Cinque Terre is one of those places you must see before you die. Five beautiful towns a few kilometers apart, all built on the side of cliffs hanging over the ocean and all unique in their color-scheme and what they have to offer.
To begin, we parked our car on top of a mountain, a few kilometers above Riomaggorie, the first of the five towns. Parking was free and we just drove around until we saw dozens of other cars doing the same, parking near the bus-stop. It was summer, of course, so it was hot as hell, but eventually the bus turned up.
As the bus weaved its way down the mountain and rolled into town, we soon understand why there was no chance of parking here. The five towns of Cinque Terre are walking towns, which adds to their beauty.
Once in Riomaggorie, we walked down the only main street toward the beach and checked in to our apartment. The booking was taken care of by a company called La Dolce Vitta. They manage quite a few apartments in Riomaggorie. The particular apartment that we were offered on this particular visit was good-enough, just off the main street with a quick walk down to the beach and train station. However, I wouldn’t really recommend staying there though, because it was a little dirty with the bathroom having mould in the shower cubicle and the tiled-floors being sticky. We weren’t here to spend every waking moment in the room, though, and the location was great.
Riomaggorie hosts my favorite beach in Cinque Terre, so we spent the afternoon there. To get to it you have to walk around cliffs and there’s no sand, just hand-sized rocks to lie on and wade-in. Some people don’t like rock-beaches, but I prefer them. I hate it when sand gets all over me and my towel. Still, I put up with it if the beach is amazing. That night we bought local hand-made pesto (this is where pesto was invented!) and pasta and cooked up a storm in our kitchenette.
The next day we walked from Riomaggorie to Monterosso, the fifth town, passing Manarolla, Corniglia and Vernassa on the way. The walk is along cliffside rocky pathways and steep steps that hang over the ocean. It is truly an unforgettable experience but is not for the faint hearted. The entire walk can take five to six hours. There’s a cheat-walk though that you can do. You can walk from Riomaggorie to the first town, Manarolla, and then hop on the train and get off in Vernassa or Monterosso and skip the middle bit. This should save you a few hours if you can’t make the whole journey. On the first leg between Riomaggorie and Manarolla, there’s a section of cliff-pathways called “Lovers lane”. You’re supposed to bring a padlock and lock it somewhere on the trail to cement your love for your significant other.
On day three we moved location to Corniglia and stayed in an apartment above a church called Guelfi Giulia Apartments. It was raining on this particular day, so we wanted to get in to our apartment early. At 1 p.m. we arrived and found it really hard to contact the owner. In the end, soaking wet on the street, two different neighbors were ringing all over town to find her. She rolled up about 2 p.m. to let us in and then apologized that the apartment was still in a mess from the previous people. She said she’d be back at 5 p.m. to clean it but we could stay in the meantime. Although we thought it a little weird, we agreed and then ventured out in the rain to explore the town and coffee shops and bars.
Twenty minutes later and we were done. Yep, Corniglia is not the biggest town in the galaxy, but still has its own unique character. Corniglia is the only one of the five towns that has no beach access, but it has amazing cliff-views that allow you to see the other four towns. At 5:30 p.m. the owner rolled up to the apartment and we had been patiently waiting-around in the kitchen (the bedroom was still dirty). Somehow we were able to scam free wireless internet, so that was something to keep us busy. I made a little complaint to her that it would have been nice to sit in the bedroom and enjoy the view from the balcony over the town below over the buy clonazepam 0.5 mg last few hours, if the room had been cleaned a little earlier. She either didn’t understand or didn’t want to deal with my complaint, so she called her boyfriend. Let’s call him… Rocky.
Rocky rolled up a few minutes later and spoke broken english. He instantly raised his voice when I voiced my complaint and then said to me in no uncertain terms, “She had to work and no one has ever complained about this before in the last ten years of business. If you don’t like it you can leave, but you still have to pay because 40 other people wanted the room this weekend.”
Well, for those of you who know me, this sort of behavior doesn’t go over too well at all. I told him that his tone was unacceptable, the late-cleaning of the room was unacceptable and that we were going to leave and would not be paying. He then told me he was going to call the police and say we stole money from them for leaving without paying. I told him that I wasn’t scared by his threat. He told me we had basically signed a contract when we booked the room months earlier, saying we would pay no matter what. I said we didn’t have to pay for a sub-standard room and I was prepared to go to jail instead of paying for a dirty-room and faulty service. Then he calmed down. At this stage we were right up in each other’s faces and the two girls watching the whole thing unfold were preparing to split us up. We all agreed that we would stay and Rocky helped clean the entire place with Giulia.
Although the first day had been raining and thwart with drama, the next two days were sunny and we would pass Giulia and Rocky on the street below (where they lived) and we would all smile at each other. The remaining two days were pleasant. The apartment was clean and had a great view from the bedroom balcony looking out over the town of Corniglia. The church above the apartment would ring its bells loudly every hour, including while we were sleeping, but it adds to the charm of the town and it’s nothing a pair of earplugs can’t fix. Each day we caught the little orange bus to the train station, and then the train to one of the towns to explore the lane-ways and beaches.
Once we were done in Cinque Terre, we caught the only local bus from Corniglia to the train station and caught the train to Riomaggorie, where we had begun four days earlier. We walked up the giant hill up the main street of Riomaggorie and caught the little orange bus back around the mountain to find our car still in-tact and ready to rumble.
Rob Kaay is an Australian author & musician
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