The Cinque Terre

The Cinque Terre (literally "five lands") are five small seventeenth century villages which literally cling to the coastline. They are joined by a nineteenth century railway line which until recently was the only mechanized access to the villages, except of course for the sea. We stayed in Levanto, which is a small resort town a few miles north of the Cinque Terre, but on the same railway line. The five villages are also connected by pathways built in the 12th and 13th centuries which cling precariously to the cliff. We spent our first day in Levanto, getting to know the town and settling in to our hotel.

The crowded beach at Levanto

Tempting cookies and donuts for sale at the market

The next day (June 1), we took the very crowded train to the furthest of the five villages, Riomaggiore with the intention of walking back to the middle village, Corneglia and then taking the train back to Levanto. The first part of the walk, called the Via dell' Amore is relatively easy and all along the path, lovers have left padlocks locked to various elements along the way, to show the permanence of their affections. Better than writing on the rocks, I suppose, and actually rather touching.


Via dell' Amore - and this is the easy part

Kris contemplating the long walk still to come 

Lovers locks left along the path to show their everlasting affection

The next village along the path was Manarola and we stopped for a drink. So far, the walk had been easy.

Leaving Manarola

The third village was Corniglia and we stopped here for lunch. It wasn't as pretty as the other villages but after completing two legs of the walk in less than two hours, we decided to press on to the next village, Vernazza. The path quickly became much steeper until we were so high we could see two villages at the same time:

Corniglia is the nearest village and Manarola is in the distance

The path gets much steeper (and longer) but we are finally rewarded with a view of Vernazza, the most attractive village so far

Vernazza, the end of our 6 km walk along the cliff path

After a drink, we headed to the railway station for the short train journey back to Levanto.  And then we had a little adventure. The train was late and was PACKED - like a London tube train at rush hour. All the seats were taken and we were pushed into a small standing space near one the doors between carriages. Just before the train pulled out, two Italian girls, probably in their teens, pushed next to Kris and I. I talked to one of them (sort of) as the train traveled between Vernazza and Levanto. We (and they) got out at Levanto and Kris said to me "Is my back pack OK ?" When I looked the zip was undone. As soon as she looked inside, she said, "they stole my purse" - the small leather handbag she had bought in the UK. We ran back to the train and looked inside but we couldn't see either of the girls and the train then started up and we had to get off. We lost the purse, a small amount of cash (about $60) and a couple of credit cards, none of them essential, but all very annoying and reminiscent of a similar event in India, when we lost a LOT more stuff ! Very annoying !


Portofino (June 2)

The next day, having recovered from the shock of the previous day and having reported our stolen credit cards to the relevant banks in the US, we carried on with our plan to visit the very famous and exclusive village of Portofino, several miles north of the Cinque Terre. Back on the train again (no pickpockets this time) to Santa Margherita, a pleasant little port in it's own right, but not our destination - just the departure point for the ferry to Portofino.

Leaving Santa Margherita on the ferry

Kris hanging on to her hat on the ferry and Portofino looking just the way it does in the travel commercials


Portofino from across the dock

Definitely a place from "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous" but too rich for us. We did linger for a couple of hours in the main piazza and took our time sipping at our drinks, but much too soon, it was back on the ferry and train and back to Levanto.

Porto Venere (June 3)

 This was a travel day for us, as we had a ferry to catch from Genoa (Genova to Italians) to Sicily, but the ferry didn't leave until 10:00 pm so we really had the whole day. We took the train (again) to La Spezia and then a bus to Porto Venere, another quaint little port with a lot of history. The weather in the morning wasn't very promising and we knew we still had a long day ahead of us, so we weren't quite as enthusiastic as we should have been, but we did take a walk around the village. At the end of the village, on the cliff edge, facing out to sea, was a pretty little church, the Chiesa di San Lorenzo, built in 1130  and the 16th century Castello Doria, built to protect the harbor.By this time, we thought we had seen enough pretty little harbors, at least for a couple of days, so we headed back to Levanto to collect our luggage and then jumped back on the train to Genova.

*************Next stop - Sicily ***************