A Walk through the Cinque Terre
From Pisa, it's an easy train ride to the Cinque Terre, or five lands (towns), that cling to the cliffs along the coast of Liguria. We rode this train one morning, arriving in Riomaggiore, the first of these towns. At the Visitor Center of the Parco Nazionale delle Cinque Terre we bought park passes and a map and set out to explore. A brief walk through the tiny village took us to the small harbor.
Continuing on, we soon arrived at the entrance to the Blue Route, the path along the edge of the cliffs overlooking the Ligurian Sea (below left). At first, we walked with a great crowd of folks, and even a tour group, but this did not reduce our amazement as we looked out over the blue, blue water below and the gray cliffs above (below right).
Ahead, we had views of the houses nestled in every fold and crease of the hills. After the first kilometer, the crowds thinned and we arrived in Manarola with its train station perched just above the sea, micro-harbor, narrow streets and pastel houses.
The trail from Manarola was perched along the edge of a cliff overlooking the sea way below. We continued to walk, looking back to admire the town perched seemingly so precariously over the ocean.
The trail descended from the high cliffs nearly to the sea and then, we arrived at the foot of a stairway. We climbed and climbed and then arrived at the top. A sign welcomed us to Corniglia and congratulated us for climbing the 382 steps!
Hot and hungry, we bought a panini and a big bottle of water and found a shady bench for a picnic. Fed and cooled off, we explored the village, marveling at the buildings built on every rock outcropping, and the grape vineyards cascading down the steep slopes. We learned that in addition to fishing, the residents of the Cinque Terre, over centuries, created these walled and terraced fields to grow vines, olives and lemons. We attempted to imagine the manual labor that was required to create this agricultural space but gave up in bogglement! All that hard work has made the olives, grapes and lemons especially tasty!
We considered walking on to the next town, Vernaza, but decided to ride the train instead. This was perhaps the quaintest of the villages. We watched people on the beach, found a gelato shop for a cool and yummy snack, and a cafe for drinks.
We then returned to the station and we boarded the local train to ride home to Pisa. We were inspired as we considered the ingenuity of man to make a home in even the most difficult environments.
Our ride back to Pisa took us through several towns, including Massa, the port for Carrera, the marble quarry that had provided the white marble for so many great buildings and works of art. The bright white hillside glowed in the afternoon sun as we passed. Along the tracks great blocks, slabs, chunks and chips of marble were stacked and piled ready for shipment to faroff places. We felt humble knowing this was the place where Michelangelo had selected the blocks for his greatest works.
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