Sunday, September 17, 2006

Vernazza and Monterosso

Though we started our hike mid-morning, the afternoon was well upon as by the time we left Corniglia. Though I can’t be sure, I think the trail to Vernazza, the fourth village, was the longest. It proved much more demanding than the previous two. At first, we had difficulty finding the trail’s exit from Corniglia. We had to hike up a steep road and then shimmy down a set of “stairs” that looked more like miniature cliffs before we got on our way. The trail took us through a few substantial elevation changes and was far more rugged than the others before. With all the rocks jutting out from the ground, I got a bit nervous that my sandals wouldn’t hold up. But somehow the difficulty of the terrain, coupled with our growing hunger, wasn’t enough to spoil the hike. At higher elevations, we found our best views yet of the Riviera.

Vernazza is a bit different from the other four towns in that it used to be the site of a small castle. You’ll notice in the pictures below a small turret and fortress at the point. We later learned from a few retired Brits that kept leapfrogging up on the trial that the castle now hosts a small pub, which for some reason I think is kinda funny. Vernazza is a bit larger, and given its proximity to Monterosso, which is by far the most commercialized and touristy village, it is also more congested than the others. Nonetheless, I still enjoyed it. A small lagoon and beach area made for some good people watching.

Vernazza from the south; note the turret at the point and all the boats moored in the cove to the north.

Once settled into Vernazza, we found a small restaurant for lunch. I, of course, had a delicious pizza. I’m still loyal to my Chicago-style deep dish, but the stuff in Italy ain’t all that bad either! In each village, there are several taps that bring up cold, mountain spring water, and we caught this cat enjoying a bit of it just outside our restaurant.

Even the cats love it there (but sorry my photography sucks!)

A meal has a curious way of slowing you down, so we hung out in Vernazza a little longer after lunch to digest and relax. Even as we left, we did so sluggishly, but not long into the hike to the final village, I turned around and snapped my favorite picture of this trip so far. It’s currently my wallpaper. And no, I didn’t just scan it from a postcard!

Best. Picture. Ever. Even a blind squirrel finds a nut every now and then, right? Vernazza from the trail to the north.

We continued on the trail to Monterosso, and it proved at least as difficult as the one to Vernazza. Each time we thought we were done climbing, we’d round a bend and face another steep incline. But as always, what goes up must come down, and the final stretch into the village was thankfully all downhill. Since many tourists stay in Monterosso, they most likely do the hike in reverse (if at all), but we all agreed that we liked our direction better. Though the hardest trails come at the end of the hike, it seemed more rewarding to trip from smaller villages to larger ones, and then return to the smaller one at the end.

As for Monterosso itself, I wasn’t very impressed. It is, by my amateur calculation, at least twice the size of the others, and it is far more commercialized. There are a number of hotels there as well, and for the first time I felt as though I was in a tourist trap. On the upside, there was a much larger selection of restaurants. We grabbed some gelato, walked around for awhile, and then hopped on a train back to Riomaggiore for the night. Due either to my exhaustion or my distaste for the town, I have no pictures of it, but I promise you’re not missing too much!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

those pics are sweet... so yeah, i hate you and i am so incredibly jealous of you that you are traveling europe