April 23, 2004: Enjoyed a lazy morning. Did Laundry in Riomaggiore in a self-service laundry. I met an interesting American from Denver who was holidaying with her boyfriend. Guess that’s where social life in villages is – the laundry! After laundry, we had breakfast at a nearby outdoor café – crepes with fruits and coffee. My experiment of trying out a different type of coffee (panna con caffe) was a disaster! It was strong coffee served with whipped cream. Guess I should’ve simply stuck to Caffe Latte!
We then walked to Riomaggiore train station, bought a three day pass for the park which consists of all 5 Cinque Terre towns and access to the hiking trails leading to these towns. We then started hiking towards Manarola. The trail is called ‘Via dell’Amore’ meaning ‘Lovers Lane’. The trail is fairly easy, flat and well paved. It offers stunning vistas of the sea and the surrounding hill-side. We reached Manarola and climbed down a flight of steps to reach Manarola train station. Walking through a tunnel brought us into the village. We saw a store full of beautiful paintings which grabbed our attention. After about an hour and about $800 poorer we left the Gallery! We bought a beautiful painting of Manarola for our home. We walked through the town, visited the Church, walked through the terraces and reached the trail which would take us to Corniglia. We stopped on the way for several pictures and a brief siesta by the sea. It was heavenly – the weather was perfect, the waves lapping gently by the rocks as I lay asleep on DH's lap! I could not have asked for a better vacation!
Corniglia sits atop a mountain cliff and unlike the other Cinque Terre towns has no natural harbors. So we had to climb a switchback flight of stairs to reach the village. Phew!!! A climb it was! We were rewarded with a quaint little village which turned out to be our favorite. Walking through the alleyways, we came to the village square where we found Café Matteo. We absolutely fell in love with this place. Had Focaccia Caprese, which is a sort of Pita bread stuffed with Mozzarella, Olives, tomatoes, etc. This was absolutely yummy!
I wasn’t too thrilled about doing another hike but Sri being on the mission that he was decided we were hiking from Corniglia to Vernazza. And was I glad I did the hike! This is by far the most strenuous hike – lot of climbing up and climbing down – the downward hike really takes a toll on your knees. Anyway, we reached Vernazza which is the fourth town in Cinque Terre. This place has a neat little harbor, where we sat down for a while. My cell phone has crystal clear reception here and we even managed to talk to Mom and Dad in India. Amazing what modern technology can achieve! Who would have thought I would be talking to my parents in India from some remote village in Italy? We then had dinner at a restaurant right by the port (I think it was called Gambero Rosso but am not sure which is unfortunate coz I think we had the best dinner of our trip here!) I had the gnocchi which was very good and so was the dessert plate! We took the train back to Riomaggiore – the train ride is included in the park pass.