Day 28 – Cinque Terra
Cinque Terra is a Unesco listed National Park made up of a collection of 5 villages spanning 18kms built into the hillside above the sea. The 5 villages are Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore. Many people hike or cycle the path but, having done a bit of research on the area, we understood that to hike between the villages might be a little scary for Juno (well us, keeping Juno away from the edge as she has started to enjoy a bit of rock climbing recently).
Armed with this information, we decided to take the boat from Levanto, which stops at all of the villages except Corniglia (as it doesn’t have a harbour) and carries onto Portovenere. Juno was allowed on the boat, although worth noting that in Italy dogs are meant to have a muzzle with them, which we didn’t realise so didn’t take one – luckily no-one has asked us to muzzle Juno, she is just too cute for that surely!
The boat leaves Levanto at 10am, so we got an early start and arrived at 9.30am to be greeted by a very long queue. It was ok though everyone got on the boat – just. Greg and I are a funny pair to love travelling as Greg is scared of flying and I am scared of boats! Due to my fear we position ourselves so that I can see land (convinced that, given the proof of my life saving prowess earlier in the tour, I’ll be able to swim for it if the boat sinks – a real possibility in my mind, particularly after some boat trips that I took in Thailand a few years ago).
Once on the boat it was obvious that people had different tactics for getting a photo of the villages, the most common was to trample over each other and hang off the side. It was comical to watch and I very much doubt if there were any good photographs even with the trampling – more likely lots of snaps of the back of someone else’s head. Greg and I had decided that we were going to stay on the boat for the first two stops and make our first stop Manarola, the boat was significantly less crowded after Monterosso and Vernazza.
Manarola was certainly very pretty, with the pastel coloured buildings curving uphill from the sea. There were a lot of tourists and the streets were packed. We had read an article in the Telegraph that said Cinque Terra had been ruined by tourists and I think they may be right, although this is the height of the season. We wondered around trying to avoid the crowds as Juno kept getting stepped on and found a nice little café for a drink.
We headed back onto the boat and for Portovenere, which is the final stop. The boat was virtually empty so it made for a much more pleasant journey for all of us, particularly Juno. Portovenere is really pretty with a grey castle looming over the pastel colour painted houses at the shore front. The village is bigger than the others so this, combined with it not being part of the Cinque Terra meant that it didn’t seem as crowded. Juno was allowed onto the beach too so her and I stopped for a paddle / swim.
We had lunch at Trattoria Iseo, the food was nice but expensive and the service wasn’t great. Later when walking through the side and back streets, we wished we had waited and ate away from the sea front. The castle was a picturesque, with a grotto to the right which had been inspired by Lord Byron. There were lots of people were jumping and diving from the rocks all over and it’s honest to add that I’ve seen more than my fair share of budgie smugglers today.
We spent a couple hours wandering around and then got back on the boat to go to Vernazza. We heard that it was the prettiest of all of the villages. I think it’s hard to choose as they are all beautiful. Again it was very busy with tourists and people jumping from rocks, so we wandered around marvelling at the ability of a tiny village to absorb so many people.
Back at Levanto, we stopped for another lovely ice cream (diet’s going well!) before heading up the hill to Camping San Michele. We arrived back really late so we just armed ourselves with wine and wifi to decide on our next stop.