During our Mediterranean cruise we stopped in La Spezia for a day and took a ship’s tour to see Cinque Terre. We rarely take cruise line excursions, but we did this one because we had a lot of on board credit we needed to spend on the ship. After the cruise we went back to Cinque Terre, where we spent 4 nights in Monterosso.
Our ship’s tour first started in Portovenere which is not really part of Cinque Terre but has many of the same charms. It is a little larger town with a fort and medieval church behind the city. Many of the shops in the city sell pesto which is made in this area of Italy. You can see some demonstrations on how pesto is made here. Some of the shops also sell some great tasting focaccia along with the many styles of pizza available. This town is a tourist haven for people wanting to take tours or ferries to Cinque Terre. Portoverne is so packed with tourists and locals wanting to go to the beach we had to park our rental car over a mile away from the town when we came back there the second time on our trip.
Monterosso was the Cinque Terre town we chose to stay in for 4 nights. We had found a nice hotel online called the Stella Della Marina Hotel. It turned out to be a great find and we will certainly go back there if we get another chance. Breakfast was served on the roof top where we enjoyed a great view of the small town and the ocean. The manager/owner was extremely nice and helped us plan our daily activities. On the first day it was a little overcast with rain in the forecast and we decided to postpone our planned walk between towns. After breakfast the weather looked pretty good and we decided to walk to Vernazza. This was a 2 ½ mile walk that took about 1 ½ hours because of the many steps you needed to climb. We later found out we had climbed up and down 1800 feet which were mainly trail steps made of rocks. There were well over 1000 steps we had climbed up, and then down. The views leaving Monterosso and arriving in Vernazza were spectacular. The pictures really do not give it justice to what we saw. After arriving in Vernazza we took a short 30-minute break admiring the town, and then headed off to Corniglia which was a 3-mile hike that took around 2 hours. This trip had similar elevation to contend with but not quite as many steps. About 2/3 of the way through this hike we came upon a small restaurant where we were able to drink a frozen lemonade drink and rest a few minutes. When we arrived at the city and took some pictures, one of us (we won’t mention names) decided that was enough hiking for the day. We went to the train station and walked down the 380 steps from the city to the train. After regrouping in Monterosso with less sweaty clothes we took a train ride to Manarola where you could get some nice sunset views of the sun setting over Monterosso. We did get some good sunset views but some of the clouds prevented it from being great. The next day we went back to Manarola for a Pesto Making Tour we had set up. There we made our own pesto sitting out in a restaurant overlooking the town. It took some time to make and grind all the basil leaves, but the end result was some really great tasting pesto. We ate what we made along with some other food the restaurant provided as part of the tour. It was truly an enjoyable experience. The tour also included a boat tour to Vernazza in a small boat that allowed us to see a little more of the coastline and Corniglia on the way by. After the tour we took the train to Riomaggiore which was the furthest town from Monterosso. We walked around town taking pictures and enjoying the scenery before deciding to take the ferry back to Monterosso. The ferry allowed us some different views of each town as we made our way to Monterosso. On our last day Sharon took off on her own to do some more hiking while Greg rested his knees. She hiked from Manarola to Corniglia and then on to Vernazza. This first hike was much more difficult because landslides had washed out the easier trail and only a more difficult trail was available. The scenery viewed though made it all worthwhile.
Cinque Terre is a great place to spend some time. It is probably best known as a national park that was set up so people can hike between the five different towns. We happened to visit in July when there are thousands of visitors wanting to go to the beaches. We chose Monterosso to stay at since it is one of the few towns accessible by car. Once again, we had to park our car well over a mile away from our hotel on top of the mountain and ended up taking a taxi to the car when it was time to leave. Monterosso is by far the largest of the five towns. Vernazza is one of the more scenic towns with a few iconic churches in town. There really isn’t much of a beach here. There are more boats out in the water in this town than any other. The next town, Corniglia, is the only town not accessible by the ferry. It was built higher up and doesn’t have a real natural harbor area. Manarola has some of the nicest views of any of the towns. There is a bay area where you can sit up high in one of the restaurants watching the boats go by or people swim nearby. The last town Riomaggiore, is smaller and only has a narrow outlet where boats come in and out. All of these towns make great pictures and all of them have some unique history on how they originated. It is a great place to visit if you get some time.
On our way out of Cinque Terre we stopped at Portofino. We had been to this small town around 12 years ago on one of our early Mediterranean trips. We remembered the pastel colored buildings, with the nice sail boats and the focaccia (the first time we ever tried this) in this quaint town. Our return trip many years later wasn’t as entirely satisfying. It seemed like this quaint little place had been recreated into a place for rich tourists. Restaurants and shops seemed to be all high end and some of the charm of the town was lost. It is still a beautiful place to go.
Sharon & Greg