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July 7, 2013

Cinque Terre in July – Try Vertigo!

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So on the final Sunday of June we drove to the Italian Naval port of La Spezia, with its lovely esplanade gardens and pretty harbour.  From here we parked in the underground station car park (1 euro per hour) and took the train to Vernazza.  This was a gorgeous summer Sunday and the very frequent trains were full of people going to the beach, however, the journey is short and for the first 5 minutes are underground from the town before emerging transformatively into the coastal town of Riomaggio with the azure blue sea fermenting and foaming refreshingly below the train’s windows.

This is the world famous Cinque Terre, the five coastal fishing towns that lie below the huge terraced cliffs and hills of the Ligurian coast.  It is a spectacular setting for these pretty and busy little places.  The Ligurian hills are covered in vineyards and olive groves; the sea air making an olive oil that is, apparently, the most expensive in Italy.  The village of Vernazza has a lively and jolly atmosphere today, the visitors gasping at the swelling sea beating up against the dizzingly high land above them.  There are a lots of cafes and restaurants doing a brisk business in lunches and ice creams.  We, however, were headed for the coastal path.

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The path that runs from Vernazza to Riomaggio is a toll path and costs 5 euros per person, and is open only from Easter to the end of October. It includes the ‘Sentiero dell’ amore’  (the pathway of love) at the southern end of this coast.  We were walking the 4.5 kilometres to the village of Corniglia, the next village along.  After a short stretch of steep steps, we emerged into a more gentile climb among the flower covered tracks becoming higher and higher above the crystal blue Tyrrhenian Sea.  We walked the pathway in sandals so the terrain was not tricky or dangerous…….however, there are a few parts of the path that do seem to give way to a significantly steep drop into the sea, it did not feel unsafe but I did feel a little dizzy in certain places (more later on my vertigo!).  There were many, many people on this path today but this did not spoil our joy and wonder at the beauty and marvel of this coastline.  In the photo above you can see the village of Corniglia on the cliff top in the distance.  This village is, in our view, the prettiest of the Cinque Terre, it is also the quietest due to the fact that is high above the railway station and is a very stiff uphill walk in any direction.  We sat here in front of the church of St. John and ate our well-deserved packed lunch, sat by the harbour and ate ice-cream.

The Cinque Terre may be very popular in high summer with tourist and locals, as it is a world heritage site.  It is a fantastic place to visit, even though it is 60 miles from Casa Verde…….take your camera and be steady on those cliff paths.

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Back to my vertigo!!!  Here is a picture of the Ponte Sospeso, a 200 metre long footbridge that runs across the river Lima a few miles north of us.  It runs from Mammiano Basso to Popiglio and it was built by a local factory owner (a Scotsman, I think) in the 19th century to enable workers from Popiglio to walk to his factory in Mammiano without travelling the 6 kilometres around the road.  We were very excited about the prospect of walking across.  The bridge is made of a heavy steel construction with sides just above waist height but the base is constructed of a grill like material, that you can obviously see through, down to the foaming river below.  Further more even in a light wind it wobbles….a lot!!!  Well, Darren made it all the way across and back, whilst I got about one third across felt the bridge sway and twist slightly and went into a siezure of panic and rigidity that I feared I would not move forward…or back again!  After catching my breath for a few minutes I turned tentatively, looking only ahead..and headed with increasing reassurance back to firm ground.

Please feel free to try this experience if you wish, I am probably an exception in my fear of heights,  so perhaps I had better cancel that balloon ride I have always dreamed of.


1 Comment »

  1. What a gorgeous peep into the Cinque Terre, I never got there whilst I lived in Tuscany and now I wish I had. I would be with you on the bridge, Malcolm, you were very brave to give it a go, I don’t think I could have done. Looking forward to seeing you both in september xxx

    Comment by Liz — July 19, 2013 @ 7:37 pm

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