Wednesday, September 13, 2006


From Pisa, we continued on to La Spezia, the town nearest Cinque Terre. A quick layover, and we caught another train to Riomaggiore, the first of the five towns.

Before I go any further, a little background on Cinque Terre. Literally translated as the “Five Lands”, Cinque Terre is a series of five tiny villages hidden in small coves along a stretch of beautiful, UNESCO-protected Mediterranean coastline at the south end of the Ligurian Riviera. Only recently has the area been connected to the rest of Italy by road; the harsh, unyielding cliffs previously made the villages accessible only by boat or mule. Several trails connect all five, though I use the term “trail” loosely. In some parts, the foot path was only ten or twelve inches wide, flanked by the cactus-dotted cliff wall to one side and a sharp drop-off to the water below on the other. I have not hiked much, but I have never seen more picturesque coastline.

Our hotel was in Riomaggiore, the southernmost village, and furthest from the most commercialized village of Monterosso to the north. The town is constructed in a small valley, so to get to our hotel room we had to climb up a steep hill through narrow, winding passageways. It was like something out of a movie. And yes, old Italian women really do shout at each other across the alley while hanging out their laundry!

Taken from high above the village, the whole of Riomaggiore - a single main street and a few homes alongside.

The remainder of the first day was spent resting by the Sea, as the drive to Charleroi, flight to Pisa, and train to Riomaggiore left us a bit tired. I bought a bottle of chianti (for E4!) and settled into a crag in the rocks to read. It was precisely what I wanted it to be. Good red wine. Great book. Blue skies. And the Mediterranean. I could have stayed there for weeks.

In the evening, we dined in one of two outdoor cafes/bars in town, and polished off the day with some delicious lemon and strawberry gelati. Our company was limited to 20 or so other tourists at the bar, most of which were either American or Australian. There was no one else around, and I felt as if we were tucked away in some far corner of the Earth. Absolutely loved it! Even though it was Saturday night, we turned in early, as the following day would find us on the long hike up Cinque Terre.

The cliffs that guard Riomaggiore. The village is tucked in a cove around the precipice in the foreground.

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