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The Silk Route - World Travel: Acciughe al limone, CInque Terre, Italy
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Italy: Cinque Terre
May 2019

Monterosso al Mare Vernazza Corniglia Manarola Riomaggiore Porto Venere La Spezia
Vernazza, CInque Terre, Italy

 

Cinque Terre has some of the most picturesque fishing villages in Italy and many fine hiking trails on the cliffs above the sea.

Monterosso al Mare

Monterosso al Mare
Not for us but Monterosso has a popular beach.
Monterosso al Mare
Monterosso al Mare
East bay of Monterosso al Mare from the start of the cliff top walk south.
Monterosso al Mare

 

The northernmost of the five fishing villages which make up the Cinque Terre, Monterosso is quite large and the most commercial, with a popular beach - the only one of the five villages to have one.

Monterosso al Mare
Monterosso al Mare
West bay of Monterosso al Mare from the cliff top walk south to Vernazza.

 

Monterosso al Mare
Second World War Pill Box just south of Monterosso al Mare.
Monterosso al Mare
Looking south - in the distance is Riomaggiore.

 

We arrived by train from Riomaggiore where we were staying early one morning to do the coastal walk to Vernazza. A railway line links the five villages and multi-day passes make it very easy to hop on and off at will.

Monterosso al Mare
Vineyards high above the sea.
Monterosso al Mare

 

The start of the walk is a bit of a killer - 580 steps up the side of the cliff. But beautiful sea views all the way.

 

Monterosso al Mare
Approaching Vernazza.

 

Monterosso al Mare

 

We started the walk around 9:30 in the morning when the sun had not yet come round so it was not too hot. It took us about two hours, with numerous stops for photos. Gradually Vernazza came into view.

 

Monterosso al Mare
Monterosso al Mare
Monterosso al Mare

 

 

After we had lunch in Vernazza we took the train back to Monterosso and explored the village a bit before catching the ferry back to Riomaggiore. There is very little shelter at the ferry dock and it was a blazingly hot day with many people wanting to take the different ferries - not a comfortable wait. But the ferry is an ideal way to see the villages from the sea.

 

Vernazza

Vernazza
Vernazza from near the end of the cliff top walk from Monterosso al Mare.
Vernazza
Vernazza
We ate lunch at Antica Osteria il Baretto. I had anchovies with lemon to start and they were superb - easily the best I've had, though I don't often get the chance of fresh anchovies. This area is renowned for them.

Vernazza
Vernazza
Early morning Vernazza, as we started the walk to Corniglia the following day.

Vernazza has a small natural harbour and the trademark picturesque colourful buildings and narrow streets of the Cinque Terre.

Vernazza

Medieval Castello Doria crowns the headland, its circular tower the only substantial part remaining. Built over a thousand years ago it is the oldest fortification in Cinque Terre.

Vernazza
Carved stone in a doorway.
Vernazza
Vernazza

Vernazza
Vernazza from the ferry with terraced vineyards climbing the slopes and densely forested hills behind.
Vernazza
Approaching Vernazza (left of the large rock) on the ferry, Corniglia on the cliff top in the middle distance.

 

Corniglia

Corniglia

 

The cliff top walk from Vernazza to Corniglia is much easier than Monterosso to Vernazza. Again we started early in the cool of the morning with fewer people around.

Corniglia
Corniglia

Corniglia
Corniglia
Corniglia
Corniglia
Corniglia
We walked through olive groves. The green nets twisted around the trees will be spread beneath them on the ground at harvest time.
Corniglia

 

 

 

There were lots of wild flowers along the way including poppies and irises growing beneath trees.

Corniglia

Corniglia
Corniglia
Approaching Corniglia.
Corniglia
The tiny hamlet of San Bernardino perched high above Corniglia.
Corniglia
Corniglia and Manarola behind.
Corniglia
Corniglia
Corniglia
The cliffs are covered with hardy plants - a lot of succulents among them.

 

Corniglia

 

 

We liked Corniglia a lot. It is the only one of the villages which does not sit at sea level. Perched on a cliff it is a maze of narrow alleys and tiny shady squares, in one of which we had a very welcome cold beer on arrival.

We had a a very nice lunch in Enoteca il Pirun. In particular my prawns were superb.

Later we took the train to Manarola. The station is way below the town - a steep climb if you arrive this way.

Corniglia
View south along the coast to Manarola on the descent to Corniglia train station.
Corniglia
Lunch at Enoteca il Pirun.
Corniglia

 

Manarola

Manarola
Manarola

 

Manarola is picturesque but in the afternoon it was absolutely heaving with tourists - I would strongly advise avoiding it at this time. Corniglia didn't seem so busy when we left it to get the train here, but probably the other villages get very crowded in the afternoon too.

Manarola

Cinque Terre has become so popular that to get good accommodation you have to plan well in advance. We had hoped May was sufficiently outside high season that the crowds would not be too great, and this was true of the walks we did in the mornings. But as we completed walks before lunch we could tell that more people were getting on to the trails, even if they weren't planning on walking between any two villages.

We made our way round the headland to get the classic shot and got the very next train to Riomaggiore.

 

Riomaggiore

 

Riomaggiore

We chose Riomaggiore to stay in while we explored Cinque Terre and we really felt we chose well. It's big enough to have plenty of places to eat, but still very picturesque and didn't seem to get too crowded.

Riomaggiore

We stayed in the Cinque Terre Residence, high above the town so it involved a trek down to the restaurants and train station, and a trek back up at the end of the day, but we felt it was worth it. The room was lovely and with our own terrace we were able to sit outside whenever we wanted.

Riomaggiore

We were fortunate our first day that we were able to make a 7pm reservation at Enoteca Dan Cila. We'd wandered down to the sea front and called in on the off-chance in the early evening.

This is the time when the buildings on the sea front start to glow and the most colourful photographs can be taken.

We were given the "best table" - overlooking the slipway down to the sea and sunset - and had a very good meal.

Riomaggiore
Superb tagliolino at Dan Cila.
Riomaggiore
Riomaggiore
Excellent sea bass, if a little on the small side, at Enoteca Dan Cia.
Riomaggiore
It was quite a haul back up from the sea front to our hotel.
Riomaggiore
Early morning, Riomaggiore.

 

 

My "Tagliolino all'aragosta con crostacei e agrumi" - "handmade tagliolino spiny lobster, crustaceous and citrus" was excellent, as was Andrew's baked sea bass fillet with broccoli soufflé and "smash potatoes" - though the fillet was a little on the small side.

 

The following morning we took the train early to Monterosso al Mare for our first walk. The railway line is practically at sea level and close to the coast so there is a rather nice view from the northbound platform.

Riomaggiore
Early morning view from the train station in Riomaggiore.
Riomaggiore
Starters at Rio Bistrot.

We had another very good meal - probably the best we had in Riomaggiore - at Rio Bistrot. Very good anchovies with red peppers, and ravioli starters, then we both had local fish fillet with black potatoes - again a very small piece of fish - and lemon sorbets.

Riomaggiore
Local fish and black potatoes at Rio Bistrot.
Riomaggiore
Quite liquid but very good lemon sorbet at Rio Bistrot.
Riomaggiore
Riomaggiore
Sunset, Riomaggiore.

 

Porto Venere

Porto Venere

 

South of La Spezia, and east of the five Cinque Terre villages, Porto Venere is an attractive seaside fishing village with the typical colourful buildings of the coast.

Porto Venere
Porto venere with imposing Castello Doria on the cliff top.

We parked outside the village and walked in, with lovely views of the bay. There was actually plenty of parking available, though a one-way system in operation which might be tricky for a first-time visitor.

Porto Venere

We stopped at the first decent looking place we came to for lunch - Il Piccolo Bistrot, right on the sea. I had sea bass, Isolana Style" which meant served on a bed of finely diced carrots and courgettes with pine nuts, in a lovely sauce, my only complaint that it was quite a small portion - something that seems very common in this region when it comes to fish. Andrew had excellent spaghetti al Pomodoro. We liked the local wine too, both red and white Vermentino.

Porto Venere

 

Afterwards we walked along to the village which was quite quiet compared to the Cinque Terre villages, though I believe it is popular at weekends with locals from the nearby towns.

 

La Spezia

La Spezia
La Spezia

A pleasant large port town east of Cinque Terre. We spent half a day here but there wasn't really very much to detain us. We walked through a large lively produce market and had a beer at the only seafront cafe (as far as we could find). After lunch at Osteria della Corte we wandered up to the castle then caught the train back to Riomaggiore.

La Spezia
View from the castle.
La Spezia
Teatro Cozzani
Post First World War Art Nouveau.
La Spezia

 

La Spezia
La Spezia
La Spezia
La Spezia
La Spezia
La Spezia
La Spezia
Osteria della Corte
La Spezia
La Spezia
La Spezia
Cappon Magro

Lunch was pretty good. I had excellent Cappon Magro to start, a traditional fish and vegetable dish, Andrew mezze maniche pasta with monte cimone parmesan cream, bacon and soft egg. My duck with caramelized oranges was also very good but Andrew's pork rather uninteresting.

La Spezia
Mezze Maniche Pasta