Winter peace, Spring weather at Cinque Terre

View of Vernazza, Cinque Terre How I love this time of year at the Cinque Terre. The peace and quiet of the Winter, the striking colours of the villages against the clearest of skies and the bluest of seas. It does not get any better and a real enticement to be out there hiking around on old familiar trails.

And encouraged even more so by the unseasonal warm temperatures indicating an early Spring. The fruit trees are already in blossom as is the Mimosa wattle so sought after for International Women’s Day.View to Monterosso from San Bernardino

My hike began from San Bernardino with a view towards Monterosso in the distance  Defibrillator along the trailacross terraced vineyards. Who could get ever get tired of this view, Nature at its best, coming out of hibernation.

This year, thanks to the National Park, Vernazza Council and two local non profit organisations, we have defibrillators in various strategic points in the villages and even along the coastal trail at the halfway point of Prevo. A great idea since many tourists start the trail, often not realising that it can be quite strenuous, especially in the Summer heat. The National Park has also just introduced a fine on anyone wearing thongs/flip flops on the trails as it is an expensive and time consuming business to rescue injured people from the trail, often requiring a helicopter.

Trail landslideBut today the trail between Vernazza and Corniglia was quiet as it is still under maintenance as more dry stone walls have crumbled during the Winter. It is a never ending battle in this fragile territory and hurts just to see the devastation, be it small or large. Memories of the 2011 landslides during the flood never go away.

Olive nets glistened between the trees stretched out until next Winter, lemon trees were heavily laden with fruit and wildflowers were squeezing out of every nook and cranny under a splendid sun.

The fishing boats are still parked in the main square of Vernazza, safe from any stormy seas, creating a postcard image across to the Church, and a few locals are sitting chatting in the sunshine.

Corniglia is even quieter, and without tourists the souvenir shops are closed and only Corniglia main squarethe local café and delicatessen are open for essential local needs. But it still has a good feel about, very homey, as if everyone is resting before the tourist crowds swarm in at Easter. And not everyone is resting, as it’s time to prune the vines, repaint the facades, and clean out the cellars, in preparation for the new season. Everything has a quiet order to it, and a comforting security of belonging to a culture where some things just never change!

And this year I have decided to rent out ‘A little piece of paradise” at San Bernardino so I can welcome tourists to my little village away from the crowds. So keep that in mind if you are coming over to the Cinque Terre and take a look at the link here.





Colours of Cinque Terre

Vernazza umbrellasAfter the huff and puff of the ‘dragons’ in Florence it was time to lap up the colours  of the Cinque Terre. A refreshing change in this torrid heat of July. In Vernazza, before the lunchtime crowds, restaurants prepared their menus to be savoured under the multi colored umbrellas overlooking the fishing bay. The colours strikingly bold and gay have always been a favourite of mine, offering welcome relief in the shade.Cinque Terre, Vernazza unmrellas

Multi colours reflected in the buildings of the area , so typical of Italian beach resorts. Painted uniquely so every fisherman or seaman can recognize his own home by the colour even at a long distance….As I have found describing my home – the third house in pink next to the grey building! Not something one would do in Tuscany.

The colours of Summer holidays, of fun, laughter and relax, where work and study Cinque Terre fishing boatscommitments seem a time of the past and every new discovery a delight. Whiling away the time on the harbour watching the ferries come and go, and the vibrant fishermen’s boats lazily basking in the sunshine, endless colours brighten the day.

The joys and indecision at the gelati shop, again full of Corniglia gelateriadelicious tempting colours and flavours – crema delle Cinque Terre still being my preference together with a fruit choice like mango or a refreshing  mint and yoghurt. A definite welcome treat after hiking down from San Bernardino amid this heat still blessed along the way with panoramic views and loads of flowers compliment a brilliant sky.Cinque Terre, Prevo

….even the fake flower tassels draped over the door seem fitting amid the lively shops of Corniglia boasting attractive souvenirs.

Corniglia Marina

Time now for a for a well deserved plunge into the deep cool waters at the Marina of Corniglia. How gorgeous is that, marine blue and green coloring the rocks below.

The return hike up to San Bernardino elicits vineyard greens, silver sage olives and deep green pines on wild country terraces. Life is about using the whole box of Crayons and Cinque Terre never lets me down in any season!

Cinque Terre view to San Bernardino

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Cinque Terre is blooming

Cinque Terre vineyards and Spring flowersCinque Terre is blooming after the abundant Spring rains and sunshine. Everywhere from vineyards to gardens are looking lush, windowsill pots explode with colour and climbing jasmine leaves a sweet fragrance that lingers in the air enticing locals and tourists to the cool of the cafes and wine bars.

Agave starting to flower

Even my super cactus – agave has started to bloom; an exciting moment considering they take a minimum of 10 years to 50 years before maturing and then die off afterwards. So it will be sad to see it go in the end.Cinque Terre garden




Il Gabbiano cafe at Prevo, halfway on the trail between Vernazza and Corniglia has a new open air space this year, under shade cloth, with a fabulous view across the water to Corniglia and Manarola. Initially the waiter served on tables but I think by the end of the first week the area changed to ‘self serve’ …..or the waiter may not have survived the season, running up and down under the hot sun! As the sign outside the terrace says “HOW TO ORDER: Dear Hikers, you can sit in the table you prefer. Then, the strongest of you can walk down, 20 meters, in the Vernazza direction. Once at the bar you can find all the drinks you need to take up here and enjoy the view. THANKS FOR YOUR PATIENCE”

Cinque Terre trail VernazzaFinally the National Park decided to do something about the swampy area along the trail and two simple canals now take the water away leaving the tourists’ shoes and mine, drier and less muddy. As they say ‘Pazienza‘ ( Patience) is what you need in Italy as sooner or later a solution is found. Volunteers have also repaved the stairs down to the Marina at Corniglia  so that’s looking very smart.

Cinque terre wildflowers

Wildflowers are abundant, often sprouting from rather barren rock faces or forcing their way through the verdant jungle  – from wild roses, cyclamens, ginestra, poppies and many others I don’t know the name of. It’s certainly a pretty time of year and not just in the Cinque Terre.

Looking towards MonterossoMakes me wonder though when the crowds come through how many have really ‘taken time or had time to smell the roses, absorb the ambience, remain disconnected (from wi-fi) for a while sensing the Nature that surrounds them. Continue reading


Cinque Terre, another season begins


View to Doria castleAt the Cinque Terre Spring has burst upon us finally and in the past 10 days it has been Vernazza outdor restauantaction stations all round. The change from Winter to Summer time brought us out of the gloomy tunnel and blessed us with the extra daylight hours to get ready for the tourist season. Between storms and sunshine the outdoor platforms for the restaurants and cafes were completed and some of the tables at Vernazza boast new umbrellas in typically bold colours that are so Vernazza outdoor bar and restaurantmuch a part of the Cinque Terre tradition.

Volunteers cleaned up the small beach of Vernazza from the winter debris that sea storms had tossed up. And locals finished painting their bright facades that forever get a beating from the sea air. The place is looking pristine clean and ready to go.

The ferries are running, as long as it’s not too rough, yet it’s too soon for the canoes toVernazz harbout be lowered from their safe haunt at the back of the church. The new timetable is out for the Cinque Terre Express train and the prices so far remain the same as last year.

I snuck down early morning indulging in the peace and quiet and moved on as the tourists spilled from the train platform. The cruise ship  was in and it was going to be a busy time over Easter. On the trail above the village flowers perfumed the air and the vines were just starting to green, such a beautiful time of year.


And you can never get tired of the view from above, it is simple stunning,View of Vernazza

In Corniglia  late morning sun warmed tourists having breakfast in the main squareCorniglia main square where the trees are still barren of foliage and the tourists are less likely to be day trippers. Corniglia manages to maintain its layback atmosphere as the 380 steps of the Lardarina to get there remain a good deterrent to cruise passengers and the local bus often too crowded to be used as an alternative.

View Corniglia to manarolaLocals mingled with tourists at the outdoor café at the end of the village, lapping up the sunshine and the sea breeze and of course the superb view that makes the Cinque Terre so unique.



So be tempted, and come over…..and remember if you need an orientation day contact me!

View Corniglia to Monterosso



Cruising in Corniglia – Cinque Terre

Crusie ship La SpeziaAs I drove through La Spezia, the city on route to the Cinque Terre, I caught sight of the cruise shop docked and my heart sank. Worse still when I heard there were 2 cruise ships in the following day!

This is now a regular pattern but I am slowly developing a rejection of the crowds, the invasion into my space and the deterioration of the villages as they become submersed by the masses. The season is in full swing.View of Corniglia and Manarola

Looking down on it all from my hideaway haunt, does not make it any easier as my village is so quiet and peaceful that I could spend all day just savouring the breathtaking view.

But the warm weather and the idea of a first swim enticed me out of my laziness to walk the trail down to Corniglia in the hope the masses had not yet discovered the quiet Marina of Corniglia. Or at least if they had, most would be put off by the 380 steps down to it, so it should be a safe bet. In fact I was not disappointed.

On the way down my favourite Enoteca was waking up tourists with a coffee reminding them to log out of Wifi and tune into Nature.

Others were having breakfast in the shade in the Main piazza while some were already into their first gelati for the day. The local gelataria boasts a new flavour of basil and lemon which is very refreshing.

Morning at Corniglia MarinaBut I was on a mission down to the Marina, to find a space and indulge for the day. The place was a hive of activity as locals were returning from early morning fishing trips, one man empty handed and grumbling when he saw the first teenager pull out 4 tuna fish and a satisfied grin. Quickly followed up by 3 youngsters throwing their catch of 15 tuna onto the quay with even more satisfied grins and chests puffed out, ready to brag about their morning catch. Posing for photos was obligatory as they boasted how they couldn’t get the rod back in fast enough….an impressive loot!

Fun for us all to hear the details of the catch and watch as the boys diligently gutted Tuna catch of the dayand cleaned their fish, boat and gear and took their haul up to the village to be shared amongst family and friends. I could not have wished for a more local atmosphere.

Some tourists joined us later in the day but their was space for all and  as the sun warmed our bodies the tempting water lured us in. The boys returned to climb the rock face leaping recklessly into the deep Tarzan style, while the rest of us bobbed about in crystal clear water, lulled occasionally by waves from the passing ferries.

After a satisfying first, second and third swim between tanning on the quay, I packed Corniglia Main streetup my gear and hiked up the 380 steps ( ufff ), dreaming of a basil and lemon gelati to keep me going on the trail home. On passing through the village I thought this is definitely going to be my prime spot this Summer. It still has a local feel, is not as overrun by the masses and has some creative handcraft souvenir shops if ever in need of a little gift. Corniglia souvenir shop




The most is made out of every spare inch of space, and the apparent shambolic décor of even the new cafes has its own attractiveness.

I will be back and besides there’s no bunnies in Corniglia!


Prevo – the halfway point, Cinque Terre

Prevo Cinque TerreMy little village of San Bernardino sits directly above Prevo in the Cinque Terre. A sparse group of houses at the halfway point on the coastal trail between Corniglia and Vernazza. I can’t quite see it from my terrace but I am sure the builders can who are currently redoing my roof. I did promise them a job with a sea view and they are indulging in it….perhaps just a little too long for my liking. But then builders are builders the same the world over, nothing ever seems to run to schedule!San Bernardino


Prevo is where I sneak into the coastal trail, on my way down to either village and surprise most hikers by looking fresh and energetic still, when they have just panted there way up the hill on countless steps. It is the highest point on the trail (208m above sea level) but most tourists don’t know that and look relieved to hear that it is all downhill thereafter.

Prevo cafeFrom Corniglia the hike up is a little less as Corniglia is already 100m above sea level, nevertheless it is with some relief that tourists find the bar Il Gabbiano at Prevo where they can catch their breath and enjoy a great fresh fruit juice and fantastic view. Tourists from Vernazza appreciate it even more!

All the locals know that it is easier to follow the trails from Corniglia to Vernazza and Monterosso than vice versa, so bear that in mind if you are over here.

For those who choose to stay here in Prevo, as many of the houses rent out on Airbnb, they are in for a quiet retreat, a full immersion in the Mediterranean flora, fabulous sea views…….and a long walk back from dining out! But forewarned they usually love being away from the crowds in the villages.

It’s still pre tourist season, a time to indulge in the late winter and early Spring flowers – like the Mimosa whose yellow blooms make a striking contrast against the turquoise sea. Purple pig face hang along walls which has me thinking what an Aussie mix of flora. Hardy rosemary is in bloom, and the red stalk flowers of the aloe vera are readily seen along the trail tucked in amongst the prickly pear. Officially the coastal trail is Trail closed Vernazza Cornigliaclosed, meaning those who use it hike are at their own risk. When it reopens late March the Cinque Terre Card will be required for entry at a fee of €7.50 or €13 per day including trains. The rest of the hiking trails, known as the high trails are all free…..and I might add just as good if not better!

Trail damage Vernazza


I see that another portion of the dry stone wall along the coastal trail has collapsed, a pretty common  occurrence and the National Park will probably try to fix it. Other areas have had major steel nets and cables extending the more volatile slopes and they appear to be holding up well and a great security for hikers and local landowners. It remains a fragile territory and any new landslide or collapsed wall is like a wound in our sides.  The  dry stone walls, that keep this territory together and gained it Unesco Heritage status, if put together are twice the length of The Great Wall of China! It’s a pity we don’t have a Chinese army of people to keep tending them and the terraces!

It is good to see some new trail railing has been put into place by the National park, and very welcomed at the favourite place for the panoramic shot of Corniglia where it was on such a wobble I thought the next tourist that leans was going to do a long gravel rash slide down to the beach below!

Prevo 5 TerreNothing that I ever write about the Cinque Terre is sensational as my aim is for those who visit to understand the complexities of this unique and beautiful area and respect its frailties. While man labours hard to remain in control, it is never enough for the work required and Mother Nature knows who is really ruling the roost!Corniglia to Monterosso


Summer in full swing at the Cinque Terre

Vernazza 60's Pop band“Let’s twist again, like we did last Summer…” blares out across the piazza of Vernazza and nannas and poppas, kids and tourists jive and shake, bop and twist while others giggle on the sidelines. Summer is in full swing in the Cinque Terre! Vernazza Pop band guitarist



Guitarists shimmer in their gold lamé jackets as a replica Nancy Sinatra belts out her song and jangles her tambourine under the psychedelic lights. I haven’t seen Vernazza rave like that for a long time. And it’s not the only village that is entertaining locals and holidaymakers alike.

Corniglia offered their version of a Tom Waits, John Lurie style of Blues in the main street with singer songwriter Folco Orselli and his 3 piece band – Live in Caruggio (alleyway). Milanese by birth but a lover and regular resident of the Cinque Terre. If you’d like to get into the mood click here on his album “Outside is my side”

And more  Pop music at Corniglia the following night – with popular Elvis numbers, crooning Beach boys ‘Do you wanna dance.. with the crowd doing a great ‘do you do you’ chorus, ending the night with Gloria Gaynor classicsI will survive…..”

But it’s not just the music that makes the Cinque Terre so magic. We wandered down to Vernazza at sunset having hiked the trails between the villages, captivated by the views, the myriad of vineyards, the strong scent of Mediterranean brush and the hot sun baking our skin rewarded by a refreshing swim on arrival.

Free beach space is always a problem but I have learnt to squeeze in and create my own space seduced by crystal blue seas and in this heat….is there an option?

Corniglia Marina is fast becoming my favourite spot despite the 300+ steps down to it!

ManarolaWhile Manarola is an old time haunt, the high trail is a little taxing in the heat and the thought of a crowded train ride sometimes puts me off.

Living almost solely on fruit and gelati, waiting for the evening breeze to revive us from the Summer heat, watching kids glued to their mobiles or searching for pokemon….yes the craze has hit even the Cinque Terre!Monterosso kids




Drooling over a private food table in the ready for the Disabled Scuba diving club of Monterosso, and very impressed by their watermelon sculptures.


And it’s reassuring to see families playing table soccer in the main square of VernazzaVernazza surrounded by restaurants bulging at the seams with clients enjoying pesto dishes, seafood pasta, local fish and of course anchovies fried, pied or lightly marinated.

As the sun goes down, Vernazza is in its prime……




Cinque Terre sunset








and the Cinque Terre remains an enchanting paradise.








Winter withdrawal and renewal in the Cinque Terre

View on CornigliaEven winter in the Cinque Terre is fabulous! How many times have I written that in previous blogs. Yet it is worth repeating and a wonderful way of settling back into life in Italy. All it needed was mild weather and some sunshine to have me out walking those same old trails that I have hiked so many times before.


I never tire of the views, knowing Towards Monterossoevery nook and cranny so well; my favourite photo spots (not only mine!), my much loved rest points to breathe it all in and let a smile out.

The wild boar had been busy snuffling up their precious roots, berries, mushrooms and whatever else they could find under the olives and vines.

wildboar devastation

So the Park rangers were out, rifles on the ready, walkie talkies in hand trying desperately to find the boar….that got away! Most visitors are not aware of how much damage the boar do to the vineyards and the Park territory, rooting around at the base of the dry stone walls, often destabilising the wall.

The hunt is controlled but as the Ranger said ” they are sly and hardy beasts”  that slideVernazza- Corniglia down effortlessly from one terrace to another and easily outsmart the hunters.  While I heard no shots, the Rangers were on the run along the trail and through the undergrowth much to the surprise of the odd tourist. They ducked as the armed rangers rushed past and were quite shocked and keen to be reassured that it was safe to continue!

In Corniglia, there was hardly a soul and while the gelati billboard was out the shop was closed, probably in waiting for the weekend trade. The village returns to being a local village, washing being hung out, and grandmas sitting in the sun chatting as they crochet.

Dry stone wallsIt’s always heartening to see the work being done on restoring properties and dry stone walls so critical to the maintenance of the terraces.restoration work







Park signs have been renewed and hopefully hikers will heed the advice. View of VernazzaCinque terre park sign


Vernazza has the same tranquil atmosphere, with many of the touristy shops still closed and the main street deserted.Vernazza main street

Quite a contrast to the Summer crowds!Crowds Cinque Terre





Children have reclaimed the main square as their playground, under the watchful eye of grandparents, and the medieval features of the  buildings are more noticeable.

Vernazza palazzo










The sea laps idly over the rocks, as a fisherman tries his luck. Vernazza fishermanAnd there is an air of peace; time to catch our breath and rest up in readiness for the season to come.Cactus flower




Cinque Terre- Vernazza




If you are thinking of coming over and would like a ‘detour’  don’t hesitate to get in touch, I would be more than happy to show you round!





Summer sets on the Cinque Terre


VernazzaSummer sets on the Cinque Terre and I have had my last swim for the year. There will still be some mild sunny days ahead but the hubbub and chaos of the Summer is starting to wane and we all breathe a sigh of relief.

Two tourists make the most of the more lay back atmosphere, dancing to an old time classic ‘Volare‘ at Monterosso. Passer-by’s hardly give a second glance as though the event is something normal. The busker is honoured.Cinque Terre dancersBusker Monterosso








Monterosso beach

Monterosso beach

The Beach umbrellas have been taken in and for the moment the stumps remain, with only memories of the hordes that gathered in their shade, slathering sun screen lotion and rolling over to toast the other side.



As in so many other beautiful coastal spots in Liguria, like Camogli.Liguria - Camogli








A local girl returns from Milan to be married in her hometown, Vernazza and is paraded proudly through the tourist crowds to the antique church of Santa Margherita. It brings reality back to the little village, as tourists trip over themselves to get a quick snapshot.

It has been a long hot Summer and a very busy season again. Day trippers and cruise passengers have added dramatically to the general crush in the main streets of the tiny villages of the Cinque Terre straining the local services to the limit. Long queues outside snack food and gelati shops, some anxious faces waiting in similar queues for a toilet and rather exasperated gasps as the crowds pour out of the ‘cattle truck’ train carriages. Mass tourism is this and more all over the world, where some locations cope better than others and are able to manage the ever increasing flow. Cinque Terre is not one of those places, it is a fragile territory and far too small. And while it is understandable that the world wants to visit, we hope it can be limited, to not spoil what we have, for us and visitors alike.

The authorities responsible spend hours discussing the matter but till now noCinque Terre overcrowded significant changes have been made. To stir them along a petition was launched recently to Save the Cinque Terre from mass tourism. If you know and love the area please sign.

Daredevil hikers continue to ignore the ‘No Entry’  signs to the coastal trails closed between Riomaggiore and  Corniglia, scaling spiked fences and boasting to friends of their escapade. Little attention being paid to the fact that they may aggravate further landslides as they hike through the areas, putting their lives at risk and necessitating a rather expensive helicopter rescue if the land slips away beneath their feet or a rock fall knocks them off the trail!

Sunset Corniglia

Yet as the Summer sets on the Cinque Terre it’s a magic time, hiking the trails is a joy that regenerates my heart and soul. Nature at its best, villages bathed in a soft pink glow which deepens at every step.


Corniglia sunset

I stop to enjoy the colours on Corniglia and hear a whisper in the stillness that says it’s time to head for home before the sun slips away completely.

Cinque Terre sunset





Take time to smell the roses in the Cinque Terre

Cinque Terre roses

Come smell the roses!

Slow food, slow travel, slow holidaying is what it’s all about. What’s the rush? You’re on holidays! I have met so many tourists in the Cinque Terre doing the trails from Riomaggiore to Monterosso in a day, as if there is no tomorrow. They are missing half the beauty of the place, with no time to smell the roses or in reality the wildflowers and cactus upon cactus that pop up in the most unsuspecting places.

cactus flower





Wild sweet peas





Rock plant- Manarola


Cactus flowers






by Ambro

Image courtesy of Ambro/

With so much of the Blue trail being closed this year, holiday makers have been forced to explore the high trails or take the train. And the high trails offer some spectacular views; lush vineyard terraces and tranquil shade in the woods give a well-earned break before descending on the next village. Many are put off by the distance (2 – 3 hour trails taken leisurely) some steep ascents and descents with endless steps, so it’s not for the faint hearted or the unfit. Best to be equipped with water bottles, hiking shoes even walking poles for that extra support and stability and an enthusiasm for Nature. Put that together with a desire to have thighs of steel, toned and fatless, a firm butt with no additional gym fees and you’re on your way to winning the bikini test later in the day.

San Bernardino

Looking down on San Bernardino


I did the high trail from my little village of San Bernardino, via Volastra down to Manarola last week on a warm but cloudy day and was still bowled over by the views that I have seen so many times before. Truly awesome!Corniglia - Cinque Terre




Corniglia looks like a sleepy little village in the distance, securely placed well above the reach of any pirates or other unwelcome guests.Trail San Bernardino- Volastra




Sue Jane

A cool breeze starts the morning hike  along a mossed path in the woods. That clears on a little borgo of houses where there is time to smell the roses and more,  in their private garden.

Villas VolastraGarden- view to Monterosso






Vegetable garden - view Monterosso


I move on past their flourishing vegie garden with a stunning view, a location  I am sure the vegies just lap up! Another bend or two and the pretty church of Volastra appears.

Volastra church






Path - Volastra






Then lush vineyards, terrace after terrace splayed across trellises soaking up the sun.It’s easy to be thinking of a cool dry white wine overlooking the harbour, after the hike.

Vineyards - Corniglia

Vineyards and Corniglia

Manarola vineyards

vineyards and Manarola


Every bend and twist holds a new picture postcard, and the camera hardly has time to rest. Nothing of this scenery can be missed, it’s a total immersion in Nature, a time to reflect on the thousands who must have trodden this path before, the hard working mules carrying their loads, the assiduous toil of farmers capturing this land, clearing it and making it theirs. A haven of wine and olives and  essential foods.

Trail signposts

Manarola - Cinque Terre

Manarola beckons me to come on down and my footsteps take on a newer lighter tone as the hike is coming to an end.Farmers hut








View Manarola



What can I say?

Take time to do the high trails in the Cinque Terre, you will be well rewarded for your pains in every sense.

Manarola Marina