21.10.2013 - 24.10.2013 19 °C
For the first stretch of holidays this year, (now working full time for French schools), we decided on a jaunt to Italy's version of the Cote d'Azur to visit Cinque Terre, a series of 5 coastal and very picturesque villages connected by mountain pathways (and by train). We stayed in Manarola at the top of a very steep hill: nothing at first, but after each outing and a long day of hiking, it became tiresome. Each night, we had the choice of 3 restaurants or 1 takeout place for dinner, or visit another village - that's how small these places are.
On our first afternoon, we took the train to see Riomaggiore, the next town over. At the top of the village, lightening and thunder announced a storm coming from the water, and not giving ourselves enough time to get back down to the shelter of a cafe, we got almost entirely soaked scrambling down these steep and tiny staircases, hoping one would lead to a cafe. Finally, it did and we waited out the storm over some red wine.
On our second day, we hiked the path that connected the remaining 4 villages: about 14 km, with stops at each one for a glass of beer or gelato. The scenery and the views were incredible; some of the terrain reminded me of northern Vietnam with the terraced agriculture. These villages are built on aggressively steep hillsides and yet, every inch is used. Life in these villages seems dependent now on tourism, but also relies heavily on fishing and this sort of farming. And then other parts of the trail felt like we could've been wandering through a BC forest, lush as it was with moss, ferns and vines. Particularly pleasant though was wandering though the olive groves high up on the mountain sides with sea views the entire way along.
The mountain pathways were supposedly closed due to risk of landslide....but not for us! This actually meant that no one was collecting fees for using the trail (this wasn't a reckless decision; there were quite a few people hiking these sections, and there didn't seem to be any apparent danger of anything)
This is Monterosso in the distance, our destination for the day. Looking back at the distance we'd covered, our village in the background.
Monterosso is the largest of the 5 villages and has a beach, so this was the plan for day 3, but unfortunately the weather wasn't warm enough for a swim. Instead we explored the town and then investigated our own village a little closer before finding dinner.
Of the highlights were the caprese salads and cappucchinos; and panna cotta on the second night after dinner: wow, heaven in a bowl!
We were woken the last night to the loudest thunderstorm we've ever experienced - seemed like the thunder was constant for at least an hour and was so loud we felt like we should have emerged to a bomb sight the next morning. We're back home now and resting our very sore calf muscles after all that hiking and preparing to head off again tonight to Indoor Championships in northern France this weekend.