Sunday, October 18, 2015

The Towns of Cinque Terre

Linda getting off the boat

Mural of the regular people of Riomaggiore
Showing the real structure of the building

Riomaggiore is the most non-touristy town of the five. At the far end from the beach resort of Monterosso and the attractive Vernazza, it probably gets fewer tourists, but still has some major attractions. First is the great pair of murals painted by Argentinian artist Silvio Benedetto depict the working people of the town. One of these adorns this town’s square built over the railroad line. The other greets train travelers at the station. We were disappointed that the trail between Riomaggiore and Manarola, washed out several years ago is still not fixed. It would have been fun to take this easy shore side walk between the two towns.

Swimming is popular

Manarola from the boat

Manarola is a pretty little town that, like most Cinque Terre towns straddles the stream flowing out of the mountains. We arrived by train and had to walk about 200 meters through a photo-lined tunnel to get to town. Once there, we saw that the town was divided by the train tracks with the more touristy section between the tracks and the beach. A relatively new plaza covers the train tracks. A lovely mosaic of local birds and fishes adorns the center of this new plaza. The restaurant was closed when we were there, but the location is great. We wandered down to the small harbor where we saw people swimming and noted the crane set up to raise and lower small boats into the harbor. On our walk up to the church overlooking the town, we passed a variety of old bridges crossing the river. At the top of the walk we also had some excellent views of the terracing used to make growing grapes and olives possible on the steep hillsides.

About one skinny body width wide


Corneglia from the trail
Corneglia is the smallest town of the five. Built on the hilltop, it is the one town with no real access to the sea. We visited here briefly after our walk from Vernazza. Stopping a the first bar we saw, we were treated to wine made by our server’s father. It was quite good as have most of the wines we have tasted here. That comes as no surprise, I’m sure. After a brief rest and a little food, we walked the 150 yards through town to the plaza overlooking the sea. We passed several restaurants and the church, but only stopped when we reached the end. As the waitress at the bar told us, visiting the town took all of 30 minutes, leaving us plenty of time to catch the shuttle down to the train.

Corneglia up close

Monterosso is the largest and most touristy of the five towns. With its long beach it is popular with sun worshippers and families. The town really has two faces. The new town by the railroad station has the longest beach area and is well-populated with tourists and tourist shops. The old town is from the new town by a short tunnel through the cliff. It is also mostly flat with a good beach and a children’s play area in the town square. Two old churches also adorn the square along with some restaurants and shops. Since the trail from Vernazza ends at the old town, the restaurants on this end keep busy. We had trouble finding a table for four as we three hikers waited from Linda’s arrival by train.

After lunch, we visited the two 13th century churches that face each other off the square. Both are faced in black and white; the smaller one arranged funerals and cared for widows and orphans. The skull sculptures were a bit disconcerting to see in a church. We then walked up and over the hill instead of through the tunnel so we could visit the old monastery and mausoleum. We also walked by the protective castle as we wandered toward the train. Our last interesting sight was the “Giant” built in the early 1900s. At one point it used to support a dance floor. The train ride back to Vernazza took another four minutes.

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