9-10 May 2022
Life on the Cinque Terre is made up of alternating periods of rest, strenuous trekking, and moving from one cafe to the next. Pace yourself.
I determined to count the steps of Scalinata Lardarina as I descended to board a train to Vernazza. I have seen any number between 377 to 382. As I zigzagged down the flights I must have blacked out somewhere around 270. I know I began to recount and reached what must have been 100 more. Not like I’m going to start over.
For those who realize over several days that trains are not checking tickets, beware, do not let this fool you. Exiting the train in Vernazza, there was an official. Young ladies in front of me will be faced with a hefty fine for not having a valid ticket. The train station is above the street in the center of town so very convenient but still arriving trains are heard all over town.
I have an additional climb to reach my room. I am reminded of the final scene from Pretty Woman where Gear’s character must climb to the top floor. When in Cinque Terre, I agree with Vivian, “Only the best.” I have a large window overlooking the rocks and sea to the south, a westerly balcony overlooking the castle ruins, and a patio in front over the town and the view to Monterosso. To enjoy the view and ocean breeze, I agreed to do the climb.
Choices become harder and harder. Each Cinque Terre village becomes a current favorite. The crowds do not deter. There is a reason why people flock here like the seagulls. It is why I am here. The Cinque Terre is one of the most beautiful places on earth. I travel from another idyllic coastal village and am happy to admit Cinque Terre is heavenly.
With the closest thing to a natural harbor, overseen by castle ruins, tower, and church, Vernazza is beautiful and best approached by sea. However, the train station will do and the train deposits me, after a three minute ride, into the middle of town. While the most action, along with hoards of people, is at the harbor, walking down the central street of Via Roma brings me to restaurants, bars, the ubiquitous souvenir shops, wine stores and more.
It is hard to imagine this street was inundated with several feet of water, mud and debris a decade ago.
I have come to find a favorite cafe and, after a couple days in town, almost feel a regular. My life once again becomes walk, pause, relax, walk, pause – a slow dance from cappuccino to Prosecco to gelato to “un bicchiere di vino bianco” to coffee Americano. I feel I deserve it as alternate days are spent scaling mountains along the beautiful hiking trails of the Cinque Terre.
After climbing to Doria Castle and its restored tower for views, as nothing much else it there, I walk to the 14th century Church of St. Margaret of Antioch. After this, I have pretty much covered the points of interest in Vernazza. From the seashore promenade, I make the long but gradual climb to Friedhof Vernazza, the town’s cemetery.
But first, in transit, I am caught in a true downpour accompanied by quite a show of lightening and thunder. Moments before, the sun was shining and sky was blue. My weather app totally failed to mention the incoming storm. I would estimate an inch fell in about 40 minutes. I definitely would not want to be on the mountain now and wonder about the conditions of the path for tomorrow’s hike. It also brings to mind the several feet of water and mud that swept down this same street in the 2011 floods. Water was up to the second floor windows!
In general, the weather is a surprise. Most days have been clear with mild temperatures in the low to mid 60s, perfect for hiking. The evenings are cool and, hard to imagine, I am sleeping under wool blankets! Yesterday it poured rain for 45 minutes then sun came out again. Today it was 74 degrees. Known for summer heat and humidity, it is a very different story in the Cinque Terre in April and May.
I sit on my balcony. The occasional train roars through town heading for La Spezia or north towards Levanto. The sun sets, a sea breeze ripples the water. Seagulls settle for the night among the rocks below. Swallows dip and zip around the towers and buildings. Life is good.