(On Map: Train from 19 (Pisa) to 26 (Levanto); trains back to the five villages, 21-25)
If you’ve never been, the Cinque Terre is “Five Villages” along the northern coast of Italy that are uniquely built into the sides of the hills. Car travel in the area is limited; travel between them is largely by boat, train, or hiking (which takes several hours except between the two villages that are close together). A popular tourist activity is hiking between villages, through vineyards and people’s backyards, up and down many steep steps and paths, as you take in the breathtaking beauty of the Ligurian Sea and coastline below. The whole area is a protected national park.
I first visited the Cinque Terre in 2007. It was amazing, absolutely a photographer’s dream! I’d always wanted to return. With Milan as a departure point back home (via Amsterdam), I decided to stick the Cinque Terre in at the end of my itinerary. The beach town of Levanto, just north of the villages, turned out to be a pragmatic choice for catching an early train to Milan the final morning but easy to close to the Cinque Terre villages.
I arrived in Levanto, early from Pisa the first morning, checked into my little B&B (the Affittacamere Marco B&B), and headed for the villages. (The B&B was not even listed in Trip Advisor but turned out to be in a nearly perfect location in the center of Levanto and was clean and comfortable – and a bargain.)
From south to north, the villages are: Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, and Monterosso al Mare:
I did the major hikes between villages back in 2007, and because my feet were pretty beat by now, I figured I’d try to take it easy and just take some new pictures in the towns and enjoy myself. That turned out to be wishful thinking! Get to the good photo vantage points still required lots of walking.
And sometimes I had to hustle because of infrequent train schedules and the need to get somewhere before the sunset. Oh, well – I’d have all winter in rainy Oregon for my feet to heal, right?
The first day I got to all of the villages at least once. The second day I returned to Riomaggiore, Manarola, and Vernazza, which seemed to have the most vantage points. In between I indulged in fantastic focaccia bread pizza, another highlight of visiting the villages!
One of the many highlights of the area is a few unique murals in Riomaggiore, painted by Argentine artist Silvio Benedetto, depicting the people who originally built the town:
Between Riomaggore and Manarola is a beautiful walk, famously known as the via dell’Amore (“Lovers’ Lane”). The walk is full of tokens of love left behind by couples and even a tribute to the Beatles.
The sun setting into the Ligurian Sea in the Cinque Terre is truly magical:
Sadly, the Cinque Terre – largely Vernazza and Monterosso – suffered catastrophic flooding just a month after my visit. The towns were devastated. I’m hoping they return to health and prosperity soon!!