After a day of hiking from Monterosso al Mare to Vernazza to Corniglia, we all woke up with sore muscles and a sense of accomplishment. The plan for the day was to explore the two southernmost towns of the Cinque Terre, Riomaggiore and Manarola. However, as the seaside walking path has been destroyed in a few places by rockslides in recent years, it is now permanently closed, leaving only the high trail, which is even higher and steeper than the one we did the day before. It seemed like a day for taking it easy if there ever was one, so we hopped on the train to Riomaggiore instead.
Like Monterosso, to get to the main part of town in Riomaggiore you have to follow a tunnel through the cliffs to get to the main part of town. We wandered up the main street, Via Colombo, and ended up taking a upward-incline side street in the hopes that we could get a good view over the village.
TIP: If you’re not an experienced hiker, choose the Monterosso-Vernazza-Corniglia route over the Riomaggiore-Manarola-Corniglia route. Instead, in Riomaggiore and Manarola, explore the side streets to find as high of a point as possible for the best view.
We were rewarded not only with a beautiful view of the colorful houses, but also made a few feline friends along the way- if you’re a cat lover, Riomaggiore is a great place for you! Not all are willing to be petted, but we found one who pushed its head against all of our hands, loving the attention. As we continued up the street, it went back to sit in the place where we’d found it, patiently waited for the next cat lady to come along and give it a scratch.
We also found lemons! Lemon trees are so plentiful in this part of Italy, and it was my friend Julie’s mission throughout the trip to pick one off of a tree. Of course, she’s undoubtedly not the only one with this idea, so all the lemon trees had barriers around them to prevent the fruit from being picked.
Descending back into town, the need for food became apparent before we headed to the marina. Solution: Mamma Mia! Take Away fried calamari cones. Living in Paris doesn’t necessarily mean lack of access to good seafood, but it’s always somehow better when you’re by the sea.
While the initial intent was to take our cones down to the marina with us, we were all so hungry that we devoured them on the street outside the shop, after which we made our way down to the marina, where I proceeded to be an embarrassingly giant weenie about climbing on the rocks you see on the lower right. I should have trusted my feet to be sure, but with my camera in my bag and the prospect of slipping and twisting my ankle or breaking my lens looming in my head, I couldn’t confidently hop from rock to rock, despite being in sneakers while my friends were in ankle boots.
TIP: If you’re not one for climbing on rocks, there is a staircase leading up to a little viewing terrace (seen far right below, over the rocks), with another staircase that will lead you to the vantage point from which I took this photo.
After going back into town to fulfill another step on my quest to find the best gelato in the five villages, we went back to the train station to make our way to Manarola.
Manarola was probably my second favorite of the towns after Corniglia, where we stayed. While Vernazza is renowned for being the most beautiful, Manarola has a fishing village type charm that the others didn’t seem to have. To reach the marina from the train station, there’s another tunnel to take to the town, and upon going left and up over a little open plaza, you’re treated to a view down the street towards the water, lined with little fishing boats and shops to buy delicious foccacia.
We bought another bottle of rosé here to drink while lounging by the water, an area which though full of people was surprisingly calm, even with a large group of high school students crowded together speaking a Slavic language we didn’t understand. I ran up the path next to the marina to take a few pictures, though the best ones ended up being taken later after the blue sky began peeking out from behind the clouds.
In looking up places to eat in Manarola, I happened upon multiple reviews of Nessun Dorma, a cliffside bar overlooking the town. At first my friends dismissed it, assuming it would probably be too expensive, but upon making our way up here the prospect of sitting at a table with a view and some bruschetta became too tempting to resist.
TIP: To find the best view over Manarola with the least number of people in your way, continue up the path along the side of the moutain facing the marina and walk up past Nessun Dorma- there’s a little open area with public toilets and a great vantage point with fewer people than there are on the walking path.
We were pleasantly surprised to discover how reasonably priced everything was- Julie and I split a bruschetta plate for 6,50€ and we each got a cocktail (Briana’s was a smoothie) for 5€ apiece. Not a bad deal with a view like this! The waiter even brought us a complimentary platter of chips, olives and some pesto bruschetta. We stuck the mini umbrellas Briana had brought into our drinks and toasted to another beautiful day.
Everything was so dreamy but the days seemed to be flying by- could we really only have one more left in the Cinque Terre and our beautiful apartment? Sharing the adventures of our last day and why Corniglia is severely underrated very soon!
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