Cinque Terre (five lands) was my final stop in Italy before moving on to Lugano in Switzerland. Cinque Terre is both a national park and a UNESCO world heritage site along the rugged Ligurian coast that is probably the most known for the terraces covering the steep hills that drop into the water, five lands referring to the five villages of Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore that are spread along the cost of the park. There does appear to be another village inland but still within the park but it doesn’t seem to be considered one of “the” Cinque Terre towns.
Coming into nearby La Spezia my train from Rome was late and so I missed my connecting train to Corniglia where I was going to stay in a hostel. I wasn’t able to get on a later train for over an hour, it was now after 11pm, and when I did I ended up missing the stop for Corniglia. Not knowing where I could stay now I just decided to stay on until Monterosso al Mare, the northern most CInque Terre village, because I knew it was the largest and most touristy so I hoped to see some place to stay. I arrived there close to midnight and everything was shut down for the night, giving up on trying to find a bed, I attempted to sleep on a bench in a shelter on the town’s train platform. It being a small town station, no trains stop there through the night, and the place was empty of people. It does have trains in transit going through it though, so every ten or fifteen minutes a train would come roaring through, blowing the door on the shelter open, which would then slam shut again. It would suffice to say, I didn’t sleep at all. Early in the morning, I left on the first train I could take to go to Corniglia and went to the hostel to secure a room for the night. I enjoyed being up and around in the early morning despite the rough night because the place was quite beautiful and tranquil before the all the day trippers came into the towns.
So on no sleep, I partook in one of the Cinque Terre’s most popular activities: walking the trails that connect the five villages. The walk started out with an short stint along a gentle paved trail connecting Riomaggore to Manarola. But the fun really started on the walk from Manarola to Corniglia. The main path that is lower down and closer to the sea was closed so I had to take a longer route that went up and around, through the famous terraces where the locals grow grapes and olives predominantly to produce the wines and oils the area is known for, as well as other fruits and vegetables for personal consumption. This portion of the hike was great, the views were amazing and there were few people out due to the early hour and the fact that I was on a secondary trail because the main one was closed. I stopped for lunch in Corniglia where I ate a freshly made pizza marinara in the town square. Despite being on a bench in a busy town square I was so tired I kept falling asleep and knocking my head against the concrete wall behind me every time I would nod off. Despite this, I continued on to Vernazza, but this leg of the hike was not as enjoyable because I returned to the main trail which by that hour was packed with people. I didn’t bother walking to Monterosso because I had seen it already and it didn’t have the quaint feel of the other towns. And I was really tired.
I returned to Corniglia by train, and just hung around the village for the rest of the evening. Mornings and evenings were definitely the most enjoyable times to be there as mid day there are a lot of day trippers that come in on boats, meaning the small streets of the towns and surrounding trails are packed with people. But in the evening most leave, making the village feel much more relaxed and letting one wind down and enjoy the surroundings. Overall, despite the rough first night Cinque Terre was an enjoyable stop and well worth it.
Here are some leftover pictures from Rome, most of the pictures from there were used in the last couple of posts. There are some pictures looking out over the city from a hill on the forum site, an evening picture from the top of the Spanish steps, and a picture of the Trevi fountain which I spent all of thirty seconds at because it was swarming with other tourists pushing and shoving to get closer to it. There are also two pictures of an obelisk at Piazza Navona. There are a number of these throughout the city, many of which are authentic Egyptian ones built commissioned by pharaohs such as Ramses II and later brought to Rome. A number are also imitations commissioned by Roman rulers. The pictured is an imitation one built by the Roman Domitian in the first century A.D., erected at its current location in 1651. Rome was a nice city I thought, definitely nicer than Naples. Like other cities in the south of Europe it still fills tight and crowded but it has a lot more greenery and then Naples or Athens, is cleaner, and drivers aren’t as insane, even seeming to acknowledge the existence of pedestrians. Accommodation was expensive though, and if you want to sit and eat a restaurant that is also expensive but there are plenty of places to get a freshly made pizza marina for cheap. I splurged when I was there though and had a good sit down meal meal at a restaurant called Il Margutta RistorArte. Which is not only vegetarian, they also offer many vegan options, claim to use 70% organic ingredients, and make their own pasta and bread. I ordered a pasta dish with a simple tomato sauce but the sauce made from fresh tomatoes and herbs, on the made-in-house pasta, served with a basket of various warm whole wheat breads (most bread in Italy seemed to be very light white bread which isn’t my thing) made it amazing. I also got some great vegan gelato from Il Gelatone.
I thought I would follow up the post on churches with another one about a place with a history that is on the darker side of life, the Coliseum. It is certainly an interesting piece of history, but what it was used for probably shows some of the worst in human behaviour. The slideshow starts off with a couple indoor pictures at the museum section of the Coliseum (white marble bowl and white marble pillar with jade), then a number of pictures from the Coliseum it’s self. Shown next is Arco di Costanio, which sits just outside the Coliseum and Roman Forum. The other large ruins pictured are the ruins of a temple built in honour of the goddess Venus, as well as another god I cant remember (Neptune or Apollo maybe), it is the largest temple ever constructed in Rome. After that there are a few pictures from the Forum, including the stadium, what’s either an aquaduct or just a wall, a fallen orange marble pillar, and an engraved pot that was part of an exhibit on the usage of the Forum area pre-Roman empire.
Naples, or Napoli was the first place I stayed in Italy, going into I heard conflicting reports, that it was really cool and that it was really dirty. I think both could be considered true. Naples has interesting architecture and culture, the hostel I stayed in was right in the old city with its tight cobblestone streets, cool old buildings, and authentic Italian pizzerias and bakeries. Many of the residential buildings have courtyards in the middle which you reach by passing through large archways, like the one pictured which is at the hostel I stayed in. The hostel didn’t have a particularly nice courtyards but some that I was able to see into had greenery and were much nicer. Naples is also really dirty, there are huge piles of garbage every where, I’ve heard there here some issue with the mafia and illegal dumping there which you can learn a bit about here: VBS Toxic Naples video. Also, Naples is said by some to be the home of the pizza, so I made a point of having a real Neapolitan pizza made on a wood oven. There are a lot of good pizza places in Italy and if you want a cheap vegan meal one your best bet is getting a fresh pizza marinara to go. And I saw a dead body on the street my last day there. Most of the pictures are from Pompeii, which is a short day trip from Naples. Pompeii is interesting, the site is huge (it is an entire Roman city) and one can be there four hours and not see the whole thing. It was cool to just be able to wonder these ancient streets, thinking about how beautiful it would have been there before its destruction, as the location is quite scenic.