After I posted the blog last night, I was shutting down the computer, when who should come walking up to me but our three new friends from Oklahoma. Janet and her newly-graudated-from-OSU daughter, Sarah, and Janet’s sister, Elizabeth, were back in Vernazza from a day of exploring Monterossa.
Barb was saving a table at the restaurant we so enjoyed last night, so the five of us enjoyed each others company, lots of laughs, the sharing of tips, and another wonderful meal and desert at the Trattoria da Sandro.
It was a delightful evening, capped off with a romantic stroll to the harbor and breakwater.
As the day had been a bit warmer, we were able to keep our room window open and enjoy the sound of the surf as we fell asleep.
Vernazza Church and Town Square at Night (from our room)
Today, Saturday, May 15th, was an overcast and off-and-on-again drizzly day here in our second full day in Cinque Terre.
Since I have a bit of time this evening, let me tell you a bit more about the Cinque Terre (CHINK-weh TAY-reh, which a remote mountainous chunk of the Italian riveria.
Rick Steves calls it “the traffic-free, lowbrow, underappreciated alternative to the French Riveria. There’s not a museum in sight.
“Just sun, sea, sand (pebbles), wine, and pure, unadulterated Italy.
“Enjoy the five (cinque) villages, exploring, hiking, shopping, and evening romance in one of God’s great gifts to tourism.”
As you may have seen in our report from yesterday, four of the small towns fill ravines and one sits on a promontory.
I’m standing in Monterossa. Off my left shoulder, going from left to right, are Vernazza, Corgnilia, and Manarola
This rugged section of coast was first inhabited in the medieval times as “the five lands.” In the feudal era, the land was watched over by castles and tiny communities grew up in their protective shadows, ready to run inside at the first hint of a Turkish Saracen pirate raid.
Marauding pirates from North Africa were a persistent problem until the last raid in 1545. And, after the pirate threat was gone, the villages prospered, catching seafood, growing grapes, and making wine.
Until the advent of tourism in just this last generation, the five villages remained isolated, and each comes with its own traditions, dialect, and proud heritage.
Today, after a petit dejuner of croissants, prosciutto stuffed froccia bread, and caffé latte, we were off on the train to Monterossa, the most western of the towns in Cinque Terre.
This was supposed to be the weekend of the annual Lemon Festival, but we found out it had been rescheduled for next weekend given the inclimate weather. Barb observed, “Only in Italy can they reschedule an annual fiest and festival on a few days notice.”
However, it did not detour our enjoyment of this small village. Monterossa al Mare is the only of the five Cinque Terre towns built on flat ground. It has a new town that is very much like a beach resort.
Barb and the ‘new town’ of Monterossa al Mare in the background
At the end of the town is an unusual sculpture called ‘Il Gigante.’ It’s 45 feet tall and looks like it was hewn from the rock cliff. However, it’s actually made from reinforced concrete and dates from the early 20th century.
Il Gigante, minus his arms
He once held a trident in his arms and a dance floor for a fancy villa on his back. But, a violent storm has taken his arms and trident.
The lovely part of Monterossa is its old town, which cradles Old World charm in its many small crooked lanes.
Sorry, no pictures of cute and quaint crooked lanes
We spent the better part of the day in a myriad of hole-in-the-wall shops and pastel townscapes. Monterossa has a beautiful small church, which dates from 1302 and is made from black and white marble from Carrara (where Michaelangelo got the white marble he used to carve his famous statues). The lacy stone rose window is one of the prettiest we’ve seen.
Rose window in Monterossa church
We enjoyed a light lunch of froccia pizza (which is prepared like pizza, only using a froccia bread crust instead of a pizza crust).
The seas were calm enough today that we were able to take a ferry from Monterossa back to Vernazza.
Okay, it’s more like a yacht than a ferry …
It gave us a wonderful set of fresh views of the mountains and five towns – and a unique view of Vernazza from the Mediterranean Sea.
Heading into the harbor at Vernazza
However, the boat’s pitching and tossing made disembarkation along a thin gangplank precarious at best.
Nevertheless, we stayed dry and spent the remainder of the afternoon touring our little home-away-from-home Vernazza, just exploring the streets and the vistas from the hills around town.
Overlooking Vernazza from the coastal trail to Corgnilia
Having been here three days, we’re now recognizing locals we’ve met and greeted as if we’re long-time friends. It’s kinda charming, in a way.
We came back to our room to write this blog, and take a little nap, before our last meal in Vernazza. But, when we arrived back in our apartment, we heard the noise of the fisherman moving their boats into the town square.
Getting the fishing boats ready in Vernazza
They are predicting better weather tomorrow, so the men will go fishing and we will leave the Cinque Terre to head to Florence.
Here’s the entire series:
Dr. Walt and Barb’s Italian Adventure — May 8-25, 2010
If you’ve ever wanted to go to Italy (or even if you have in the past), you’ll want to come along with us and enjoy the sites, sounds, food, and art.
Hopefully, this blog will stimulate you to put visiting these amazing cities on your to-do list. Just click on any of the days or cities you want to visit with us.
We’ve hoped you’ve had fun accompanying us on this trip to Italy, and that one day you’ll be blessed to experience and enjoy her yourself.