Wednesday, February 15, 2017
Liguria...The Sea, The Shore, The Beach, The Cinque Terre
We should all know by now how much I adore Europe, and it's time to start looking into vacations for the year if you intend to go to any of the best spots. So, I'm starting my information early this year. And I'm starting with Italy and the Liguria Sea. What is this you ask? Have you ever heard of the Italian Riviera? Well, there you go. Along these dramatic seas you will find villages and cities that tumble down gargantuan cliffs into the sea. There are many wonderful stops along this piece of coast that they call Amalfi, but one of the most popular, most beautiful, most traditional, and most colorful areas is the National Park and World Heritage Site called Cinque Terre. Is Cinque Terre a village? Is it a park? Is it a province? Well, as the name would suggest, it is five villages. Each one has it's own flair, but they are all staggeringly beautiful with cliff buildings, beaches, and some of the best views in the world.
Riomaggiore is the first village that you will reach if you start in the south of the chain. Cinque Terre is known for it's colorful houses and cliffs all the way along, but each village has it's own speciality or flair. Riomaggiore is famous for it's wine and it's harbor. There are vineyards in the hills and dolphins along the shore. The night life is good there and there is no escaping the fabulous scenery anywhere in the area. This is not the village that is big on resorts, but there are trails that lead to fabulous botanical gardens and Nazi bunkers as well as on to the next village up the coast. Cinque Terre is one of the best summer hiking spots in Italy with hundreds of hiking trails throughout the area around and between the villages.
Manarola is the smallest village of the five and will be the next one you find going north from Riomaggiore. It still has the pastel houses on the cliff and great views of the sea from it's cliffs and harbors. The best view here is from the bar if you climb up Punta Bonfiglio. There is also an old cemetery up there to look at. Remember though that this is a cemetery and the people of the area have friends and relatives buried there. Be respectful. Manarola is one of the oldest villages in the region dating from the 14th century.
Still heading north you will find the village of Corneglia. This is the only cliff town that doesn't sit directly on the water. It is also a wine producing area and this village is the highest elevation of all the villages in Cinque Terre. You can take the train to the villages if you like, but the best way to see the area is to walk. The cliff trails provide unmatched views of the Amalfi Coast. The town was supposedly named by a Roman farmer after his mother Cornelia. If you do decide to take the train to this town, you will have to climb 400 stairs to get from the train station to the village on the top of the cliff.
Next up the coast heading north is Vernazza and this is one of my favorite spots. It's like a step back in time. There are no cars. It's the land of the pedestrian with shops and bars and restaurants and amazing views. There are ruins of an old castle there, world famous olive oil and the Santa Margherita d’Antichia church. If you are looking for that old world charm and truly feeling like you've traveled in a time machine; this is the spot for you. It has an amazing harbor as well and as the rest of the area, a great view from above. You won't find much in the way of beaches here, however, so if you have to have them; this is not your stop.
As you reach the north end of the national park, you will come to Monterroso. This is the touristy town in the park. This is the resort town with the bars and nightlife. This is the place with the most beaches and the best shopping. This is the place where you can show off your fancy Italian sports car. This is where you will find the who's who of people traveling along the Amalfi Coast. It's the largest of the five towns and the most modern. Not to say that it lacks old world charm, because of course it has old world charm. The whole area is old world and gorgeous. If you're looking to stay along this coast park, however, this may be the spot for you to look for a hotel. Once again the hiking is spectacular and the views are amazing. The beaches are to die for around there too.
So, Italy is one of the most beautiful countries in Europe or the world for that matter. The Amalfi Coast is a cliff area of the Riviera that leaves you breathless from it's cliffs and beauty. There is no place else on Earth like it and this is the time to start looking into it if you would like to see it in the summer. The area is a National Park. The villages are not large, so finding a place to stay even in Monterroso takes some planning ahead. So, start looking into it. Get a better camera, because there are no cameras good enough to do this place justice anyway. Check Air BnB, check Home Away, check Booking.com. Find the best place. Plan a train or rent a car to get there. Go out and get a little in shape so that you can do some walking, because it's the best way to see this amazing World Heritage Site. Take a step back in time and take time to smell the roses. Cinque Terre awaits with memories that will last a lifetime. Don't miss this. Enjoy!