La Spezia Italy – Cinque Terre
Writing this as we speed along in relative luxury at 300KPH on the TGV in France from Nice to Lyon. A few days back when we arrived in La Spezia from Naples we were met at La Spezia station by Marco, the father of the owner of the B&B we were staying at for the next three nights.
Rail travel in both Italy and France on their high speed trains has been pretty good on the whole, probably the only part where it was a bit long and crowded was the Genoa to Nice leg, where we couldn’t reserve seats and had to crowd in to the train with our bags squeezed in between seats.
The day after we arrived in La Spezia we caught the train to Cinque Terre the 5 picturesque towns along the coast of the Italian Riveria, which are Unesco listed as world heritage sites. The towns originated along the coast after an extensive network of terraces were constructed for cultivating crops and vines.
The train ticket gave us the option of 2 days to hop on and off the train between the towns and La Spezia for about 16 Euro each – which was pretty good. We started with Riomaggiore the first town, which was really very pretty and we had a good look and walk around taking pictures. Still quite a few tourists around even though the hiking tracks were mostly closed except between two of the towns further up (Corniglia and Vernazza). The area is famous for the hiking tracks and spectacular views between the towns but recent earthquakes and land slips in the area had closed most of the tracks. You can see the evidence from most of the towns, where the racks have been cut.
Still it was very pretty and we had another great day with the weather, we really have been extremely lucky all holiday with really great sunny weather. We had lunch in the second town Manarola in a very pretty spot overlooking the harbour and ocean. The third town, Corniglia is the only one without a natural harbour and it sits on top of a hill which involves a climb up 488 steps to the top, quite a hike in itself. We had a glass of the local white wine in a great little wine bar in Corniglia, which was a nice break. Then it was on to Vernazza the town that was devastated by a flood in 2011. We ended up in the final town Monterosso and had a lovely Italian dinner at one of the local restaurants again with the local Cinque Terre white wine. Lovely.
Originally we were going to go through the 5 towns over 2 days, but managed to finish them all in one long exhausting day! That left us free the next day to catch the ferry from La Spezia to Portovenere that is just west of La Spezia. This town is also heritage listed but not quite as touristy as the Cinque Terre towns, so it was a very relaxing day we had a quiet stroll around the town, went up to the old church situated on the point and then had a great lunch in the old town. Again it is one of the towns where the houses were all built next to each other to form a wall to keep invaders out. The houses have been retained and painted in the lovely pastel colours similar to Cinque Terre. Pontovenere turned out to be just as pretty as the Cinque Terre towns, but without the tourists everywhere.
We took the ferry back to La Spezia and had a great dinner at a local La Spezia restaurant. I must say I have really enjoyed the Italian food.