Cliffs of Italy

08:45 Alyson Tart 3 Comments

One auspicious evening in December, we headed out to join the Texas Exes group for a game watching. We were new to London and trying to find our place in the wild jungle of a city that we now call home. Luckily for us, some London veterans and UT alum decided to come as well. Just like trying to set-up a date, we chatted and exchanged numbers.

Little did we know what that exchange would lead to. We loved getting to know the Houses, becoming fast friends and exploring everywhere from the restaurants of London to Ben Nevis and Copenhagen.

So, when after 4 years in London, their time was up, we knew we needed to send them out with a big farewell. One of the places remaining on their bucket list was Cinque Terre and as I can never say no to Italy, the decision was made.

Hiking with the Houses

Perched on cliffs, the five villages of Cinque Terre and all the surrounding vineyards dot the rugged landscape. The contrast of the blue waters of the Mediterannean take your breath away. The area is famous for its coastal walks in more ways than one. Not only are they known for their beauty but also because of the tragedy that struck in 2011. During heavy rains, mudslides in the area caused 9 deaths, so following that, the paths were closed for several years. Supposedly, they were set to open again for the summer season in 2014, making it the perfect time to visit.

After arriving in Manarola, we set out to explore only to find out that this wasn't in fact the case. Additional rains meant that 75% of the coastal paths were closed, including the famous Via Dell'Amore. So instead, we hiked upwards through the hills and vineyards, through barely identifiable paths marked with red and white stripes every so often to let you know you hadn't gotten lost (yet).

While we weren't right on the coast, the views were still beautiful. Our first day, we started small and hiked from Manarola to Rio Maggiore. We rewarded ourselves with gelato, then took the train back to enjoy dinner and a sunset at Marina Piccola.

The next day, we hiked the other direction, from Manarola to Monterosso al Mare. Again, two of the coastal paths were closed, turning us to the hills. We first hiked to Volastra - all uphill - and decided that exertion meant it was time to reward ourselves with some wine. We tried a flight from a local vineyard (mostly whites which are common to the area) and a sweet sciacchetra. With wine in our system and smiles on our faces, we felt ready to tackle the downhill walk to Corniglia, continuing on to Vernazza and Monterosso al Mare.

Our approach to each village awarded us with fantastic views, small colourful cities with the blue backdrop. We had a little time to explore each city, and of course eat. We had a goal to try gelato in each town, as well as the foccacia that is so well known in the area (for good reason). Even after 7 1/2 hours among the cities, I could have spent more time in each of them wandering the hidden alley ways and discovering their secrets. Each city had it's own personality.

Riomaggiore, perhaps the gateway to Cinque Terre as the main train stop;

Manarola, my favourite of the villages filled less with tourists and more with locals enjoying gelato and foccacia bread;

Land-locked Corniglia perhaps was the most remote, perched on the hill giving you a look over everything below;

Picturesque Vernazza with it's hidden beach and secluded harbour;

Bustling Monterosso is the largest, and most crowded with tourists and locals flocking to their beaches.

13 miles later, we found our way back to Manarola to finish off the evening with even more food and another beautiful sunset. While we had explored the villages of Cinque Terre, our time in the coast wasn't quite done yet, but that will wait for another post.

Manarola by night

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  1. This looks like such a beautiful place to get away from it all for a few days. I especially love that last photo - so pretty and colourful!

    1. Catherine - it definitely was! The nice part about the coastal paths being closed meant there were fewer people on the hillside paths since they were such a trek! You can't beat the views

  2. This looks gorgeous! What beautiful pictures. We were meant to go to Rome, Cinque Terre, and Florence end of August 2014, but just before we left, I tore ankle ligaments so we ended up changing out trip to a sort of 'pool' holiday and only went to Rome and Florence. It was just as nice and the food is absolutely amazing. But now seeing all of your pictures, it makes me want to book our next trip there! Lovely post.