Mon, Oct 28th, 2013 After my 14 days of teaching, I began a solo trek of two of Italy's most beautiful places. My first stop was in the Cinque Terre.
Thanks to travel guru Rick Steves, my visit to the town of Vernazza was made perfect by my reservation at Gianni Franzi's wonderful inn. With a spectacular view of the great Ligurian Sea, who's powerful waters humbles these 5 cliff towns, I knew it was the right place for me after the intensity of my 2week workshop.
Just some history, this is the northern region of Tuscany, south of the French Rivera along the Ligurian Sea. Cinque means 5, so this is the 'five lands' that were established in Medieval times. In the feudal era, this land was watched over by castles. Small communities grew up in the protective shadow of castles, which the residents ran to when Turkish pirate ships would raid, slaughter and maim in relentless attacks.
After 1545, when the last attack was reported, villages flourished as fishing towns and grape growers. Cinque Terre is also known for its basil, so pesto is a regional specialty and fragrant throughout the land.
The Cinque Terre paths of today were the main route of travel here from the 1100's until just 100 years ago when roads were built. As a result, these cliff hiking trails, perched high above the water, are stable & designed for human travel. Even though it is just a few miles from town to town, the ascent UP THE CLIFF is not for the faint of heart or those who fear heights. if you take the plunge, YOU WILL BE GLAD YOU DID! The views are simply stellar, the fresh sea air is delicious and the 'get away from it all' will sink into your soul.
I stayed in Vernazza, one town south of Monterosso al Mare. My first trek took me from Vernazza to Monterosso, CT's largest town. They say this is the most difficult of the 5 hikes. It was a steep incline that stole your breath away many times, but once you finish the ascent, the trail levels off to a magnificent walk. Steep inclines are met by stairs, which are met by narrow passageways. In between all that is stunning views.
Slowly as you hike, one town disappears as the other comes into closer view. The anticipation is exhilarating. I explored Monterosso, had lunch, an espresso, and then took the hike right back to Vernazza. Even though it was the same trail, the light had changed and I was seeing everything all over again, but from a different view. It was late in the day, about 4pm, and the trek was divine. Next stop, Corneglia, the smallest of the CT towns, perched high above the water on a cliff.