Hiking San Bernardino to Manarola

Spring flowers on the trailThe Cinque Terre trails are forever enticing whether they be across the valleys, over the mountain or down to an alluring blue sea.  I have my favourite trails and now is a good time to really enjoy the Spring flowers and the new vine shoots and take a hike along the high trail from San Bernardino to Manarola, via Fornacchi and La Cigoletta.

Fornacchi is the tiniest of villages, only 5 houses but with an important laundry service that provides bed linens to the numerousMadonna of Fornacchi apartments and bed and breakfast places in the area. The view is stunning of San Bernardino below and the coastline to Monterosso as a sweet little Madonna indicates the path through to the woods.View from Fornacchi There are no other hikers just the sounds of Nature; rustling leaves from the light breeze and as tiny lizards run out of sight.

Crossroads indicate the trail across the mountain ridge round to Drignano or down towards Corniglia across to Manarola which I prefer as am more fond of coastal views. On the high trail between Corniglia and Manarola I meet lots of hikers since the coastal trail between Corniglia and Manarola is closed now more tourists are obliged to try the high trail.

It’s a great time of year as the vines have sprouted and the views over the famous terraced landscape are compelling. Besides a large part of the trail walks through the vineyards. A total immersion in an ancient farming method where vines are trellised over wire frames to protect them from the strong winds and allow more air circulation underneath to avoid mould from the humidity later in the season.

And of course the thousands of kilometers of drystone walls that make this area a Unesco World Heritage site and a twin site with the Great Wall of China! They say if you put all the drystone walls together they would be twice as long as the Great Wall…..but it’s a saying and I cannot guarantee that as fact.Vines on trellis

Little would most tourists realize how hard it is to maintain these terraces, cultivate these vineyards or even grape pick…..as our volunteers experienced at harvest time.Grape picking Cinque Terre

 

 

The trail leaves the vineyards in time for a coffee stop in the village of Volastra, perched high above the sea. This sweet semi circular village, immersed in olive groves features a lovely Romanesque church sitting on a shaded piazza with plenty of seats for hikers to have a break.Volastra church

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vinew back to San Bernardino

From there it’s downhill all the way with breathtaking views along the coast till Manarola appears in view.

Blessed with sunshine on the descent  enhances the beauty of Manarola as I meander through gorgeous irises and wildflowers and am beckoned on by the aquamarine sea.

Manarola main streetAnd Manarola never disappoints, today the rough seas play on the rocks in the cove, the fishing boats are hauled up and tourists and locals enjoy the fabulous scenery. Manarola bay

Manarola, Cinque Terr


 

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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.

 

 

 

 

 


 

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Christmas lights in the Cinque Terre

Nativity scene Cinque TerreIt’s Christmas time again and the cities are boasting their Christmas lights to the delight of kids and even the big kids like me! I thought this Christmas I would take you to the Cinque Terre to enjoy the fantastic luminous Nativity scene that adorns the hillside above Manarola.

 

 

Mario Andreoli has been creating this masterpiece for the past 50 years, adding and changing figures each year to the now 300 or more characters. A retired railway worker, he is super industrious and passionate about his creations, forever designing new scenes and improving on the old ones. Mario Andreoli

Fireworks Manarola

Photos from Ruth Manfredi – Save Vernazza

Cinque terre fireworks

This years light up ceremony

He is well loved by the community as posters and paintings in the village proudly broadcast his merits and the excitement mounts for the ceremonial ‘light up’ on the 8th December. Something like Obama turning on the Xmas tree lights!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mario Andreoli portrait

 

 

All the life size figures are made from recycled materials, lit by thousands of light bulbs and in this you tube video you can see Mario at work. Although advanced in years he works diligently on various projects which include the Stations of the cross and the Resurrection at Easter and a special scene made in 2011 for the 150 year anniversary of the Unification of Italy. The Alpine Club volunteers help him with the heavier work and to mount the characters.

During the year I have hiked past some of the figures which are mounted permanently, a reminder of what to look forward to at Christmas.Hiking ManarolaHiking Cinque Terre

 

 

 

As you will see from the photos and video it’s not just an ordinary Nativity scene and having it seen it for real I can say it is truly spectacular, in a stunning setting, amongst the vineyards overlooking the sea.

Manarola Cinque Terre

Manarola – Cinque Terre

This beautiful artistic creation is eco-sustainable not only because of the materials used but also as it is now powered by solar energy.

A masterpiece by an incredibly humble local artist. The Nativity Scene remains lit until the end January just in case any of you are over this way!

 

 

Wishing you all a Merry Xmas and a Happy, Healthy and Wonderful 2015!

I’m off to Tunisia on an 8 day Trekking holiday ( not all trekking)……and where will you all be celebrating? Drop me a line here.

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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

 

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