On Sunday around noon Steve said, “Here’s my suggestion for the day. We’ll catch the 2 p.m. train to Corniglia and walk around there. Then we’ll get back on the train and visit Riomaggiore and walk around there. Then we’ll walk along the sea on the Cinque Terre National Park trail to Manarola and have dinner at Trattoria dal Billy. The trail between Riomaggiore and Manarola is flat, I PROMISE.” High fives all around. We walked down the hill.
Unfortunately, the train to Corniglia was delayed by about an hour, and the platform was crowded—not surprising for a nice Sunday in July. We waited in the scorching heat, and finally the train arrived. It was packed. We jammed ourselves in and went on our way.
We hopped off the train at Corniglia, the middle and smallest of the five villages, and scurried to a bus. Unlike its sister villages, lovely Corniglia sits high on the cliffs. It didn’t take us long to see the entire town. We stopped for a granita, and then Steve, Jenny, and I went to an enoteca (wine bar) to taste the local wine, which was nice. Julie and Cade joined us, and we wandered out to a magnificent viewpoint on the western edge of the village. We then jumped back on the bus and rode down the hill to the train station, where we waited for 30 or 40 minutes for the next train south.
At Riomaggiore, the southernmost village, we hopped off the train again and climbed up, up, up through the beautiful village to the top of the hill. From high above Riomaggiore we spotted the trail (down, down, down by the sea) to Manarola. It was about 6:30 by then, and the sky was beautiful, and the views were gorgeous. After soaking it all in, we walked back down, down, down the hill and got to the trailhead. The sign said bad things would happen to us if we didn’t have a ticket to walk the trail (or something like that), but the ticket booth was closed. Being more reckless than the rest of the crew, I would have started walking, but Steve left to investigate and learned that after a certain time each day, the trail is free. Good! And what a spectacular trail!
The Via dell’Amore (street of love) is a wonderful, gentle 20- or 30-minute walk. Unlike the rest of the trails in Cinque Terre National Park, which are hilly and unpaved, this one is well paved, and the views are spectacular, especially when the sun is setting. It was one of my favorite things that we did in the whole three weeks that my family was in Italy!
When we arrived at Manarola, which vies with Vernazza for the most photogenic village, Steve asked someone where our restaurant was and he pointed to the top of the hill. Groans all around! Up, up, up we climbed until I honestly thought I couldn’t take another step. I was going to ask the family to bring me dinner and roll me back down the hill. Suddenly the street flattened out and we were there—thirsty and exhausted. We sat down, ordered two bottles of water, and drained them in about one second!
We had a great dinner at Trattoria dal Billy, and the view of the sea was beautiful and restful. Julie and I ordered the mixed antipasto di mare and stared in wonder at the endless plates of seafood (the website says 12, but I believe we had more!)—some hot, some cold, some raw, some cooked, and all perfectly prepared. If you go to Trattoria dal Billy, do not miss this treat! Jenny and Steve ordered a local specialty, trofie pasta with pesto, potatoes, and green beans, for their appetizer, and I ordered it for my main course. It was good, but I was so full from the seafood that I could eat only a taste of it. For their main course, Jen and Steve shared delicious tuna, again perfectly prepared.
Full and happy, we sauntered back down the hill to the train station. We looked for the ticket office. It was closed. Steve walked back to the main square. No ticket office. (Note to self: Next time buy roundtrip tickets!) We walked to the platform and learned that other people waiting for the train didn’t have tickets either. We waited. We waited. We waited. Jenny led Cade and me in some exercises to keep us awake. We waited some more. We waited for an hour and finally a local train arrived at about 11 p.m. We scrambled onto the train and rode for 20 minutes or so to Monterosso. We hopped off the train for the last time that day, relieved that we hadn’t had to show a ticket. We looked for a cab. No cabs. We waited. Still no cabs. Finally we dragged ourselves up, up, up the 160 steps and the half-mile hill to our B&B and crashed! Bed has never felt so good!
Steve was right: The trail between Riomaggiore and Monterosso WAS flat. It was just all of the other walking we did that day that was up or down! Despite all of that climbing (or maybe because of it), we had a great day. The villages of the Cinque Terre are beautiful and well worth the effort!