Saturday, May 24, 2008

Cinque Terre, Italy: Vernazza

Before this Cinque Terre trip, I did a lot of research online, read many blogs, googled travel reviews, queried Lonely Planet Thorntree, and more. There is one thing though that seemed to be the common denominator, and that is Vernazza being the most picturesque of all the 5 Terres.

The picturesque pastoral village of Vernazza from the hiking trails (going to Monterosso).

So during the 2 hour hike from Monterosso al Mare to Vernazza I had this I-can’t-wait-to-see-Vernazza feeling brewing up, also because we underestimated the hike. Firstly, we thought its going to be easy just like the Manarola to Corniglia route, and secondly, we didn’t know it will take us 2 hours! So this growing feeling has been staying inside my stomach for the whole journey -– When are we going to get a glimpse of Vernazza? When?

And alas, we saw from a distance the little village of Vernazza. Blondine and I were like, WOW... Our tiredness immediately faded away at what we just saw. I had to get off the trail to go down to a small alcove, it was actually a crag. The locals probably cleared the bushes as it’s the perfect spot to take a foto of this bucolic little village.

Vernazza is indeed the most picturesque of the 5 Terres from a bird’s eye view, although in my opinion, not as authentic compared to Riomaggiore and Manarola. It has this faultless and idyllic setting a photographer dreams. The oxidized pastel colored buildings clinging to the rock cliffs were huddled together forming a U-shaped fishing bay. The Santa Margherita Church in the waterfront, its dome soaring above serving as a highlight against the impressive and only proper harbour in the whole of Cinque Terre, while the ruined archaic stoic tower of the Belforte castle overlooking the Ligurian Sea gave the perfect touch. Truly a post card site!

I also loved the small winding and staircased alleys we passed through going down to the marina, but after the 2 hours trek with just a 15 minute stop, I was not in the mood to discover the lofty and charming passageways. The last thing I wanted to do was mount again my very tired legs. The last leg of the hike was actually a long rugged decline. Too much weight put on my knees and legs during our downward descent made them tremble a bit, and we were HUNGRY! So hungry our stomachs were grumbling for seafood! Growling I suppose.

We picked a nice restaurant by the corner of the haven and ordered our seafood: mussels and seafood mix pasta with half a liter carafe of dry white wine please. It was one of those enjoyable meals I have ever had. Or could it be when you are tired and hungry, any meal is enjoyable?

The pizza looked so mouthwatering but Blondine thought it was bland and she took some of my pesto sauce in my mussels as additional flavour.

After our late lunch we wandered a bit avoiding any road that would make us climb. In Vernazza the side streets were all staircased narrow alleys, and some were hidden passageways, which are totally charismatic and inviting, but, not when you just finished scaling a mountain range for 2 grueling hours.

Also, in the travel reviews I have read, Vernazza is said to be built around 1,000 A.D. and the town has currently about 500+ households and a total of 1,000+ inhabitants. Like any small town place, the locals are said to be a very closely-knit community.

I managed to do some little shopping and bought a few pasta herb packs which will be my present for the Dutchman. We also hung out in the marina soaking under the sun and watched the people go by. I will not argue that watching and studying passersby has always been a great pastime during traveling.

Speaking about people, we noticed that the average age of the tourists visiting Cinque Terre was around 50? Blondine argued its 80, lol.

When we got back to the Netherlands our friends were asking us if we were chased by the suave, assertive, and good-looking Italian men. Well, hello? There were only older men there, and they all have their wives in tow! Not a chance, haha!

Travel Period: May 2008
Destination: Cinque Terre (Liguria), Italy

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