On one Saturday morning we joined Stephanie and a few of her friends for a two-hour train ride from Livorno to Cinqueterre. Cinqueterre is a cluster of five (cinque) towns along the coast of Italy. They are a frequent tourist hangout by both foreigners and locals. They are noted for their quaint walkways, spectacular views, local wines, focaccia bread, beautiful beaches, as well as a series of hiking trails and train rides connecting all five towns.
We disembarked at town number four, Vernazza. This town rests in a tiny river valley opening out onto an even smaller harbor and beach. The sides of this valley rise steeply in every direction but are terraced for vineyards and small gardens. The town itself has only a few hundred inhabitants who seem to make the bulk of their living off of tourists like us. Stephanie and friends went to look for a hotel since they were planning to stay the night. We headed straight down the main drag for the beach. There is really only one street from the train station to the harbor, and it is dotted with focaccia shops, tourist schwag and cafes. Focaccia is a bread that originated from this region. Basically the bread rises, they put thumb and finger indentations into it, pour lots of olive oil and salt on it, and finally throw it into the oven to bake. It is yummy but makes you really thirsty. We cruised down to the harbor past sea archways under buildings and ate focaccia on the breakwater.
Later we climbed a medieval lookout tower above the harbor. The views are incredible. Tiny towns like Vernazza aligned themselves with larger medieval towns like Genoa to the north or Pisa to the south. These towers served as lookouts for pirates and other invaders by sea. Vernazza was an early warning station for Pisa (I believe) and in return received protection during times of warfare.
After a brief time playing in the water on the sunny beach we went for a hike to town number five, Monterosso. What beautiful views of the water, the jagged coastline and the hills dotted with lemon groves, vineyards and olive trees. The trail was well maintained but more strenuous than we had expected. We were short on water for the steep exposed hike, and it was hot! Sarah Jane practically ran the entire way, which of course resulted in arguments over who got to lead the hike and be in front. The sun and mid-afternoon timing (the witching hour for Emma) made everyone a bit crabby. Fortunately for us there was gelato in Monterosso, and all was made well. We relaxed in the sun on the beach with the locals. The beach was not really sand, but this really cool breccia of calcite and granite. It glittered in the sun. From the beach we walked about 75 meters to the train station and made our way home. It was another great day trip! I love this area of Italy!