Tag Archives: Cinque Terre

What “Closed for repairs” means in Italian

14 Apr

or How I got to see both sides of lovely Cinque Terre

Manarola fading into the distance.

A few weekends ago Colin and I took an early morning train to Cinque Terre with a couple of his friends, Leah and Christine. It was hard to make up for lost sleep on the ride because the sun was shining right in my eyes, but that’s really not something to complain about when you’re on your way to the beach.

But wouldn’t you know it, as soon as the train reached the coast, we were enveloped in clouds so low I honestly was afraid there was a fire. We stepped off the train and immediately pulled out scarves and windbreakers and made concerned noises about not having enough clothing, but hey, at least we’re here!

Only the ladies selling admission tickets said that three of the four coastal trails were closed due to bad weather—only the first 20-minute stroll to the second Terre was open. To see the other towns, one could ride the train or hike the trails that go up through the mountains.

With no real options but to press on, we set off on the over-crowded concrete walkway between Riomaggiore and Manarola, Lovers’ Walk. As it name suggests, it was covered with romantic graffiti and locks for enduring love, and I imagine that, had we not been surrounded by so many other people, it would have been quite sweet.

Manarola was as crowded as the trail had been, and we didn’t linger long. We started into the hills to get to Corniglia; mountainous trail was maybe not accurate, but it did get across the right meaning. Conversation came to a halt as we huffed and puffed up the hillside, passing groups of aging Italians who occasionally asked for a lift. After not too long, the path leveled out and became quite pleasant. It led us through olive tree orchards and people’s front yards—we paused briefly to smell what someone else was having for lunch (something with roasted bell peppers).

By the time we arrived in Corniglia, the sun was trying to come out and our tummies were grumbling. We lunched on sandwiches brought from home before grabbing a frozen yogurt and exploring the cute little town. At one point a young American couple approached our group: “Do you know what there is to do in this town?” Dude, you just don’t get it.

The hilly trail to the fourth town looked like more than we were up for, but it looked as though walking along the road was another option. But what should we notice just as we were leaving Corniglia? A handful of people walking on the main trail! We tentatively approached the official-looking men manning the (parking) shack next to the entrance: “Can we go down this way?” They gave us a shrug and a what-do-I-care look and that was all we needed!

The coastal trail was a bit easier and certainly scenic, but I wouldn’t say it was better than the hilly trail. It didn’t take quite as long and it did come with some pretty spectacular views, all the more so since the sun was really out by that time. But I maintain it was actually lucky that the trail was “closed,” (we came across one muddy patch), and we were forced to take the opportunity to see a side that most visitors ignore.

Vernazza, the fourth town, had a fun, beachy vibe with a few shrimping boats at anchor in the tiny harbor. The water was cold, but the short beach was lined with bronzing Italians soaking up the last hours of sun. It was getting to be dinner time, and we were anxious to get to our lodgings for the evening, so we hopped on the train and skipped the last town to go just a bit further north to Moneglia where Colin had found us a great rental apartment.

Moneglia, 30 minutes north of Vernazza, is so charming. It clearly thrives on the Cinque Terre tourist overflow that must be starting even as I type, but when we were there it was just starting to wake up. We grabbed some pizza and vino and dined in the room, nobody feeling quite up for a night out. We took it pretty easy the next day as well, finding a bun and some fruit for breakfast and exploring the little town. The only downside was the weather; like the day before, it was downright chilly all morning. After a lunch of pesto lasagna (we were quite near Genoa, the birthplace of pesto as Americans know it), we headed back to Bologna.

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