Gems and stones

After four days in Rome, mom and I caught a train north to Le Cinque Terre – the five mountain villages in Liguria.

After only 3,5 hours the chaos and constant traffic noise of Rome was replaced by the sound of rolling waves, ringing wine glasses and church bells.

Rick Steve describes the villages in “Europe Through the Backdoor”:

Each village is a variation on the same theme: a well-whittled, pastel jumble of homes, filling a gully like crusty sea creatures in a tide pool. Locals are the barnacles — hungry, but patient. And we travelers are like algae, coming in with the tide.

I’m not sure if his metaphor of locals being the sponge and tourists the seaweed is correct but the tourism boom in the area is evident. Some Italians I met told me that 20 years ago the villages were still little hidden gems where life proceeded like before with fishing, agriculture and wine farming the most important business.

But it is easy to see why the place has become so popular.

The coastline, the five villages, and the surrounding hillsides are all part of the Cinque Terre National Park and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

There is a pathway that stretches along the mountain side connecting the villages. Some parts are steep and daunting whilst other are literally a walk in the park. If you do the full hike between the five villages it takes about five hours but you can also stop in any village and catch a boat in the harbour or the regional train.

During the four days we spent there I did it all.

I got to see Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, Riomaggiore and a town reached by boat – Portovenere, although I only got to experience them briefly I can confirm that they are all pretty and picturesque.

Everyone may find their own favourite.