The Cinque Terre is a stunning area about 40 minutes south of us located in the Italian Riviera. Its name, Cinque Terre, means Five Lands. Cars for the most part, are not allowed and everyone travels by foot thru the moutainous terrain. The homes are built into the rock face of the mountains and are painted in traditional Mediterranean colors of yellows, pinks, oranges and greens. Because the Cinque Terre is a National Park and UNESCO World Heritage Site, there is a pride amongst its citizens to keep the natural beauty as it is. As a matter of fact, according to the Cinque Terre website, this area was really only reached by the outside world about 100 years ago when the railway line was built.
So after several of my friends in Spain told me about this region and when Michelle and I started talking about road trips for this summer, it seemed to be a natural fit. And I’m so glad we decided to put this on the list of high priorities to see this summer!! Stunning – beyond stunning! We got a late start, no surprise for this group lately, and grabbed the train which was a 10 minute walk from our apartment. Forty minutes later we were in Riomaggiore, the furthest town of the five. Our philosophy is that we would walk from town to town working our way closer to the first town of Monterosso.
I’ll be honest, at first none of us were super impressed. Yes, it was pretty but not what we expected. We were pretty much at sea level and yes, the roads wind straight up which required some heavy duty walking, the sites themselves weren’t much to write home about (and yet here I am writing home about it). We had lunch at a nice pizza place where all the adults had a wonderful gnocchi filled with tomatoes and ricotta – I’ve never had gnocchi stuffed with anything so this was a nice treat – usually it’s just plain old gnocchi.
We continued on and the kids were begging (annoyingly) for a swim. We found a small harbor with little motor boats of various bright colors. Though it wasn’t our ideal swimming hole, we let the kids in and while I didn’t go in all the way myself, the water was as warm as bath water – so perfectly temperate. And I will admit, I didn’t really want to go back into the 90 degree blazing heat after putting my toes in. Zach was pretty obsessed with finding crabs and another boy asked me to ask the boy “in the wetsuit” to come help him find some. Aidan and Haley were all about jumping into the water from any rock they could find. And Liam was my superstar as he ventured in further than he normally does and was “swimming” as he likes to do (which involved all the right moves but with his hands walking him across the bottom).
According to the map we had about 20 minutes to walk along the Via dell’ Amore before reaching Manarola. On the way there were lots of locks that were attached to ropes and netting that we were unsure about. According to a website that I found, “Young loves wanting to lock in their love forever, come to Via dell‘Amore, write their names on the lock and close it on a fence along the trail.” However we didn’t know this information til AFTER we got home and Michelle, in spirit of leaving something behind, left her hair scrunchie. Does this mean she will never go bald?? Only time will tell.
The best part was the part no one told us about which was the bar/restaurant that was built into the side of the cliff halfway there!! A perfect respite from heat, we grabbed ice creams for the kids and drinks for ourselves and sat down at a table in the shade overlooking the Mediterranean. Once again I have not seen any dolphins which was a disappointment. I was a little ambivilent to put my chair on the grate that enabled me to see the cliff below us and the sheer drop straight to our deaths.
We entered Manarola and I was already more impressed than in Riomaggiore – the streets seemed to have more stores, more restaurants and it seemed overall a bit larger. After a very brief attempt at shopping (failed – 3 adults against 4 kids) once again we were drawn to the water. But this water was already much more impressive than in Riomaggiore. There were huge rocks to jump off of and it all reminded me much more of a lagoon only it was in the center of town!
I’d say that we were there for a good hour and this time while Liam did great, Haley was the one who shined the most. She was jumping from significant heights – I’m going to say at least 10 feet above the water! Michelle was intimidated but refused to let a 7 year old do better than she did! Aidan also did amazing – jumping off some lower lying rocks (which was still higher than I would have gone). Liam went in with Michelle which was impressive in and of itself. And Zach was after more crabs again (and in the process managed to break his second pair of shoes, this pair of which we “borrowed” from the apartment we are renting and nicknamed “Old Man Shoes”… Poor Zack)!!
Finally it was time to move on and explore some more. And by now it was getting close to dinner and we still hadn’t done a whole lot of exploring. After doing just a little bit of shopping, we asked a street vendor a good place to eat dinner. He told us to go uphill til we saw the church and that there was a good restaurant (no name given) within 50 meters of the church square. We found the church and saw a restaurant named Trattoria Billy…hmmmm Billy, not so very Italian sounding. And at first we thought it was the place with the run down plastic tables and chairs but a nice old man approached us and told us that this Trattoria had the most magnificent panoramic views and we should definitely go and it was actually just up the road.
And he was right!! Not only did it have an amazing view, but the food was fantastic too. The kids all (except Liam) shared a crab pasta that had fresh crab that they brought out to show the kids (you know, before killing it). I was hoping that they would de-shell the crab but alas I had to do it for Aidan and really really was wishing Josh was there for that – Josh would have laughed at me doing it for sure!! Michelle, Kelly and I also had great pasta dishes that expanded our waistlines just a teeny bit more. Finally it was time to find out way back out of town and to Rapallo.
It was after 8 by now and we went down to the train station. None of the trains actually said they went to Rapallo from what we could tell and our schedule was pretty unreliable. A train arrived a few minutes later and we asked the conductor if this train would take us to Rapallo. He answered no, only to Levanto. It was in the right direction but not far enough and would have required another train in Levanto. Of course as the train pulled away that’s exactly what we realized we had to do. So we asked yet another old man how to get there and he told us there were no more trains stopping at this station in the direction we were going to need to take a train in the opposite direction to go back to Riomaggiore to get a train to take us to Rapallo. It’s a good thing our second guess was right or we probably would have ended up in someone’s rowboat to sleep for the night!
While frustrating, it delayed us by only about an hour in getting back to the apartment and everyone took things in great stride. We didn’t make it back to Rapallo til close to 10:30 though so we were all exhausted!! And once more, special kudos to Liam who walked the entire day less maybe 10 minutes and was such a trooper with the hills and water – no stroller for this big kid!!!
Today was an adventure in and of itself so that’s going to be a whole other post… til later!