Tag Archives: Cinque Terre

The Cinque Terre from the sea

A sunny Monterosso

On a beautiful day we took the train back to Monterosso and walked down from the station to find a ticket office for the ferry – and, of course, had to queue. We did manage to get near the front, though.

Tickets purchased, we mooched around until it was time to leave. It was a very different place to the one we’d visited a few days before. We passed by a long line of people filling the pavement just above the beach – and it finally dawned on us that they were waiting to pay to go to the beach. You hire one of those umbrellas and a beach lounge for however long. Pay! To go to the beach! Jeez. Further along the markets were in full swing, offering clothes, souvenirs and food. We settled for a cup of coffee in the same little park near the square where we’d gone on our previous visit. This time the sun was shining and the umbrellas were out. And I found a statue of the great Italian hero, Giuseppe Garibaldi. There’s one of him in the park near the port at La Spezia, too. An interesting man. For years I’d thought he’d landed somewhere to rescue his wife but that was dead wrong. Anita Garibaldi didn’t need rescuing. She was quite a lady.

Ferry patrons coming and going

As soon as you see a ferry come in you understand why the service is absolutely dependent on the weather. There’s no place for the quite large boats to tie up. The skipper brings the boat in nose first, they drop a couple of ropes from the bow mainly for show and they roll a ramp out the front onto the stone wharf. Everybody files off, then everybody files on, while all the time the skipper holds the vessel in place with the engines.

Another packed ferry goes in as we pull out

The trip itself is gorgeous. You get to see the majestic scenery and the way the villages settle on the hills like limpets. Roads are carried over deep valleys on viaducts and the railway was carved through the hills. Much of the track is in tunnels. The ferry stops at Vernazza, but not at Corniglia, which is too far from the water, going onto Manarola, and Riomaggiore before it stops at Portovenere. We got a lovely view of Portovenere from the water as the ferry came in.


Corniglia. The ferry doesn’t stop here


A long shot showing the train at right


Riomaggiore. You can almost see up the main street

Note the viaduct, the ‘docked’ ferry and the railway

We noticed this collection of little buildings. Is a new Cinque Terre village being grown?


We had an hour and a half to wait before we caught another ferry to La Spezia. No prizes for guessing why we didn’t even consider catching a bus. We went for a stroll and then found a place to drink coffee and watch the people doing their thing. It was… shall we say entertaining watching three boats unloading and loading passengers for the Cinque Terre. I was so glad we weren’t in that mix. Our boat to La Spezia wasn’t packed and we enjoyed the ride past the Italian naval base and the posh houses overlooking the water.

Chaos as the toursits push and shove

For our last night in La Spezia we opted to go up market. We’d found food service in the town’s pizzerias was pretty bloody ordinary. One evening Pete’s ‘appetiser’ arrived a nanosecond before the main course, and the ‘appetiser’ was bigger than the main. The following evening, having taken our order, the girl came back to tell Sandy they’d run out of ravioli. Our food came, but not Sandy’s. Meanwhile, we watched plates of food being delivered out of another door to the outside patrons. Sandy’s food came when we’d all finished ours. But at least we weren’t charged for it.

The Ristorante Roma was directly opposite our hotel. We knew it would be more expensive, but the cost wasn’t exorbitant, the service was impeccable and the food lovely. We finished the evening with a complimentary glass of limoncello or agricanto. Agricanto is yummy, yummy stuff. Morello cherries and almonds in a drink. Check it out here.

That’s it for the Cinque Terre. In my opinion they’re overrated. They’re typical Italian villages perched in easily defendable locations. We’ll be seeing quite a few more as we tour Tuscany. Their charm is because they’re near the sea – and because they’re colourful. Given my choice, I’d pick Portovenere. But I will acknowledge that the Cinque Terre are best appreciated by younger, fitter people who can handle the steep climbs and the narrow passages. And the crush of too many people.

Next time we take the trains to Tuscany.


Getting to the Cinque Terre

The deserted beach at Monteross

Before we could visit the Cinque Terre villages on Italy’s coastline we had to get to Italy.

We had to wait on the River Royale for a while before we were taken to the airport, so we checked to see how our EasyJet flight measured up as far as ‘on time’ was concerned. Back in Australia, before we booked the trip, we’d checked for delays, ensuring it usually landed on schedule. It didn’t matter so much arriving in Bordeaux, but coming back to Milan was another story. We had to collect our bags, catch the Malpensa Express, and catch an Intercity train to La Spezia. We’d left ourselves some lee-way – but intercity trains don’t leave every half hour. Even as it was, we’d be arriving in our hotel in La Spezia around 10:30.

Col reported that the EasyJet flight to Milan which had been on time all the time before we booked the trip had been at least ½ hr late for the last 10 days. Despite having taken off on schedule from its previous port (according to flight tracker) the aircraft was expected to arrive late to Bordeaux. If the delay wasn’t too long we could still make it. But if we didn’t… plan B pushed back our arrival by several hours. It would mean kicking our heels at the train station for a time and since we couldn’t hope to arrive before midnight, when the hotel’s reception closed, we would have to make special arrangements.

Fingers and toes crossed, this would all work out.

We knew what we were doing at the check-in this time, and joined the ‘super plus’ queue. Shuffling along in the ordinary queue would have been faster. A man with a disabled wife stood at the counter for a good half hour, and the second counter wasn’t working. Through security we managed to grab a seat in a café area. We were lucky to snare seats before the space filled with people. The delayed flight meant people banked up before getting out to the tarmac. It wasn’t looking good. At this rate, we wouldn’t be in La Spezia until the early hours of tomorrow.

We finally got on the aircraft and took off, hoping all the dominoes fell as they were supposed to in Milan. At the other end, we hurried for the luggage carousel, noting travelators that didn’t work. The baggage carousel was iffy, as well. It stopped three times in the first few minutes. But we managed to grab our bags and catch the Malpensa express with enough time to spare to get across to the Intercity.

We’d booked first class and found the train easily enough. But we were frankly very hungry by 7:05pm, having not eaten since breakfast, so we were looking forward to getting to the dining car, or the sandwich trolley, or something. But this is Italy. The train had NO food or drink facilities and never stopped at a station long enough to even dive off to grab a sandwich from a vending machine. That probably explained why one woman had a takeaway pizza carton in front of her. Lucky her.

We were STARVING when we got to the hotel at around 11pm. We checked in, dropped our bags, and went to find some food. It wasn’t a problem. Lots of places in the main shopping/restaurant district – maybe 300m away – are open at 11:30pm. We ate pizza (bloody good) and drank local white wine. Great stuff.

The room was pretty standard – except for the bathroom. It had been renovated and was very nice – apart from the bijou corner shower. Pete had a lot of trouble squeezing in, which I found hilarious. Also, if you didn’t turn the mixer tap up high, it slowly collapsed and turned off the shower. And if you dropped the soap… I’ll leave you to imagine.

Breakfast was dead ordinary. Cold scrambled horrible eggs, cold bacon and tiny sausages, runny yoghurt in a tub. We asked for a different room, which turned out to be difficult because of the Assumption Day holiday on Wednesday. But it was done. The shower was a bit roomier, although it still wasn’t a good idea to drop the soap.

Next day we reconnoitred, finding out about how to get to the Cinque Terre. We’d walked over to the railway station to find out about tickets for the villages and found ridiculously long queues in front of the two ticket machines and also at the information office where you bought multi-day passes. While Col and Pete organised a load of washing in a local laundromat, Sandy and I went to the port to find out about ferries. There was only one dock and the queue stretched for a long way. We’d need to plan our next move. We decided to come back late in the evening to get our tickets for the train and do the ferry trip another day.

Overnight we were woken by hours of thunder. The morning dawned cooler and overcast. After a very ordinary breakfast we went to the railway station to catch an early train to the villages. The train station was virtually empty. We thought we’d been lucky, avoiding the rush. The attendant at the (empty) tourist bureau wouldn’t sell us day passes. The villages were closed until 3pm due to serious weather from the overnight storms. More rain was expected later in the day and the steep, cobblestoned streets could be very dangerous in wet weather. We went anyway, riding to the most distant village, Monterosso, a twenty-minute trip including stops at the other four villages, and worked back from there, spending an hour or so in each. The villages were pretty much devoid of tourists until about lunch time, when the tour groups arrived with their flag-waving guides. That meant we could get around and get some pics without being crushed to death. I cannot imagine what it would have been like on a ‘normal’ day. We’d been told that cruise ships came into La Spezia every day and disgorged two or three thousand people, all intent on visiting the Cinque Terre. Wednesday was also a huge public holiday so the villages were likely to be absolutely packed, so we decided to do a ferry trip on Thursday.

Overall, each village probably has its own character but all of them are collections of colourful buildings huddled together on steep, rocky slopes, divided by narrow streets. There are lots of passageways, and down at the lower levels the sea is never far away. I imagine the villages were placed where they are for security back in the medieval times. These days, I suspect it’s all about tourism. It’s pretty, but I wouldn’t want to live there.

Tomorrow I’ll tell you what happened to us on Assumption Day. I’m sure you’ll enjoy it. Meanwhile, here are some more Cinque Terre photos.

Monterosso. Note that moroway at top. This was not long after the disastrous bridge collapse in Genoa which claimed 40 lives

The narrow, winding streets are pretty empty

Plenty of places to eat – today

Manarola (I think)