Cinque Terre Sandeep mathur, 24-26 october, 2015

Cinque Terre is a quintet of five small fishing villages Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso al Mare, and have become one of the most photographed locations in the world. Each of the five villages is a variation of the same theme, a pastel potpourri of homes, built along a rugged portion of coast on the Italian Riveria. It is situated in the Liguria region of Italy, to the North West of the city of La Spezia. I've wanted to visit Cinque Terre for a long time now, eversince I saw some online images of these picturesque sea side villages. The region presents some of the most beautiful vistas of the sea encountering civilisation. They are rooted in antiquity, dating from the early medieval period, founded by settlers escaping from invading Barbarians or Greek settlers escaping persecution in Byzantium.

Location of Cinque Terre and my route from Venice.

Riomaggiore

The journey was not the most straightforward from Venice. Please do check out my Quick stop Venice blog (see link below) for my quick trip to Venice, before travelling to Cinque Terre. Four trains changes in five hours, lead me to Riomaggiore which was going to be my base. All through the nine minute journey from La Spezia to Riomaggiore, I kept craning my neck for a glimpse of the sea but most of the journey was through dark tunnels. Its not untill you reach Riomaggiore Rail Station that the sea smacks you in face with its brilliant blue. I arrived at Riomaggiore around 6 pm and in October, the sun had already set by then. I had just about time to snap off my first shot on Cinque Terre soil.

The view from Riomaggiore Rail Station

My 'dig', the Hotel La Zorza was only a short walk from the rail station and about five minutes uphill from the wharf. The room was a reasonably sized suite with a couple of bedrooms right over a loud bar. They served incredible mojitos but the music promised to keep me up a good part of the night. Only I was so tired, I was out the minute my head hit the pillow. Sure, the couple of mojitos I had, helped !

Early morning 5:30 am it was time for the sunrise shots. The early wake up call was well worth the effort.

View of the town from down the water.

A common enough scene from Riomaggiore, clothes hanging from colourful windows.

No prizes for guessing who stays here - the local fisherman.

Beautiful calm clear waters and a glorious sunrise waiting to unfold.

Riomaggiore is connected to the next town Manarola by rail road and via the famous Via dell'Amore or translated in English - The Road of Love. It is said that after World War I, the people of Riomaggiore and Manarola decided to build a road joining the two villages so that the young people of the two villages could meet and fall in love, hence the name via dell'Amore. Unfortunately, via dell'Amore was closed due to some rock falls during my visit, I therefore used the train to run up and down the Cinque Terre.

Google Map showing Riomaggiore and Manarola, the next town. The picture on the right shows the stairs that lead to the via dell'Amore. Unfortunately the road of love was closed during my visit.

Manarola

Manarola for me was the prettiest of the five towns and blessed with more grapevines than the other Cinque Terre villages. Manarola is famous for its sweet Sciacchetra wine and people speak an esoteric local dialect known predictably as Manarolese. The train station leads straight onto the main street which winds its way to the little harbour and then upto the trekking path for the next town Corniglia. Its on the trekking path that you come up to the vantage point which provides the region's most popular postcard view.

Manarola at the blue hour.

I spent a gorgeous afternoon watching the sun change from a beautiful golden to an evening blue as the lights came on. Three strawberry mojitos ofcourse made the glorious sunset even more beautiful if possible.

One of the three strawberry Mojitos !

The main street.

The local kindergarden - yes, even in a place beautiful as this, kids are made to go to school and do homework !

In the glow of the afternoon sun.

The next town - Corniglia.

Keeping invaders at bay - a relic of the past.

View from high above the hill, from the local graveyard. It was dark and the graves were right behind me. No camera shake - I guess the alcohol in the mojitos did their work !

Vernazza

After the late evening in Manarola, the next day I woke up early again to visit Vernazza. I had a train to catch to Rome by 11:30 am. Vernazza was the fourth, in the sequence of villages, also very very pretty. On the far right, a castle stood but now only the tower is what remains, which probably served as the town's lookout back in the pirate days. There is a church on the harbour front which is unusual for its entryway which faces East. Beyond the town, vineyards, with their many terraces fill the mountainside. The main cobbled street Via Roma, lined with many small cafes, links the main train station to the small harbour.

Vernazza the jewel of Cinque Terre

Its a pretty steep climb upto this vantage point and surprisingly there were no signs to indicate the way. You suddenly have to turn right into an alley which lead to stone steps and then just keep climbing. I was huffing and puffing half way up. There was an old Japanese couple just ahead of me, decidely ancient. I suddenly felt better after overtaking them - nothing like a little ol' competition to get the juices flowing. The view from high up here was breathless to say the least.

I was able to cover only Riomaggiore, Manarola and Vernazza on this visit, leaving Corniglia and Montessero for a future visit, Inshallah !

Next stop Rome ! Arriverderci, Grazie Mille !

About the Author

I'm a photography enthusiast. I love to travel to new places and take pictures that tell stories of the place, its history and its people. I live in the ancient and colourful city of Delhi in India. You can find me at :

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Sandeep Mathur
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