Le Cinque Terre — A Slightly Different Ending part 3

by Admin 09-Nov 2010

As we approach Monterosso, I’m more than happy or at least my feet are to see the entrance to this village is not up a steep cliff like the last. The town is divided into two sections. The medieval hamlet on one side and what is called New Town on the other. A pedestrian tunnel connects the two as well as Monterosso’s Fegina beach which is the largest stretch of sandy beach in the Cinque Terre and one of the biggest tourist draws in the summer/fall months. Walking along the promenade circling the harbor we head into the older part of town for lunch. Piazza Garibaldi, the main square of the village is lined with shops, cafes and restaurants, all jam packed with tourists. An array of festive pastel colored houses with little, rod iron balconies and matching shutter and window boxes seem to tower wistfully above the raucous square. 

Wandering up a narrow lane leading out from the square we find a smaller piazza several blocks away and a restaurant called Il Pozzo. With its charming patio filled with flowers and wooden tables covered with different colored checkered table cloths, Il Pozzo turns out to be an ideal spot to sip a glass of sciachetrà, a sweet white wine this region is known for and to people watch. The food is good, although I notice the specialty is pretty much the same specialty of every Cinque Terre restaurant we pass. I try it anyway and have no complaints. It’s called Spaghetti Al Vulo (Spaghetti with Clams). The wait staff is friendly and of course speaks English.

After lunch we skirt by the crowds wedged into each shop and head for the beach and another gelato. Large and sandy, Fegina beach is dotted with umbrellas and lounge chairs for rent by the hour. The water is almost as warm as the sun. A small warning, be careful you don’t doze off and miss the boat, the train station is quite a hike.

Vernazza — Photo courtesy of our friends Paulo & Giovanni at Maranatha.it

According to the ferry guide, Vernazza, our last stop, is the most characteristic and charming Cinque Terre village. The lively harbor where we dock is the size of a postage stamp, the piazza is lined with restaurants and shops. The now familiar crayon colored houses rise above the square. Crowds of tourists swarm the streets, ebbing in and out of the same trinket stores as in the earlier towns. The village is very pretty, the explosion of color between the houses and the flowers can’t help but to make you smile and take lots of pictures. But from what I see these villages are fairly interchangeable and at least at this time of year they are overrun with mostly American tourists. After a last sip of sciachetrà we brave the crowds, pick up our share of take home trinkets, board the ferry and head off into a magnificent sunset on the way back to Rapallo.

The Ligurian Sea — Photo courtesy of our friends Paulo & Giovanni at Maranatha.it

When I first mentioned my intention to spend a day in the Cinque Terre I was immediately barraged by friends, fellow travelers and well wishers with advice on how one day in the Cinque Terre would never be enough. We should plan at least two full days, three even better. As picturesque as the Cinque Terre villages indeed are, they are far too commercial for my liking. Mobbed with tourists, the largest contingent being from the United States, I can vividly recall hearing far more English than Italian as we shuffled in herds oohing, sometimes in unison, at whatever pretty sight drew the eye of a lucky individual at the outer edges of the throng. 

I’m glad I saw the Cinque Terre and happier that we spent the majority of our time exploring the rest of the Ligurian coast. In retrospect, with so many tourists concentrated in the Cinque Terre, the rest of Liguria seemed far less crowded. Spending just one day in the Cinque Terre turned out to be the right amount of time for me.

Bobbie Lerman, Parker Villas Senior Travel Advisor

Le Cinque Terre — The Perfect Approach part 2

by Admin 02-Nov 2010

The double edged jewel of Sestri Levante — Photo courtesy of our friends Paulo & Giovanni at Maranatha.it

By Bobbie Lerman, Parker Villas Senior Travel Advisor

Twenty minutes later we pull into the picture perfect harbor of Sestri Levante to pick up half a dozen more passengers. Surrounded by a gorgeous landscape of sea and mountains, the original part of this ancient fishing village is actually on a peninsula, with the beautiful Baia del Silenzio (Bay of Silence) favored by Percy Bysshe Shelley on one side and the Baia delle Favole (Bay of Fairy Tales) aptly named by Hans Christian Anderson on the other. We are definitely coming back here.

As we chug along the coast the ferry guide announces our arrival at the first of the three Terre villages approachable by sea in 40 minutes. Riomaggiore, the furthest away being the first stop. My first glimpse of Riomaggiore is of a small horseshoe shaped harbor with a tiny dock. Several other ferries loaded with tourists were lining up ahead of us like airplanes taxiing for take off. Looking up I spot yellow and rust colored houses rising from the black jagged coastline. The buildings sit atop each other with nary a hairs breadth of space between them. At the pinnacle are the ruins of what appears to be an old castle. My first thought is how pretty. As I glimpse the more than 100 steps I need to climb to the village...

...my next thoughts are I’m glad I quit smoking and I should have worked out more before attempting this.

At the top of the winding stone stairway we pass beneath Riomaggiore’s archway into a small half-moon shaped piazza with streets snaking out and upwards into the village. The houses and storefronts are as vivid and colorful as they appeared from below. Adding to the riot of color, window boxes and pots filled with flowers are set on ledges and postage sized patios fill every open space available.  However, wall to wall tourists fill the narrow cobblestone lanes in front of me. The going slows to a crawl. I wonder: “How we will be able to move through this crowd?”

Lined with shops displaying an dizzying array of touristy glitz we thread our way through the maze of streets following a sign nailed to the corner of the nectarine colored house. The arrow points up to the Church of Saint Giovanni Battista. Since it’s too early for lunch and the throng of people and the din thinning the higher up we walk we decide the hike up a connecting labyrinth of alleyways and staircases might be worth it. It is. The old Gothic church is lovely. A short distance away we spy the ruins of the castle. Here we enjoy the heart stopping panorama over the Gulf of Genoa before making our way back down to the gelato shop on our way back to the ferry.

Within moments of re-boarding we are off to the village of Monterosso, 20 minutes away for a three hour stopover. That’s enough time to do some exploring, have some lunch (my stomach’s growling) and maybe get in some sun and beach time. I’ve been told the beach is what this village was known for.

Coming up: Le Cinque Terre — A Slightly Different Ending part 3 (conclusion)

A Cinque Terre Journey — Part 1

by Admin 02-Nov 2010

By Bobbie Lerman, Parker Villas Senior Travel Advisor

This past August I spent a week on the Italian Riviera, a region of Italy I had not visited. Apart from the abundance of gorgeous seas, charming villages, pastel colored houses and outstanding seafood, one of the main reasons I chose the region of Liguria was to visit the Cinque Terre. I had heard about this heralded attraction on the eastern corner of the Ligurian coastline from fellow travelers and clients for years. The five villages always garner rave reviews as one of the most quaint, picturesque and romantic spots in Italy. Authentic, charming, a wonderful place to kick back and relax while watching the world go by was the consensus I most often heard. All of the characteristics I look for when choosing a travel destination, a perfect choice to spend at least one full day, maybe two or three I thought ...

Our home base in the small town of Bogliasco turned out to be all of the above and more. Perched on the Ligurian coast 12 kilometers east of Genoa, this enchanting village with a pretty cobblestone promenade winding its way past rainbow colored houses and pebbly beach coves is a spot I highly recommend. That is, if you seek the more authentic and decidedly non-hectic rhythm of Italian village life. I thought if the Terre villages turn out to be anything like Bogliasco, I might seriously need to relocate.

For our day planned in the Cinque Terre, the first matter we needed to figure out was how to get there. At this time of year there are four options open to us: we can go by car, train, a combination of train and hiking or by boat. I’m not much of a hiker and with a canopy of cloudless blue skies, an equally clear and calm turquoise sea and temperatures in the mid-eighties by day, my husband and I decide a boat ride would be the most enjoyable.

There are a variety of seasonal boats and tours operating from various villages along the Riviera through mid-September. We chose the Tigullio-Super Cinque Terre tour which leaves Rapallo every weekday morning. The dock is located along Via Lungomare Vittoria. You’ll find their little white booth in the center of Rapallo’s seaside promenade. If you get lost, look for the tourist office across the street. The boat leaves precisely at 9 AM. Plan to be gone all day, not returning to Rapallo until close to 5 PM. The price of a ticket is €30.50 per person.

We quickly snag a topside spot where we are able to enjoy the fresh sea air and the spectacular views as the ferry heads into the Ligurian Sea. Clean, spacious, with comfortable seating and a well stocked bar serving good espresso, tea (Earl Grey), homemade snacks, and much to my husband’s joy, a variety of gelato. Anticipating our first look at the Cinque Terre we settled back to enjoy a relaxing cruise down the coast.

Our first stop is the small fishing village of Lavagna. Pulling up to the dock to pick up a few more people, we are immediately drawn by the picturesque harbor. Ringed by mountains the town rises from a thick ledge of ebony black stones. Colorful homes in bright canary yellow, tangerine and sparkling white reach up to the sky. From the ferry guide we learn this marble-like stone is the town’s main export used nowadays for making high end billiard tables. From a friendly Italian couple sitting in front, we learn that Lavagna has remained an undiscovered haven well worth a trip on its own merit.

Leaving Lavagna, the ferry hugs the rocky coast and within minutes we pass an array of blue and white striped umbrellas set on what I discover is the longest uninterrupted sandy beach in the region. 

Stay tuned for: Le Cinque Terre — the Perfect Approach Part 2

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Welcome to our Access Italy blog, a mosaic of eclectic, but practical, information; fascinating cultural insights; and unique commentary on a wonderful way of life only the Italians could have designed.  more....

 

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