Italy/London – Part 3 – Cinque Terre | February 2012

After a week of work in Lerici, we arrived at the weekend ready for a break. Since we were so close, visiting Cinque Terre was the obvious option. We drove to the train station in La Spezia and bought tickets to Cinque Terre. Due to devastating rain and landslides in October, the villages were hurting (especially Vernazza), but they were still open to visitors. A quick 7-min train ride later, we alighted at Riomaggiore, the southern-most village of Cinque Terre. Rain had been forecast for the day, but it turned out quite sunny in the end.

Given that it was February, the village was quite deserted, which suited us fine. We headed south-east through the tunnel from the train station and walked down to the docks. The jumble of colorful houses tumbling down from the hillsides to the water was something to see.

Arrival into Riomaggiore
Riomaggiore
At the Riomaggiore dock
Boat painting
Our next destination, Via dell’Amore to Manarola, from the dock

From Riomaggiore we wanted to take the Via dell’Amore to the next town of Manarola. So we walked back past the train station and onto the path. Coming upon the path hugging the coastline above the blue sea and under the azure sky was a sight to behold. As we walked along the path, we could see the other villages of Cinque Terre, clinging to the rocks.

The Ligurian Sea from Via dell’Amore
On Via dell’Amore
Manarola from the path
Where Aman said he wants to bring Josie after they get married!
470 miles away lies Africa
Getting closer to Manarola
Stopping for a snack break; my colleague/boss Ed on the left
Manarola with Corniglia in the background

During our snack break, we came upon a Cree Indian proverb on the path:

When the last tree has been felled, the last river poisoned, the last fish caught, only then will you realize that money cannot be eaten.

It made me think that we Americans still haven’t figured out what most Europeans have: how to live harmoniously with nature. In America, for the most part, nature and human civilization are either/or propositions. When we advance the boundaries of human settlements, we tend to completely eradicate nature. And when we protect nature, we tend to completely fence it off and keep almost all human interaction to a minimum (e.g. national parks or wilderness areas). Europeans seem to have a better handle on how to integrate the two. The whole Cinque Terre area is a national park. And that includes the five villages, with roads, rail lines, shops, restaurants, hotels, and year-round residents. And yet the natural beauty has not been destroyed; in fact, it is probably enhanced because of the human interaction, as many people are able to enjoy the beauty and understand the value of natural preservation. Even where we live now, in the mountains of Colorado, there is a stark distinction. The valley floor is almost completely urbanized, with strip malls, car dealerships, and malls. But it all stops dead at the boundary where the wilderness area starts, where human interaction is restricted (and probably rightly so — without restrictions, we’d probably eradicate it all). I’m not saying this is always the case. There are places in America where human and natural worlds integrate very well, and there are places in Europe where that is not the case. But in general, it seems like we go to one extreme or the other here in America, and I wish we could integrate the two better.

Very soon after the snack break we came upon the Manarola train station with it’s grand views of the Mediterranean.

Manarola train station

A short walk from there brought us to the heart of the village, which was even more dramatic and more deserted than Riomaggiore. Continuing on Via dell’Amore provided gorgeous views of the village. I only wish we could have come back for an evening shot).

Manarola
The typical Cinque Terre view
On Via dell’Amore in front of Manarola

We found a nice little children’s park above Via dell’Amore with 270° views of the area, where Aman spent some time. We continued our walk down past another put-in until we hit the end of the path. We could see the massive landslides that had washed away the path completely.

Getting splashed
Storm clouds over the ridge, but clear skies above
Landslides that cut off Via dell’Amore between Manarola and Corniglia
Our next destination, Corniglia

With Via dell’Amore closed, we turned around. After lunch in Manarola, we went to the station to catch the train to the next village of Corniglia. While waiting, we were treated to quite a spectacle — an immense waterspout off the coast twisting its way from the clouds to the sea. It swirled around about 10-15 minutes, coming close enough for us to see the water column rotating in the air.

Ligurian waterspout

A very short train ride later, we arrived in Corniglia. If the Manarola train station had great views, the view from the Corniglia station was even greater. And it just kept getting better — the village itself sits above the cliffs, and so requires a stiff climb from the near sea-level train station.

View of Manarola from Corniglia
One train station I wouldn’t mind waiting awhile
The view only got better as we climbed up to the village
The scent of lemons was refreshing during the climb
The streets of Corniglia

It was getting somewhat late by this time and Aman was getting tired and hungry. So we decided to call it a day and head back. The train ride back to La Spezia was short and we were soon back in Lerici. We turned in early that evening in order to be fresh for our next day’s trip to Portovenere.

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