This is definitely my favourite place so far. Arles was like a small town, but the 5 towns that make up the Cinque Terre area ARE small towns. Each town has only a few streets which are crammed on a hill side next to the Mediterranean. The town I'm in, Vernazza, has about 300 permanent residents. And, there are only few cars here. In fact, some towns only have a few delivery vehicles on some streets for part of the morning, others that do have cars only allow them on certain streets.
The big and most obvious difference from Arles, beside the awesome scenery, is the lack of noise. Arles was full of a never ending stream of noisy scooters, about a third of them were pizza delivery guys. There are no scooters here. The main sounds around here are the sea, the birds, and if you are near a train station there is the occasional roar of a train passing through. Vernazza also has two clock towers that ring at the top and bottom of the hour, one five minutes before the other, but I don't consider that noise. I'll take the trains and the clock towers over that never ending buzzing of scooters any day.
The main attraction in this area is hiking. There are numerous trails in the Cinque Terre National Park area, but the most popular are the trails that connects the 5 towns in the park. The trails range from a very easy almost flat sidewalk that connects Riomaggiore and Manarola to the very steep, rugged, and almost dangerous trails that connect Vernazza to Monterosso al Mare to the north and Corniglia to the south. These two trails rival many in the Banff area, except for one notable difference. These trails have stairs built out of rocks so you are not walking on angled terrain, but they're still a challenge to climb and descend. Speaking of stairs, I finally counted the stairs up to my room last night. This is a number that all tourists seem to be comparing. From street level to the entrance of my room it's 103 steps. Others climbs I heard of are less, but I'm sure there are some with more.
My day started out with a slow morning. Writing and uploading yesterday's posting and having a long slow breakfast. After that it was time for some hiking. I started by heading north from Vernazza to Monterosso al Mare. At Monterosso, the northern most town, I took some time to explore the town before catching a boat to Riomaggiore, the southern most town. From Riomaggiore I hiked my way back up to Vernazza, exploring each little town I encountered along the way.
When I got back to Vernazza, I went part way up the trail to Monterosso al Mare again to get a good early evening picture of Vernazza. I was getting a bit tired by that time so the climb up to the good view point sure seemed a whole lot harder than it did when I first started out in the morning. After snapping a few photos it was time to get cleaned up for dinner. Like almost every meal for many days now, I met some more Canadians. There seem to be a lot more of them in this area than anywhere else. It could also be that the size of this place is such that you just can't help but run into them.
After dinner it was time to linger a bit, taking in the peaceful warm evening.
Here are some of my favourite shots of the day.
The boat service between the towns.
Monterosso al Mare, the northern (westerly) most town. This is the largest and mostly resort like of the 5 towns. It's also one of the few that is readily accessible by car.
A church at the center of Monterosso on the hill in the center of the above photo.
Looking to the south (east) of Monerosso, some of the other towns are partly visible.
Corniglia, the smallest of the 5 towns and the only one without boat service.
A close up of Riomaggiore.
The trail between Riomaggiore and Manarola is the easiest and is basically a sidewalk.
The train station at Manarola. The slower speed regional trains that stop at each of the 5 towns pass here as well as other fast moving passenger and freight trains. They are supposed to be creating another tunnel further in land for the trains that don't stop in the 5 small towns. When that's done the small towns will be even more peaceful than they are today.
The trail north of Manarola.
Corniglia in the foreground, Manarola in the background.
Approach Vernazza from Corniglia. The red arrow points to my room, where I'm currently sitting enjoying the view as I type this up. No internet connection here, I have to go down to an internet cafe, 103 steps down, for that.
Looking back at Vernazza from the trail to Monterosso al Mare.
A few photos from Vernazza in the evening.