If James Cameron ever decides to make a movie about heaven, he need look no further than Cinque Terre as his prime location. Everything about the place leaves you wanting to pinch yourself to make sure you’re not dreaming. Of all the places on the trip so far, Cinque Terre had the most expectations from me, and it certainly lived up to them. From the initial glimpse, I was hooked, and what a glimpse it is. To get to the Cinque Terre you have to take a train from La Spezia which looks like the set of a movie based in Tijuana. The train ride is in complete darkness as you travel through the tunnels for about fifteen minutes. About ten minutes into the ride you see a flash of light, and you instantly see the sea to your left. This view lasts seconds before you whisk back into the dark abyss. From there its another five minutes till you arrive in the first town and once again you’re surrounded by crystal blue water and pastel colored houses. This process repeats itself with each succesive stop in each of the five villages. It’s truly a sight to see, and one that no amount of words or pictures can replace.
We arrived in Corniglia, the third of the Cinque Terre villages, in the early afternoon where we were supposed to meet the woman whose room we would be staying in. Her name was Anna and from her facebook page she looked like any Italian Grandmother on a box of pasta. There was only one problem, when we got to the address Anna wasn’t there. I found this out the hard way by accidently walking in on another guest. With that embarassment out of the way we decided to grab lunch and wait for Anna to show up. We went back to the house and noticed this time that the door was locked, on our last attempt to open it, the door cracked open and there stood Anna (I knew it was her because she wisely chose to wear a necklace that said Anna.) From there she walked us up to our room and in a mixture of Italian and English told us about the room and took our passports. After settling in we were on our way to start the first hike of the Cinque Terre, going from Corniglia to Vernazza, the town just down the coast. For those of you that haven’t had the pleasure of listening to me ramble about the Cinque Terre, you should know that the main attraction of the area is that you can hike from one town to the next in a little over a few hours. The hike was one breathtaking view after another, as we were constantly surrounded by either the Sea views or the sight of Vernazza in front of us. We made it to Vernazza in about an hour and a half after taking countless amounts of pictures on the way, marveling at the Ligurian Sea in front of us. We quickly grabbed gelato and wandered through the town before heading back to Corniglia before it got dark. We ended the night by watching the sunset from a terrace that was directly behind our rented house.
The next day we got up early to start the hike towards Manarola, the 2nd town of the Cinque Terre. The main trail was closed for construction, so we took the trail that wound its way through the vineyards that were perched right on the cliff. This hike was without a doubt one of the most exhilirating things I’ve ever done in my life. Half of the two hour hike was spent on walkways that were big enough for only one person, directly over the sea. It didn’t hurt that I snagged a few grapes off the vine, which made the hike that much easier. When we got to Manarola we went for a swim, and explored the rest of the town. Manarola was one of the bigger towns in the area so we decided to stay and have lunch there. We needed every bit of the carbs our pasta provided as we took the trail back to Corniglia, stopping to enjoy amazing sea views. Working up an appetite from the hike we finished our time in the Cinque Terre having dinner at our favorite little bar, Caffe Matteo. The bar felt like a little slice of America because the only music we heard while there was today’s hits. This was where I learned that Italians love Flo Rida.
The next morning when we went to check out, we ran into the dreaded language barrier, when we couldn’t convey that we needed to leave. We went back and forth with the woman who was watching the rental, trying any way we could to let her know what we needed. It didn’t help that she was about 85 years old and had a striking resemblance to Joe Biden’s mom. After speaking as slowly as possible and looking as lost as ever, we somehow got the message across. Passports in hand, we were on our way to Florence, but not before getting one last glimpse of the Cinque Terre. Its impossible to explain just how surreal a place the Cinque Terre was, and I’m glad that it lived up to all of my lofty expecations. I’m also thankful that I was able to leave the towns in one piece, without once falling off a cliff. Though if I had to choose a final resting place, the Cinque Terre would be high on my list.
Click here for pictures from Cinque Terre