They say home is where your soul is, but some of us spend a life searching for the perfect home. I think I just found mine in Cinque Terre, part of the Italian Riviera. I’ve always known it is a spectacular place with wonderful scenery , but only when I actually wandered its narrow streets, I realised it feels like the best home you can get.
Lemon trees, blue salty sea, coastal panorama, cats lying on brick porches, while the locals chat in the streets, right outside their houses. Among them, the tourists enjoy delicious cuisine with seafood spaghetti, fresh fish and cool their their thirst with a traditional shot of “limoncello“.
It is as if you’re part of one of those Italian movies in which people dry their clothes hanging them on strings attached from one balcony to another, in the narrow steep streets, with colourful walls along the soft hills.
“The Five Lands” is composed of five villages: Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore. It took me and my friends a day to visit only two of them and absorb their fascinating style of life, because, eventually, it is about how the locals live together with us – the travellers.
Monterosso remains a beauty despite natural calamities
We took the train from La Spezia, which is a beautiful city as well, and stopped in the northernmost “terra“, Monterosso al Mare. It is amazing how people have carefully built terraces on the rugged, steep landscape right up to the cliffs that overlook the sea. That is absolutely charming.
But it is even more fascinating that after the horrible, heavy floods and mudslides in October 2011, this place looks as beautiful as before. The locals are known for their hard work and the passion they put in these lands to preserve them for the next generations.
However, some of the villages are still affected by the powerful natural phenomena, so that it becomes a physical challenge to walk, or better said hike, some of the terre such as: Vernazza and Corniglia. But for only €10 you can get on and off the train as many times as you want for the whole day. So that you can stop in all the five lands and see for yourself how divine they can be.
In Monterosso al Mare you will find the best beach out of all the villages and a very salty water that have cured many wounds along the time. But what I loved most it was the lemon trees covering this intimate yet very touristy town. Apart from the pleasant yellow trees, Monterosso is also famous for olives, grapes and white wines.
As the other villages, the town has been severely affected by the floods, yet it sill looks like a postcard taken with a vintage camera. You can admire both parts of the town, the old and the new one, which are divided by a tunnel.
Another great view is from the water…Yes, take a bath in the sea, swim away from the shore and stop when you’re tired to admire the unique combination of mountains hit by the blue waves of the Tyrrhenian Sea. Regardless of your daily issues, you’ll be overwhelmed by this feeling of freedom and beauty.
Manarola – dive, eat, breathe
And you’ll stay charmed when you’ll get off the train at Manarola. Probably the most famous village judging by the multitude of photographs and postcards showing its colourful, bright houses packed on cliffs. This is the second smallest of the famous Cinque Terre towns and possibly the oldest of them.
What you can do in this village is to enjoy its simplicity and tranquillity. Climb the hill to the church, San Lorenzo, dating from 1338, see the big mill wheel in the town, walk, if possible, between Manarola and Riomaggiore on the Via dell’Amore, (Love’s Trail) in the hills and vineyards above the town, drink a glass of the famous local wine called Sciacchetrà and definitely taste the fish. I had one of the best seafood meals and surely the best pineapple tiramisu ever.
As much as I try to describe it to you, it still does not come up to the true beauty of these five villages. Any of the terre will be a perfect choice for a romantic escapade, but also for those who want to feel better at mind and heart , even if it’s just for a little while.