WoT's Hot

Cinque Terre – Italy

Supriya Newar

Cinque Terre, (pronounced as Chinqu Terrey) when translated from Italian to English means five lands. These five lands are actually the five villages of Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore giving us the name, Cinque Terre.

Leaving rows of cypress trees in the small town of Montecatini, we had driven towards La Spezia and entered the Liguria region in North Western Italy. A train ride from La Spezia got us to Vernazza, one of the five villages.

Photo credits: Belfort Tower: Best of cinque terre;                                              Photo credits: Vernazza: Italy This Way

As soon as we stepped onto Vernazza, I knew we had made a mistake; a mistake by not allotting a minimum of one night stay at Cinque Terre. With its tall, colorful pile of homes standing cheek to jowl, their floral wooden windows spilling open onto winding motor-less pathways, the village had me charmed immediately. I followed the main pathway till I reached the edge of the coastline beyond which beckoned an azure Mediterranean.

One of the most famous buildings in Vernazza is the Belforte Tower, a bell tower which is no doubt a steep climb on a hot October day but one which comes with the promise of a bird’s- eye view of unending turquoise waters as well as of the colorful harbor. Having negotiated the steep spiral steps, once atop, I took in the sea breeze and the view: rows of boats with fishing nets in the pier and ships in the horizon on one end and buzzing shops, alfresco bars and restaurants and the main square or the piazza on the other.

I learnt that this beautiful village, rated by many as one of the most picturesque villages in Italy had been hit by floods in 2011 leaving several shops and homes completely destroyed. It took enormous collective hard work of the villagers to ensure that Vernazza regained normalcy. Today however, there is hardly any sign of the wreckage except a mark on one of the walls that has been retained to indicate how high the water level had risen to during the floods.

Photo credits: Monterossi Cafe: Cinque Terre;                                                                          Photo credits: Shopping: Exquisite Coast

Since we only had half a day in Cinque Terre, I pushed myself out of Vernazza to the village next door: Monterosso. Flatter than Vernazza, Monterosso is the largest of the five villages with narrow medieval lanes or carruggi on one side and an extensive sand beach which is popular with locals and tourists, on the other. Getting lost in the winding lanes is a great idea as they are dotted with cafes, bustling eateries, shops selling exquisite stationery, jewelry, art, clothes and souvenirs, most of which are inspired by the coastal region. Foodies will love the wide variety of locally cultivated olive oils and handmade pastas for sale.

After ambling around the old town for more than an hour, I settled down at a road side pizzeria that looked like it was doing brisk business and treated myself to some excellent pesto flavored spaghetti. I wrapped up my sojourn in Cinque Terre, a UNESCO World Heritage Site at the sandy beach of Monterosso that was teeming with tourists lapping up the sun and families out with their kids, enjoying a dip on a hot day.

The beauty of these rugged cliffs and romantic villages had left the poet Lord Byron much inspired. I now knew why.