Cinque Terre, Italy – September 11th to 14th 2013
Initial Thoughts: Vernazza is a charming, little, seaside town with truly exceptional views. Its slowly climbing cobble stone streets are filled with quaint shops and fantastic seafood restaurants. The beauty and charm of this coastal town live up to its reputation. The village is one of five once-isolated towns located within the Cinque Terre National Parks and is protected from development. All the Cinque Terre villages are car-free so visitors must arrive by train or the trails and while this does reduce the vehicle traffic, Vernazza is no longer a quiet and remote village. Each day from 10am to 5pm, the town in overrun with tourists from nearby cities and cruise ship ports. It is understandable that these groups would want to visit such as picturesque place, but the volume of people in a very small area is overwhelming. One of the main reasons to visit Cinque Terre is to walk the trails that connect the once inaccessible towns. These 4 paths have varying degrees of difficulty and loveliness but I can’t tell you very much about them as 3 of the 4 were closed during my visit. In 2o11 there was a massive mudslide that nearly destroyed several of the towns, including Vernazza, and reconstructions of the trails has been slow. Instead of walking the famous paths, I took the train between all five towns and I was still able to appreciate some simply stunning, if somewhat crowded, views.
Favourite Moment: After not having seen my parents in over six months, their arrival to Italy was definitely a highlight for me. On our first evening together, we went out for dinner at a recommended restaurant and had a delicious Italian meal using fresh local ingredients. Freshly, lovingly Italian food must be one of god’s great gifts to the world. Being new to the experience of seafood, perhaps I simply didn’t know what I had been missing, but the pesto stuffed mussels, a regional delicacy, were sinfully good. I tried bites of my mum’s walnut ravioli and my dad’s grilled swordfish while we shared a bottle of house made red wine and caught up on months of stories. It might have been the company, the atmosphere, the food, or a wonderful combination of them all but we truly embraced the Italian experience.
Takeaways: It pays to research a place before you visit if there are certain attraction you really want to experience. While my parents had researched the towns, the trails, the history of the park, and found a lovely rental apartment before we arrived, we didn’t actually check the conditions of the trails at the time of our visit. Had we visited the National Park website and known the trails were closed, or read on some recent travel blogs about the number of visitors, we would have had more realistic expectations of our visit.
Useful Advice: Prior to visiting Vernazza I did read GQ Trippin‘s posts about Cinque Terre. Their advice was definitely helpful and I managed to avoid some of their pitfalls.We rented a small, local apartment from Mrs Villa – a 80 year old local lady who told us to meet her outside of the gelato shop to get the keys! She only spoke Italian and seemed to consider it our responsibility to translate her instructions into English, which frankly was an attitude I loved. It is possible to walk everywhere within the towns and catch a frequent train or ferry between the towns. Once the roads and the trails are fully repaired it will also be possible to drive and/or walk between the towns. Check the Cinque Terre National Park site for the latest updates.