Tag Archives: Manarola

The silver lining trip

28 Oct
Call it licking our wounds, making a silk purse out of a sow’s ear, or the silver lining to the storm cloud, we took refuge in a trip to the Cinque Terre in place of our long-planned-recently-aborted trip to the U.S.
In October of 2010, 2012, and 2013, we made sojourns to the Cinque Terre, but 2014 was to be the 2+ week trip to America to see friends and family, as well as attend our nephew’s wedding.  We would skip the almost-annual fall hiking trip. Since we could not go to the U.S., and since the weather in October was not only holding steady in Rome but improving in the north, we found a last minute rental in Manarola and headed out last Wednesday, with promise of sun and moderate temps.
Wind-whipped day on the Belvedere, Manarola, Cinque Terre, Italy.
Wind-whipped day on the Belvedere, Manarola, Cinque Terre, Italy.
We were not alone: the hoards have not let up their hold on the cute little villages. First clue was the mobbed train from La Spezia to Manarola on a Wednesday. The sea was rough so the boats that relieve train congestion did not run, making the train all the more fun. Luckily we had only an 11 minute train ride as we had to stand in the vestibule of the train as it chugged through the tunnels. In Manarola we found Andrea waiting as promised to lead us to our apartment. What providence for both of us! For Andrea to have a five night end-of-season rental, and for us to find such a great place that met or exceeded all of our criteria: Less than 100 Euro per night, WIFI, clothes washer, view of the sea, less than 50 stairs to climb, and a place to make coffee in the morning before the bars open. (I added the 50 stairs criteria after a couple of trips where we had 70 or 80 stairs to climb each time we came-and-went from our room or apartment and we decided we prefer spending our energy hiking or exploring a city, not in climbing to and from our lodging.) Andrea’s place is a large one bedroom with two matrimonial beds, and the possibility of renting two additional bedrooms one level down. Could be great for a large family.
People complain that the Cinque Terre is too crowded and touristy. It does seem these little villages are loved a bit too much by non-Italians. Interestingly, the majority of travelers here right now are French, German, Australian, and British. We have run into very few North Americans. While the five villages are cheek-by-jowl with tourists during the daytime, evenings are serene, restaurants can accommodate those of us staying the night, and we have once again found places to venture where few of those passing through bother to tread.
Instead of the famous Sentiero Azzuro between the towns, we headed up up up to Il Santuario di Nostra Signora di Reggio (The Sanctuary of Our Lady of Reggio).  We saw one person at the top, and four on the way down. A far cry from the masses on the coastal trail.  Click on any picture for a slide show.
We also headed to Portovenere, which has been on our list for the past three visits. The best way to Portovenere is by ferry, and when the wind is up they do not run. Friday there was a nationwide train strike from 09:00-17:00, so it seemed like a perfect day for a boat trip. We heard nothing but Italian and German in Portovenere. That is to say the tourists were European, not North American, for the most part. It is a fascinating little city with 2600 years of history. The Romans had huge influence, of course. There is a castle, a cemetery with a view, and the lovely Church of San Lorenzo, complete with fresco of his gruesome martyrdom. Returning to our little base in Manarola we could not believe how teaming it was with people after a peaceful day in Portvenere.
Another bucket-list location for us in Liguria was Camogli. I wanted to do the hike from there to the Abbey at San Fruttuoso. Alas, it will remain on the bucket list as the weather report for the planned excursion day showed temps barely above freezing and light rain. We are not sure if the weather report we pulled up was wrong, but we dared not take the chance on a 75 minute one way train trip to find we could not hike. So we headed to La Spezia, which is “the big city” in these parts. Only 11 minutes from Manarola by train, it is of a decidedly different character, but has some redeemable charms. There is an excellent Naval Museum, a beautiful waterfront passeggiata, and a significant pedestrian shopping area no doubt designed to attract the cruise ship visitors that spend the day there. All-in-all we had a good city hike, logging almost 16,000 steps on the pedometer.
Our final day was spent repeating a hike we took two years ago, a hike that gave us some problems at that time. We took a little bio-diesel bus from Manarola up to the tinier hillside village of Volastra. From there we hiked mostly level through vineyards and forest, although our mostly level track had a precipitous drop-off. The final hour was a somewhat technical descent due to a rocky path and awkward footing. Luckily we had good hiking shoes and our walking sticks along.
The special trail shoes and sticks are newly added to our gear, partially as a result of hiking this route two years ago. We had hikers on then, but not trail shoes made for this terrain. The shoes we had then tended to slip and made for some scary moments. The hiking sticks we have pooh-poohed in the past suddenly seemed like a good idea, and we adopted them as well as good trail shoes. We were very proud of ourselves for making this hike again and with proper gear. It was a hell of a workout, but we were safer for the gear. Once again, a lightly traveled route as so few people make their way to the higher trails.
And so we close out a fourth trip to the Cinque Terre. I cannot imagine coming here in the summer when it is even busier, when it is hotter.  It’s lovely to be recognized in restaurants that are not completely slammed, to have servers take their time and be able to linger a bit, to get an off-season rate on an apartment. We would have preferred to be in the U.S. as originally planned as we will not be able to make that trip now for several months, but we found this a nice way heal our disappointment.


Up one side and down the other

15 Oct

Saturday it was supposed to rain, a rather large disappointment when one is in the Cinque Terre as the major activities here are out-of-doors.  Luckily the day dawned partly cloudy and we refused to believe the forecast pushed out to our cell phones.

The path begins climbing gently from Monterosso al Mare, but the climbing continues for 2 km.

The path begins climbing gently from Monterosso al Mare, but the climbing continues for 2 km.

The Sentiero Azzuro or “Trail No. 2” is still closed in some sections, plus it is the trail most tourists gravitate to, so we headed in another direction, north out of Monterosso al Mare to the town of Levanto.  As we were staying in Manarola, we had to take a train to Monterosso, about an 11 minute ride. Any adventure that begins with a train ride scores extra points with Ric.

Train station with a view, and Ric.

Train station with a view, and Ric.

The fact that we also started the day with freshly-baked, flaky pastries filled with chocolate,  still warm from the oven… well, need I say more? Yes, I must say more, because we topped off with a torta di noci e marmelada di albicocchi (pie-like pastry with walnuts and apricot jam) before leaving Monterosso. SIGH, I love vacation.

Tower above Monterosso, along the path. A residence? A hotel? Non lo so....

Tower above Monterosso, along the path. A residence? A hotel? Non lo so….

We enjoyed almost complete solitude for the first 2 kilometers of the hike, only encountering three people.  This was a tough trail with steep and unending stairs placed into the hill.  Some scrambling was required where hard rock refused to yield to trail building.

Unending stairs.

Unending stairs.

By now the path is steeper. Ric says try not to show how much he is sweating.

By now the path is steeper. Ric says try not to show how much he is sweating.

Monterosso from above.

Monterosso from above.

After an hour of constant uphill trekking we reached the ruins of the Eremo di Sant’Antonio, a 13th century monastic hermitage at Punto MescoStupendissimo!

Eremo di Sant'Antonio. Imagine buidlng this in the middle ages?

Eremo di Sant’Antonio. Imagine building this in the middle ages?

Ruins of Sant'Antonio

Ruins of Sant’Antonio (Not me! The rock walls!)

Three years ago, in October 2010, we first traveled to Italy and were in the Cinque Terre about this time. We were daunted by the 60-or-so stairs we had to climb to our room in Vernazza! We hiked a portion of the Sentiero Azzuro that trip but nothing nearly so ambitious as this 10 km hike-and-scramble. Now, with a level of fitness we never thought we could achieve, it was a challenge but one we knew we could accomplish.

On the way down, different surfaces through a piney and then deciduous wood.

On the way down, different surfaces through a piney and then deciduous wood.

This is not an environment of “groomed” trails and sometimes it was difficult to tell where the trail was.

At a junction we couldn't decide if this was a stream bed or a path.... The path was in fact hidden to the right and then merged into he stream bed.

At a junction we couldn’t decide if this was a stream bed or a path…. The path was in fact hidden to the right and then merged into he stream bed.

Where's the path? This rock formation presented right in the middle of the path. Where to go? Upon scrutiny, there was a "path" to the right...sort of.

Where’s the path? This rock formation presented right in the middle of the path. Where to go? Upon scrutiny, there was a “path” to the right…sort of.

From Punto Mesco most of the 2.5 hours was in descent, but the extent of trail maintenance seemed to be clearing off fallen trees. Not that it was a bad trail, but in some places it required some creativity in finding the best path. We encountered a number of people hiking up from Levanto, intent on reaching Monterosso.  Looking back at our route, we were happy we hiked Monterosso to Levanto, and equally happy we started quite early as we hit Levanto at just the right time for lunch, allowing us to call this hike yet another Path to Lunch.  And how nice is it to start with pastry and end with wine?

How cute is this? On the outskirts of Levanto, a little cat-feeding station protected by an umbrella.

How cute is this? On the outskirts of Levanto, a little cat-feeding station protected by an umbrella.

Boardwalk in Levanto

Boardwalk in Levanto

It was windy that day.

It was windy that day.

Postcards from the Cinque Terre

9 Oct

Time for another vacation! As we like to say, you can only have a vacation if you have a job, and we have escaped to the Cinque Terre for hiking and seaside relaxation.  Here are a few favorite shots from the past three days. We will be here until Friday, so more to come!


We arrived in Manarola (town #2 as some call it) in the Cinque Terre on Sunday afternoon by train from Rome. Headed out on a familiarization walk above the town, through the vineyards and down to the sea. Here a view back toward the town and its gelato-colored buildings.

As night fell, we walked to the upper part of town and settled in at the charming Trattoria dal Billy. Too bad we ate our beautiful seafood before I thought to take a picture. The view was intoxicating! The walk up is quite a climb, but the food and service made it worth the effort.


Apologies for the crap smudges on my lens. Ugh!

Monday we traveled down the Ligurian coast to Lerici on the Gulf of Poets. Byron, Shelley, and D.H. Lawrence found this little corner of Italy to their liking as well. It’s a beach resort town in summer. On an autumn day it was still warm, but quiet in a post-season way. Pictured is Lerici Castle.

We walked from one end of the gulf to the other and back: Lerici to San Terenzo (pictured). I think we were the only non-Italians in the whole area. So peaceful! There were still some late season sun worshipers on the almost-deserted beaches.

Thanks to the blog http://www.apathtolunch.com/ for the guidance!

Many of you know Ric and I usually took an autumn trip to Cannon Beach, OR. This is our replacement for that habitual break. A little different, though….

Foccacia is a Ligurian specialty. Here it is in a very thin form, with a filling of spinach and a little sausage, freshly baked for our lunch, served with tomatoes and red wine. Could not finish it!

In the evening we went to the northernmost end of the Cinque Terre, Monterosso al Mare, for dinner and enjoyed this sunset.

At dinner, we were delighted to meet Christine, an American woman living in Monterosso, working at Cantina di Miky, and authoress of the blog, http://lifeinliguria.blogspot.com/  which I have been reading for months. GREAT MEAL! Again, photo not taken because we were so busy consuming beautifully prepared seafood.


We awoke to rain, by the time we had eaten breakfast, it had stopped and the sun was peeking out from broken clouds. Hopped a bio-diesel shuttle for transport to Il Sentiero Rosso, the red trail, high above the sea.

The land has been terraced for centuries. The path passes through vineyards, olive groves, and gardens at a dizzying height.

The town of Corniglia (pronounced cor-KNEE-lee-a), from high-above. Once we descended to Corniglia on a very challenging footpath, we still had 400 brick steps to descend to the train station.

A view over the Ligurian Sea, from high above Corniglia looking toward Monterosso.

Alas, it is almost dinner time and we are eating with “The Pirates” in Vernazza! Dobbiamo andare via!

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