For my 65th birthday, I treated myself to a two-week gardening tour in Italy. Before joining the tour group in Lucca, I travelled north from the Pisa airport to Cinque Terre (‘Five Lands’) where I spent three nights in one of the villages.
Although I had travelled extensively throughout Italy in my youth, I managed to miss Cinque Terre. It was not until my older son and a nephew explored the region 24 years later that I realized that one of Italy’s most beautiful destinations had escaped my attention.
At the time of their travels, Craig and Jason were young, fit and keen to trek the trails connecting the towns. I, on the other hand, was looking forward to a balcony with a sea view, a good book and a glass of the local wine and, of course, some pleasant walks and hopefully a boat trip along the coast to view the five villages from the sea.
Reaching the area by train is relatively easy. Tickets can be booked on-line and although it is necessary to change trains a few times, the process is straightforward (Pisa Airport, Pisa Central Station, La Spezia and Cinque Terre). Once the train reaches the Cinque Terre region, it stops at each town – Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso. The greatest challenge of the trip was carrying my suitcase up long flights of stairs in the railroad stations.
Manarola was my village of choice because I liked the look of it and the rental agency found me a charming apartment with a balcony and views of the sea, the village and the hills (firstname.lastname@example.org). Since I was on my own, I decided not to dine out – although there are excellent restaurants in Manarola and nearby villages. Dining ‘at home’ was not a hardship since I could purchase marvelous food from shops 5 minutes away and enjoy the meal on my balcony watching the sun set.
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Sadly, hikers sometimes face disappointment when visiting Cinque Terre due to weather conditions and landslides. One section of the trail was closed when I arrived. On the next day the entire trail was closed and rough weather prevented the ferry from operating between towns. Fortunately the trains continued to run and it was possible to stop at each village and explore before moving on to the next place.
Although the beauty and splendor of Tuscany, and the towns I subsequently visited, are truly remarkable, the memory of five colourful, almost quirky villages, positioned along a spectacular Mediterranean coastline, set against a mountain range, sometimes clinging to the sides of cliffs, continues to linger in my mind.
By Barbara Reinhardus
Photo credits Barbara Reinhardus
© Riding the buses 2012