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……

Vernazza

 

 

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

Cat

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

Ginestra

 

 

Wild sweet peas

 

 

 

 

Rock plant- Manarola

 

Cactus flowers

 

 

 

 

 

by Ambro

Image courtesy of Ambro/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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

 

Geraniums

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

Manarola

 

 

 

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

 

There are no bunnies in Corniglia!

Corniglia from San Bernardino

Corniglia a bunny paradise?

Bunnies in Corniglia? What am I talking about? It was an innocent mistake of mine, when I heard the names of each of the five villages of the Cinque Terre – Riomaggiore, Manarola, Vernazza and Monterosso were easy enough but my pronunciation of Corniglia sounded more like Coniglio (bunny) Leave out the ‘r’ and change the last vowel is  all that’s needed,Corniglia church and I kept calling it that for years!

Lardarina staircase Corniglia

 

 

 

 

 

 

Besides it was a village that I rarely visited, as it is built on a high promontory and has no ferry access. The Lardarina are the never ending stairs (377 steps!) to climb from the station to the village and the same endless stairs down to its little port, with no beach area….so why go?   How wrong could I be!

Corniglia shopMain street

 

 

 

 

From my little hideaway at San Bernardino, I am forever looking down on Corniglia and since it’s  my closest village, I have spent many days exploring it in depth. It is delightfully different from the others, with a much more local feel to it and some super quality handmade products made in the region.

Since the via dell’amore between Riomaggiore and Manarola has been closed, as well Shopping Cornigliaas the trail between Manarola – Corniglia, Corniglia is getting much more attention, and lapping it up. Corniglia

 

 

 

 

Corniglia

Corniglia restaurant

 

 

 

 

 

I usually pop down each day to pick up some bread or milk, cutting into the Blue Trail  (that runs between Vernazza and Corniglia) at Prevo, the halfway mark, absorbing the great views of the coastline on the way down and relishing the perfect view of my little village on the return trek.

Main square Corniglia

Main square, waiting for the plane trees to regrow

 

The main square is the meeting spot for everyone, tourists and locals alike, catching up on the gossip, under the shade of the plane trees. Unfortunately the trees underwent a ‘boys pruning’ job at the start of last year and may take a few years to recover!

no wifiSabrina

 

 

 

 

Late afternoon I indulge in an aperitif at my favourite little bar, where I endorse their philosophy “We are free from wifi for our and your health. Look around there is Nature. Log out and clear your mind” In the quieter hours Sabrina is often seen relaxing with book in hand as she waits for customers.Wine Bar

In July the place is smothered in basil for the festival, every nook and cranny decorated, even prizes awarded and menus overflowing with creative suggestions.

to the seaWhen the heat gets too much, the little marina calls and swimmers enjoy a crystal clear sea while sunbathers are refreshed from the spray. The sign to take your own rubbish back up, goes to show that council workers have some rights and are not obliged to do the 300+ steps down just to empty a rubbish bin!Corniglia Marina

 

 

 

 

 

Sunbathers

Corniglia sea

 

 

 

 

Rubbish sign

No garbage bins at the Marina

Corniglia marina

 

 

 

 

 

Designer and handcraft producers of the T shirts – Stefano and his wife embarrassingly printed hundreds of T-shirts with the villages in the wrong order!! When I pointed it out, they said fortunately most tourists don’t notice….so  check the fish T shirt to see what went wrong next time you’re here.T shirt shop

The name relates back to Roman times, “Gens Cornelia“, being the Roman family who owned the place. And despite the 377 steps, you will not be disappointed, as the local sign says. If you’re quick out of the station there is even a little bus service!

View of Manarola

View of Manarola

So now that you’ve been warned about the name, I hope you get the pronunciation right. From Corniglia station enjoy the view of Manarola before you start the hike up, and then treat  yourself to a gelati when you do get up there. If your a hiker, try the high trail Manarola via Volastra to Corniglia which will give you stunning views and get you away the crowds.