…is not enough.
Famous for the walking trails that connect these five tiny villages on the coast, the Cinque Terre is simply stunning.
I probably should have done a little reading before departing on our first trek, however. Passing a number of German tourists wearing hiking boots and sporting walking sticks, I began to doubt my choice of thongs as suitable footwear. One young lass, simultaneously friendly and condescending, said “Good luck wif yer sandalz. Ze track iz not made fer sandalz”. It was very tempting to raise my chin defiantly and remark: “I am Australian. And we wear thongs!”.
Sadly, she was right. Much of the trail between Monterosso and Vernazza is crumbly shales of slate, barely wide enough for one. One false move could see you tumbling down a steep hillside into the ocean. And the incline (and then, of course, the decline) — so many stairs! Thank goodness there are spectacular views, giving good reason to stop and catch your breath without looking like a wuss.
Needless to say, for the following three walks, I wore proper enclosed shoes, firmly strapped on my foot. Ironically, it was in these shoes that I painfully rolled my ankle, recovering just in time to avoid going ass-over-breakfast off a cliff. Upon return I should have sought out the advice-giving tourist to tell her that I had, once and for all, proven my original footwear choice the correct one. Or not.
A staple on every menu in our little town, was the seafood delight Zuppa di Pesce. It must be ordered for a minimum of two people, but goodness, our dish could’ve served four. A huge clay-pot is brought to the table with mountains of fresh seafood in a magnificent tomato-based soup broth. On the side is freshly grilled bread, drizzled with dark aromatic olive oil. Amazing. At our restaurant the kitchen was glass-walled and it was fabulous to watch the chef select handfuls of fresh mussels and fish and squid to throw into sizzlingly hot clay-pots. It was a very popular restaurant — all tables were full — and the chef was a smoothly oiled machine; fast without appearing frantic. I dare say he’d been serving up delicious seafood for a very long time.
On our second evening in Monterosso, hubby and I celebrated our ten-year (dating, not marriage) anniversary. Freakishly, at our restaurant of choice, I spotted a lady at a table of four who looked remarkably like the mother of a girl I went to primary and high school with. This friend moved to Queensland immediately after the conclusion of high school, and I hadn’t seen her since. I waited for a break in the table’s conversation and made my enquiry, my suspicions confirmed. Isn’t it odd the places you run into people?
So, in short, my recommendation to potential Cinque Terre travellers: stay a minimum of five nights. After you’re done with the trail trekking, beach lounging and restaurant dining, you’ll want time left over to explore the beautiful little towns too. I’ll be going back someday… hey, come with me?