On the morning of August 23, we got up early for the three hour drive from our agriturismo to the Cinque Terre. We drove up through Pisa and La Spezia. Once we entered the Cinque Terre, we drove down to Riomaggiore in an attempt to find parking. Since all of the parking near the town was full, we drove back up and parked in a small lot off of the main road between Riomaggiore and Manarola.
From where we parked, it was much easier to hike towards Manarola even though we could see Riomaggiore, so off we went. After a relatively easy hike down, and with a growing sense of apprehension about how far up we were going to have to hike to get back out, we arrived in Manarola.
Manarola is the second city in the Cinque Terre from east to west. It's a beautiful small town nestled right into the sea and amongst the dry stone terraces that support the agriculture of the Cinque Terre. We toured the small church in Manarola and then walked down the main street to the waterfront.
We then decided to hike from Manarola to Riomaggiore, the easternmost of the Cinque Terre. Prior to the 1950's, the only way to get to any of the Cinque Terre was on foot or by sea. The road from Manarola to Riomaggiore is known as the Via Dell'Amore, the Road of Love, so we figured that was appropriate on our honeymoon. It was a beautiful hike of about 1.4km along the side of the cliffs overlooking the azure waters of the Mediterranean Sea.
Once we were in Riomaggiore, we went into the train station and bought some postcards and then hiked up the main street. We toured both the sanctuary and the church before heading back towards Manarola.
We stopped for lunch at the Bar Dell'Amore on the Via Dell'Amore where we both had sandwiches and shared a glass of limoncino, a Cinque Terre specialty, over the Mediterranean. Once we got back to Manarola, we boarded the train to Corniglia.
When we got of the train, we lucked into a bus to Corniglia, saving us from having to climb the 377 stairs from the train station to town. Corniglia was founded by the Romans in the 1st century and sits high up on the bluff above the ocean, giving it a commanding view of the area. It is also the only one of the Cinque Terre that does not have direct access to the ocean. We toured both the sanctuary and church in Corniglia as well, noting that every city in the Cinque Terre seemed to have a sanctuary and a church. We then hiked back down the stairs to the train station to go to Vernazza.
In Vernazza we got out and hiked down from the train platform into town. We stopped for our afternoon gelato as we walked down the main street towards the waterfront. The waterfront in Vernazza was clearly the most impressive of the Cinque Terre as the entire city funneled into a small bay. Numerous beachgoers were enjoying themselves on the beach and in the water when we were there. We tried to go into the church which was right on the waterfront, however a service was going on so we couldn't enter. We then hiked up to the ruins of a Roman observation tower that stands on the bluff overlooking the town before heading back to catch the train to Monterosso al Mare.
In Monterosso, we started walking along the street by the beach. Monterosso was the most "Italian Riviera" of all of the cities we saw. We decided to go down on the beach to wade in the ocean since I had never been to the Mediterranean before. The water was warm as was the weather, which was a good thing since neither of us did a good job of rolling our pants up high enough to stay dry. We then hiked down to see a statue called "Il Gigante" which is perched on the cliff at the far western end of Monterosso. We then walked back to see the other flank of town, stopping on the way to buy a bottle of limoncino and wine that were both produced in the Cinque Terre, since both products are the famous agricultural products of the Cinque Terre. After wandering through the older section of Monterosso and stopping to listen to the beginnings of a concert, we went back and had dinner on the beach near the train station.
After dinner we went back to the train station to catch the train back to Manarola. Evidently something was wrong with the trains, because I believe that the regional train that we wanted was over 2 hours late, but no Trenitalia personnel were at the station to ask. We got on the first train that stopped, assuming it was the right train, and ended up sitting next to a Canadian couple from Toronto. We soon realized that this was the express that only stopped in Monterosso and Riomaggiore, so when we got off, we resigned ourself to hiking back across the Via Dell'Amore in the dark and then back up the hill to our car. It turned into a beautiful hike because the path was relatively well lit, and the stars and ocean were beautiful.
By the time we finally got back to our car, it was 11:30, and we had what we thought was a 3 hour drive ahead of us. Knowing where we were going on the way home, I managed to cut about 30 mins off the drive and we finally pulled back into the agriturismo at about 2 am, ending what was a long, but incredibly fun day.