Cinqueterre literally means "five villages" and that is exactly what they are, including Riomaggiore, Manerola, Corniglia, Vernazza, and Monterosso. Each is a coastal town and absolutely breathtaking!
The first day we were in the area we explored La Spezia a bit just to get familiar with the new Italian feel. Our hosts, although they spoke very little to no English were able to convey that the harbor by La Spezia is actually poets bay.
"Golfo dei Poeti," named so for Lord Byron as well as Mary and Percy Shelley's association with the location. I was very intrigued to hear this because the last time I was in Italy was for a study abroad course dedicated to these romantic poets; I was honestly surprised we didn't visit this area while on that trip, but was excited to explore it for myself. I was not disappointed.
As we wandered around these places, climbed rocks jutting out into the sea and hiked between villages I really understood why poets like Byron and the Shelleys would find such inspiration here. There is something about this raw beauty that touches the soul. I think these photos are amazing (not to boast) but they still cannot really express the feeling of being there which I feel will forever be a barrier in travel. I wish I could really help my friends and family back home feel what I felt… I guess I'll just have to bring them all with me next time.
Each day was filled with great food and beautiful sites but the most memorable of our experiences would be our hike from the village of Riomaggiore and Manerola.
Our plan was to do a hike from Monterosso to Vernazza the next day, but while in Riomaggiore we saw a sign that said it was only a 20 minute hike to the next village so we thought "why not!?" I have to admit it was definitely worth it but I will follow that by saying… 20 minutes my ass!! That was the toughest hike of my life. There were so many steps and each turn led to more steps and at the very top of the mountain there was a sign that said, "For experienced hikers".
Hmmm. Well I guess we are experienced hikers now! But you know what? I thought going down was worse than going up because it was crazy treacherous. Like there were a couple times I thought we were going to die for sure…. Again, totally worth it!
The next day we were definitely all feeling it but I wanted to explore more so I took my own little mini hike to get this beautiful shot of Vernazza (see pictures attached).
What I really loved was being so close to the water. There were definitely times that Cailin and I stuck our feet in. Was it cold? Abso-freaking-lutely! Was it worth it? Duh!
This was such a great way to start our trip: beautiful sites, great Italian food, and this amazing, empowering feeling of climbing and seeing the world from a whole new perspective. I had a "nothing can bring me down" feeling, and then we went to Florence… where I had probably the best and the worst experience of the entire trip. Stay tuned!