Tuesday, September 11, 2012

While taking in the breathtaking beauty that is Cinque Terre, I admitted that just three years ago I had no idea that such a place even existed, and yet there we were, eating a panini and drinking a glass of wine in the midst of it.

Cinque Terre, literally Five Lands, is five beautiful cities in a National Park on a mountainous coast near the Italian Riviera.  The mountainous terrain has not stopped the cities from building and flourishing, however.  The National Park has walking trails of various difficulties connecting the cities, and agriculture grows along areas that have been terraced up the mountainside.  

For us, just getting there was a good part of the awesome adventure.  We stayed in the port city of La Spezia where we bought tickets for a boat that would take us into the 5 cities.  

High seas limited our options, and the tour boat was only stopping at one of the 5 cities, but did take us past all 5 in the process.  Additionally, we made a 2 hour stop at Porto Venere first.  After a cappuccino and some croissants, we explored this small city on a peninsula.  

An old city wall.

A beautiful church on the sea.

A grotto with waves crashing in.

We then returned to the boat and headed towards Cinque Terre.

The water was a beautiful color of blue, and even though the waves were a little high, and the seas were a bit choppy, no one ended up seasick (although a couple of us were concentrating hard near the end). 

We sailed by Riomaggiore

and Manarola, Corneglia and Vernazza

Along the way we tried to explain and point out to the kids the terracing along the mountainside.  Cory was listening carefully when he interrupted, "Wait, there are terrorists up there?!"  Uh, oh.  I guess we had some more explaining to do...

Eventually we arrived at Monterosso.  It was just all so pretty.

Well, it was all so pretty except for this--this was just odd.  

And does this mean we don't need to go to Pisa tomorrow, since we've already seen it now?  Yeah, I'm guessing we should still go.

After a quick lunch, we found a place to hang out on the beach, and we were soon soaking in the sun, searching for rocks and sea glass, and swimming in the sea.

After a couple hours of that, we trained to the next city on the way, Vernazza.  Vernazza was badly damaged by mudslides last fall.  All of the area is susceptible to problems during heavy rains, and even now some of the walking paths between cities are not open.  Regardless, Vernazza was a beautiful little city, and they are working hard to rebuild and repair.  I found some souvenirs here, and the kids found some more sea glass.  We also explored some of the narrow walkways.

Again we trained, this time past Corneglia and on to Manarola.  How beautiful is this train stop with the water right there?  

We explored the area a bit and took a few more pictures of the beautiful city built up from the sea.  It was here that we had dinner, and just in time, too, because even though rain had been predicted for the day, it wasn't until we were enjoying dinner safe under a covered patio that rain actually came. 

After dinner we located Via dell 'Amore, a walking path that would take us to the final city, Riomaggiore.  

This was an easy, wheelchair friendly path, and we even managed to geocache on this path.  The kids made a half-hearted attempt at counting the locks left along the path, sealing people's love for each other.  There were A LOT.

Now dark, we found some gelato and another cappuccino while we waited at the train station for our return ride to La Spezia and our apartment.  

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