Imagine a place where you can kayak from town to town along crystal green and blue waters. Along the way you can paddle up to pebbled shores, jump into swimming holes and see all sorts of fish. Above the water lies hiking trails that intertwine with wineries and offer panoramic views of the sea. Along the hikes you come across picturesque towns which spill out with Italian culture and cuisine, and at night you can enjoy the local wine from the wineries you hiked through that day as you sit on your balcony taking it all in. For those of you who know me, you may be concerned that I am not returning home because if I were able to create my own paradise, Cinque Terre would be it.
I am still in awe at how absolutely charming this place is.
We arrived on Thursday evening and decided to try and find a place in Riamaggiore, the first of the five towns coming from the South. We got off at the train station and were appoached by an older woman trying to give us a room in her hostel. The train station not being too picturesque, we decided to walk to the town and began our long climb up Via Columbo, the main route of the town. Carrying our heavy luggage I finally decided to stop and ask the guy in a souvenir store for a “room” or a “bed.” He made a phone call and within minutes a young, bubbly, Italian woman showed up and offered to show us their room. It was an apartment and had a balcony, but was the first floor above the bar. When I inquired about the noise, she said “they are closed by midnight.” The guy in the store laughed and indicated that the music went on at least until 2am. Due to the fact that all the other places were closed or had no vacancy, we decided to stay there, but only for the night just to be sure. Thank God!!!
We strolled to the next town, Manarola along the paved walkway that snakes high above the Ligurian Sea and strolled back. Stopped off for a glass or five of wine and some cheese at a hilltop bar that looked out over the sea. When we arrived back at the apartment that night we noticed that the bar had taken on a new life, blazing loud American music, filled with young backpacking tourists talking rather loudly how they love Ron Paul. Apparently, this was the only nightlife stop in town and we were staying in the room directly above it. Needless to say, I did not get much sleep.
The next morning I headed out to find us another room. Luckily for us there were some cancellations and we managed to score a room high above the town with a balcony and partial sea view. It was a little over our budget but after the fiasco staying above Bar Centrale it was a no brainer. We spent the day taking a leisurely boat to Monteroso, the farthest of the five towns. From there we hiked high above the towns, into the local wineries, and onto Vernazza. Here we took a brake and had some Farinatta then took the train back to Riamogiorre.
After a short break, we grabbed our swimsuits and headed down to the rocky beach and went swimming as the sun was setting over the Ligurian Sea. That evening we had a great meal at La Grotto where I enjoyed stuffed anchovies and fatelle with pesto washed down by the local white wine. Perfecto!
Our next day in Cinque Terre was even better. We started the day off renting kayaks and headed out to kayak to the next town over, Manarola. We found a rocky beach with great deep water swimming and, after falling flat on my ass with fins in front of a bunch of sophisticated European beachgoers, we went snorkeling and swimming. Rejuvenated from the swim, we decided we could make it to the next town and kept going until we reached the far end of Conriglia and found another rocky beach hidden away in a little cove. We paddle to shore and went snonrkeling one more, this time you could see so many more fishes that at one point I kind of felt bad about eating them last night for dinner. After another relaxing swim, we began our paddle back to Riomaggiore, only this time we were going against the current and our arms were tired from swimming and kayaking all day. It felt like we would never make it back, but of course we did.
We decided to forego restaurants that evening and walked into town where we bought raviolis from a little place that prepared fresh pasta to go. We picked up another bottle of wine and some freshly baked bread and pastries from the local bakery and had ourselves a relaxing feast upon our balcony looking out over the town. I am already considering how to save enough money to buy a summer home here, or retire here, or just move here immediately. Cinque Terre is great for those who love boating and wine and hiking and food…From now on when I hear one use the phrase “swim with the fishes” instead of Don Carlione, I’ll recall fond memories of my time in Cinque Terre.