The jet lag has been a bit of a hassle and not as easy to overcome as I would have hoped. I think I woke up at 3, listening to the bells toll at ten minutes to the hour, and was in a mostly awake but sometimes dozing state for the next few hours. I should have just taken a sleeping pill. Managed to fall asleep eventually and woke up at 9am.
We went for breakfast in the same cafe we’d been to the morning before, though this time service was slow and verging on rude. Nevertheless we stayed and ate, then set off to buy our Cinque Terre cards.
Again, all the trails were closed. This was despite the sun being out and not a cloud in the sky. It was even more beautiful a day than the day before. But still, no trails. We caught the train to Corniglia instead.
Corniglia is one of the smaller of the five villages and is built higher up the side of the cliff than the others. The train station is a distance from the town and up a LOT of stairs. We hiked our way up, navigating around German tourists with an ‘entschuldigung, bitte’ and puffing and panting when we reached the top.
From there it was a short walk through narrow streets, stopping at a church and then buying freshly squeezed lemonade and a fruit bun called Fisherman’s Bread, which was a bit like a rock cake but much, much harder.
Being smaller, Corniglia’s narrow alleys are more prominent. On a sunny day like this they provided a cool place in the shade. In the middle of winter or at midnight, they probably would have freaked me the hell out. A great place to stage a murder.
At the end of the alley we reached a panorama view out over the ocean. A great view. More sunshine. It was here Glen insisted that it was my turn to carry the backpack. I acquiesced, especially considering he’d been a gentleman and carried it all the day before. It didn’t stop me from grumbling at how sweaty he’d left the straps.
With Corniglia complete, we walked back through the town, down the million steps and towards the train station. We again asked whether the trails were open; they weren’t. So we caught the train to the next town down.
Manarola is a bit more what you’d expect when you think of the Cinque Terre: colourful houses perched on the edge of rocks. We walked down the main strip towards the water before retreating to eat at a restaurant that was empty when we arrived. I think we should have taken that as a sign, even though it filled up almost immediately after we sat down.
Glen was attracted to the idea of squid ink pasta as he’d liked the mouthful he’d had the day before in Vernazza. So we stopped in for squid ink, prawn and zucchini spaghetti and a plate of fried calamari. We drank wine too.
When the food arrived, the spaghetti was the normal colour but was placed over a generous supply of squid ink. So the squid ink wasn’t in the pasta but outside it. When we swirled the spaghetti around, everything turned black. It was salty. The prawns swill had their shells and heads. I ate most of mine; Glen did not. Understandably the waiter asked if there was something wrong. We feigned being full, yet still requested our calamari. I had visions of the chef seeing the unfinished food and exclaiming, ‘Don’t they know how hard it is to get ink out of a squid?!’
After lunch we walked up the side of the hill to the cemetery which has the best view of Manarola. We took photos and looked down at the beautiful water below with people jumping in and going for a swim. I wanted to do that too but rather than just decide and do it, I then had to hum and haa about it. Glen gave me the push I needed.
We went down to the rocks below. Glen stayed on one of the steps while I went and sat on the edge with my feet in the water. Not content with this, I then borrowed Glen’s bathers and went for a proper swim. It was glorious. Not cold. Extra salty. Really glad I took the plunge as If I’d left the area without going in the water at least once, I’d have been disappointed in myself. Glen then went for swim too while I attempted to dry off (we didn’t bring towels).
Done with Manarola, we headed back to the train station. La Via dell’Amore started just past the train station and we decided to be rebellious and walk the damn trail back to Riomaggiore. It was meant to be short, and honestly, how could it be closed?
We walked up the ramp and out to the cafe at the start of the track…only to find that via dell’ amore was more or less permanently closed due to a rock fall. So much for walking the tracks. Mind you, both of our legs were suffering so perhaps it wasn’t such a bad thing.
La Spezia and Riomaggiore
We lounged in Riomaggiore for a little while, after buying postcards and crepes, then took a quick trip to La Spezia, a larger town south of the Cinque Terre. There was more walking, and Glen refused to climb some awesome looking steps.
There were some beautiful streets lined with old buildings and being late in the afternoon, there were plenty of people out and about. We checked out the garden, bought some stamps (with the woman behind the counter inexplicably disappearing for about five minutes to bring back four stamps), then wandered back to the train station. Nice town.
In the evening we ate at a restaurant in Riomaggiore, I think called La Grotta. We tried the local specialty, Trofie, a short pasta with a basil pesto, and then shared a grilled bream, which was delicious. Accompanied with a glass of prosecco (for Glen) and a local beer (for me), it was a lovely last dinner in Cinque Terre.
Back at the apartment, I sat on the balcony reading my book and listening to the hustle and bustle of the restaurants below. A nice way to end the evening.
We decided that we’d leave Cinque Terre a day earlier, having visited the five towns and the trails more than likely being closed for another day, and head to Lucca for a night.