, explore the caves and lovely trails leading to other smaller villages. There is a long flight of stairs from almost atop the hill all the way to sea level, lined with small restaurants overlooking the sea where people throng to have a lunch.We explored the place for a while and then headed to Vernazza to spend the rest of the day.

Vernazza , beach and clock tower
Vernazza has a maze of tiny streets that eventually lead to the main street.It has a boisterous street that becomes very lively as the sun sets and there is a small beach and two clock towers here.A bigger beach is a little distant called Guvano, a haven for nude swimmers!

As the day was ending we boarded the train to Moneglia and witnessed a first amphibian plane landing on the sea and taking off from water , truly  a James Bond movie style,while we enjoyed the train ride.

A narrow street in Corniglia
Next day,once again we left Moneglia and headed directly to Corniglia which lies midway between the five villages.A short bus ride on the steep climb on a road lined with lemon trees and their sweet fragrance, brought us to the centre of this very quiet and quaint village.One can have a spectacular view of the five villages from a view point facing the glittering blue Mediterranean Sea.

The beach at Levanto
We then headed to Levanto by a train for lunch.It was a very rewarding trip as we discovered a  very cute eating place brimming with people and amazing food. A short walk from place was a huge beach full of people , where I  succumbed to the temptation to swim as I was carrying my swimming gear! This was an unscheduled stop but very enjoyable.

Mesmerizing beauty of Monterosso beach
We then headed to the last stop Monterroso which has miles of beach divided between the old and new township.The new township has a lovely sandy beach and modern apartments where as the old township has an old church of St John and an old castle. The streets are lined with places to  eat and selling antiques. The beach was full of people so yet another trip to sea was inevitable!

The lively beach of Bonassola
After an action packed day, I took a long train ride to Riomaggiore one more time before a final stop at Bonassola, a small town wedged between the mountains and the sea.The place is close to Levanto and has one of the finest beaches in the Ligurian region.

The view with a setting sun was a grand finale to a dream like holiday in Cinque Terre. The long walks in Moneglia exploring olive groves, having a bite of freshly plucked cherries and plums and amazing views of the sea , visiting  Santa Margherita Ligure, Portofino, and Sestri Levante would need another post!

PS- Image of the map kind courtesy Google but rest of the pictures are taken by self

14 comments:

  1. I was feasting my eyes on the pics and thinking about the lovely time you had exploring these quaint villages in Italy.

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    1. Thanks, Purba for reading! I am happy you enjoyed the pics of the place and I am lucky that I could explore these places!

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  2. A refreshing post, that brought back sweet nostalgia :)

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    1. Thank you Veidehi for reading. It is nice that I could stir your memories of the place:)

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  3. Wow! Lovely pictures. We missed visiting Cinque Terre when we visited.

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    1. I remember you had been there last year ! It is not too far from Pisa. Plan another vacation and you won't regret:)

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  4. I am thinking of changing our itinerary. We are not planning to go there. There is so much to see in Italy and so less time. I think I have to think again :)

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    1. Saru, have been to Italy a couple of times and still so much left:( Do visit and am sure you won't be disappointed !

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  5. Packed with charm.
    I can see you had a beautiful trip. :)

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    1. Delighted with your comment, Divya! Thanks a lot.

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  6. So beautiful. How did you ever discover this place? Those walks through the cobbled streets... Those views... What about stay? How was your stay?

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    1. Thank you for reading! I chanced upon the place when reading about Italy! The place is just amazing and not enough words to describe the beauty. The stay was just wonderful

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  7. Just a few days ago, I read another post from some travel blogger on Cinque Terre. That, too was full of vibrantly colourful pictures. Now, your post with such amazing pictures.... Cinque Terre is becoming irresistible!

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    1. Welcome to my blog, Maniparna! Cinque Terre is beautiful beyond words and it is such a welcome change to be immersed in so much natural beauty!

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