Vernazza to Monterosso al Mare – Hiking the Cinque Terre – 2

I return to this series after a long hiatus due to varied reasons. This documents our trek from Vernazza to Monterosso al Mare on our second day in the Cinque Terre. We were based in Vernazza and had trekked to Corniglia that morning and visited the other two towns, Riomaggiore and Manarola by train ( Please see previous posts for details of those towns).

After resting our legs for a few hours at our room in the Affitacamere Tonino Basso and allowing the sun to get a bit milder, we ventured out to complete the trek to 5th town of the Cinque Terre, Monterosso al Mare. Monterosso is the largest of the 5 villages and has the sandiest beach of the five. Well, the rest down have a speck of sand in sight!

As we had the advantage of having sunlight till almost 8 pm in May we started at around 5 pm and went through the dark staircase that marks the start of the trail to Monterosso.

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The dark staircase at the head of the trail to Monterosso

We climbed to the view point where we had been the day before and took some more photos of beautiful Vernazza, inspite of having taken loads of photos earlier. This time we had sunshine and clear blue skies instead of the dramatic skies of the previous evening and it made for a pretty sight. ( Even though I prefer dramatic clouds in my photos)

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Clear blue skies at the beautiful town of Vernazza

After that we continued on the trail which is not a very easy one to be frank. It has a lot of up and downs. Some steep stairs which can test your knees to the fullest and some very narrow segments where a slip can leave you badly scraped and injured. So we were so focussed on not getting hurt that we hardly took any photos of the trail itself. But it was the most fun I had in the Cinque Terre. Perfect weather, great views and a great destination to look forward to.

After we reached a relatively level part of the trail just before we descended into Monterosso we consciously took some photos of the trail. But don’t be fooled by them, these are the most comfortable parts of the trail where I could safely use my camera without having to think about how to negotiate that 3 foot tall step or get across that narrow ledge without faltering.

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The better half negotiating the flattest part of the trail to Monterosso
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Crumbly stairs to walk on and olive groves to look at on the way to Monterosso
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Monterosso just beyond the ledge gives you a second wind

We already knew from reading about the trails online that it wasn’t the easiest of treks and so we were well prepared with good footwear and water for the trail. We encountered quite a few brave (?) people who had ventured onto this trail wearing flip flops and had broken them on the trail. Not a very good situation to be in.

After about an hour of ups and downs and countless steps, we were finally in sight of the destination. That always recharges my batteries and I was ready to encounter what Rick Steves describes as a endless series of knee breaking stairs that mark the end of the trail and the descent into Monterosso al Mare.

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Happy to have completed the trail with no scars to show for it just lots of photos!
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In sight of Monterosso – The Sun still shines bright at 7 pm

We completed those last lot of stairs ( and they really are a lot!) without incident and reached ground level in the old part of Monterosso. We had completed the trek in 2 hours time inspite of stopping a lot and not trying to go too fast. It was an experience which you have to do if you are in the Cinque Terre and your knees can take it! I can’t imagine coming to the Cinque Terre, zooming through villages on the train and leaving by evening. Hopefully I will return when the entire trail is open and complete the whole seaside trail one day.

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Entering Monterosso at the end of the trail

We wandered through the old town square which was almost deserted. Maybe it was nearing the end of the day and all the day trippers had left, but I was not complaining. We saw a few local kids playing in the park in the town square and a black bird searching for dinner which gave me a chance to use the 300mm which I had lugged around all this time.

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A Black bird searches for dinner in Monterosso
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The petite and deserted main square of old town in Monterosso.

We then walked through the narrow lanes of old town and visited the local church. We then followed our routine of sitting in the pews for some time and left after taking a few photos.  Of all churches in the Cinque Terre this was the largest and had the most ornate altar. Its very strange to find these beautiful churches totally devoid of people all over Italy. ( Again, I am not complaining, because I get better photos!) I am not a religious person but the beauty and tranquility of these churches in Italy is indisputable. If I visit Italy again I would rather visit these small churches than St Peters or the Florence Duomo.

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The elegant church at Monterosso al Mare

After leaving the church we went down to the harbour from where you can see the entire old town and sat for a few minutes enjoying the breeze and the beautiful colours of dusk.

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Old town and the beaches of Monterosso
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Enjoying the sea side benches at Monterosso

Then we walked the tunnel that connects the old and new parts of Monterosso and reached the new part of town. We had one eye on the watch because we wanted to have dinner in Vernazza and didn’t want to miss the hourly train back. But we still had time to venture onto the free public beaches of Monterosso where the only people giving us company were some local kids. I am sure this beach must have been full a few hours back, considering it’s the only stretch of sand in the Cinque Terre.

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The pedestrian tunnel connecting the two parts of Monterosso

I have never been a beach person myself, but quite frankly the beaches back home in India are a million times better than these beaches. We didn’t intend to go into the water anyway, so we walked on the sand / pebbles and took a few photos. The colours of dusk and the beautiful shoreline (you can see all the towns from here) made up for the abysmal quality of sand on these beaches.

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Dusk on the beaches of Monterosso
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Walking the beaches from where you can see all 5 towns

Soon it was time for our train back to Vernazza and we left the beach, went up to the station and caught the train back. By now we were very hungry and we headed straight to harbour side in Vernazza for our last dinner there. We chose a harbour side restaurant called Ristorante Pizzeria Vulnetia because finally the weather was perfect for an outdoor dinner and some red wine.

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Harbourside dining at Vernazza at the Ristorante Pizzeria Vulnetia

I had the Pizza with salmon and the better half had Penne pasta with tomato, oregano and cheese sauce. It had been a magnificent two days in the Cinque Terre and we celebrated by having the best dessert we had on this trip, a caramel Pannacotta.

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Pizza with Salmon for me
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Penne Pasta for the better half
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The most amazing Caramel Panna cotta I have ever eaten!

The Cinque Terre had lived up to all my expectations and exceeded them. The treks along the coastal trails, sitting at the breakwaters at Vernazza early in the morning and at Riomaggiore away from the crowds, climbing up the dark trail to take lit up photos of Vernazza are experiences I will never forget.

We woke up early the next morning just to go to the breakwater and have breakfast there one last time. On a whim we again climbed up to the viewpoint and sat there for a few minutes before it was time to leave, collect our luggage and take the train out.

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Only company at the view point early morning
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Deserted streets of Vernazza on the way to the station

Next stop was the Riviera town of  Santa Margherita Ligure and a planned visit to the resort town of Portofino. But that is topic for another post, another day.

Till then,

Ciao!

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