Friday, September 30, 2016

Hiking in Cinque Terre: Riomaggiore to Portovenere

One of our favorite hikes is in the southern part of Cinque Terre, hiking up and out of Riomaggiore, the southernmost of the five towns, and heading south along the ridge to Portovenere, just outside La Spezia, the second largest city in Liguria (Genoa is first).  To start, we catch the train from Monterosso al Mare to Riomaggiore (10 minutes with a nonstop, 15-20 minutes if the train stops in all five towns) and walk through the tunnel and up the hill from the train station.  The distance between Riomaggiore and Portovenere over Path Number 1 is roughly 13.5 km (8.4 miles), with an elevation change a little over 500 meters (1640 feet) up and down.  The time estimates for the hike range from 5 hours to 6.25 hours, but we generally do it in about 4.

 Sun rising at the Monterosso train station

 Mural outside the Rimoaggiore station

 Tilework in the tunnel from the Riomaggiore train station to town

Walking up through Riomaggiore

Trying not to wake the sleeping cat

 We quickly reach the trail up from Riomaggiore

The trail basically heads up the hill, with Riomaggiore further and further in the distance (and further and further below us) as we ascend towards the Santuario della Nostra Signora di Montenero (Shrine of Our Lady of Montenero) overlooking Riomaggiore.  The Santuario has been a place of worship since the 8th century, with the current structure originally built in the 14th century, then seriously restored (and revised) in the 18th and 19th centuries.  We are now 341 meters (1120 feet) above our start in Riomaggiore.

Ascending above Riomaggiore

 Santuario della Madonna di Montenero

View of Riomaggiore from the Santuario

View in the other direction, toward Portovenere

We depart the Santuario on the other side from Riomaggiore and hike along the ridge, through fields, vineyards, and the occasional yard.  This part of hike is fairly level and we make good time along the way.

 Hiking along the ridge

At one point, we pass a small private event space, a long walk up, but a great place for a group to spend the night and continue on in the morning.  Last year, we had to wait for a long trail of backpackers who were leaving this space in the morning and heading down.

 For your private event, concert, lunch, campout, ....

However, as we approach the halfway point, there is some serious up to do.  At the top of the final climb, we enter a park and there is a small restaurant, for those needing of refreshment.  But, we're on a mission:  we take another swig of water and continue on.

 Up to the halfway point.

To be continued.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

First Day Dining in Cinque Terre

The big question is, "Where shall we first eat?  What is the best experience to get started?"  There are so many great options and several thoughts run though our minds, principally of seafood and of viewing the great sights to be seen.

We start with lunch in Vernazza at Bar de la Torre, on the path to Corniglia and up several steep flights of steps from the town (starting our up journey behind the railroad station).

Bar de la Torre, on the path to Corniglia

 View of Vernazza from the restaurant
Monterosso in the distance

Bar de la Torre is a ways up and out of town, but the view and the food are both worth the trek.  There is no octopus today, so we share three antipasti:  bruschetta with tomato and anchovies, tomato mozzarella, and anchovies in lemon and olive oil.  Fantastico!  Especially with a small pitcher of local white wine and some sparkling water.

 Lunch is served!

 When we get back to Monterosso, it's time to start thinking about dinner and we talk with Anna at Hotel Villa Steno and decide to try a place we haven't been to before:  Il Casello, on the harbor in Monterosso.  We sit on the deck outside, next to the water, order a bottle of prosecco, and watch the colors change as the sun sets behind the city.

Diners below us finishing up as the beach is prepared for the next day

Views of Monterosso from Il Casello as the sun sets

 And, the food (did I mention this was a restaurant?), once again, tremendous.  We share two appetizers and an entrĂ©e,  lemon anchovies, stuffed anchovies, and the Casillo special:  penne with tomatoes, olives, and white fish.

Somehow, both anchovy appetizers disappeared before we remembered to take a picture.  However, with some food inside us (and the opening of a bottle of Monterosso local white wine), we remember to take a few of the special.

 Penne special with white fish

Disappearing fast
Gone, bowl wiped clean!

We finish up our first full day in Cinque Terre in style, hiking, dining, and exploring, with some familiar experiences and some new experiences.  What a great start to our journey over the next two weeks.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

A Cinque Terre Hike to Vernazza and Corniglia

We've been coming back to Cinque Terre every year for the last seven years.  And, our first hike is always the same, Monterosso al Mare to Vernazza.  If we get in early enough, we head over on the afternoon of our arrival to start to settle in.  Since we arrive about 9pm this year, we'll trek to Vernazza the next morning and then continue to Corniglia, returning to Vernazza by train for lunch.

The views of the Mediterranean, as we climb up out of Monterosso, are spectacular.  First, the stairs up to the trail entrance booth, where we pay for one day's hiking.

  Leaving Monterosso al Mare at the public beach

Heading up and up

Then, along the ridge

The first part of the trail winds along the coast with great views of Monterosso getting smaller in the distance, the Mediterranean, and vineyards and olive groves along the way.  Close to the beginning, an accordion player provides music to walk by and later along the path, an entrepreneur with a battery operated juicer sells fresh orange juice, while another sells jewelry, perhaps to reward oneself for the trek up to shopping.

Monterosso in the distance, getting progressively farther away

Proceeding along the Mediterranean

Olive groves and vineyards along the trail

 Entrepreneurs setting up shop

As we pass the half-way point, Vernazza starts to appear in the distance and slowly grows larger and more distinct.

Vernazza appearing in the distance (still a ways to go)

 Vernazza getting closer

Descending into Vernazza

Then, before we know it, we're descending into the narrow streets of Vernazza, taking the stairs down into town, heading over to the train station, and then climbing back up out of town.

Wandering through the streets of Vernazza

Vernazza main street from the train station to the harbor

We'll be back for lunch, but, first, we're off to the next town, Corniglia.

 Up the steps, leaving Vernazza

 Vernazza getting smaller as we climb

Monterosso even farther away, Vernazza in the foreground

We return to the top of the ridge and continue along the Mediterranean toward Corniglia.

 Up, then along the path to Corniglia

As we go up, we pass one of the small tractors used to bring provisions up the stone steps to houses and restaurants.  And, at the half-way point, a small bar.  Very civilized!

 How to bring big/heavy items up the steps

 Potential refreshments halfway to Corniglia

Corniglia is small, perched on the top of a hill, with steps down to the train station and no ferry stop.  All the other Cinque Terre towns are served by both train and ferry, except Corniglia, which does not have a harbor..

 Entering Corniglia

 Steps down to the train station

 Reaching the station, catching the train back to Vernazza

Today's walk took us about 2.5 hours and it is time for lunch.  We head back to Vernazza, to Bar de la Torre, that we passed as we climbed up from Vernazza on our way to Corniglia.