Cinque Terre (5T)


Pronounced “chinqua terra or terri”, the title given to these five small towns on the western coast of northern Italy literally means “five lands”.  These small towns were centered around a mideval tower or castle, built to protect its inhabitants from raiding pirates.  Small towns built up around these defensive structures and for hundreds of years these communities lived in isolation, living off of the fish caught locally and the wine produced from the many vineyards that line the steep hillsides. Below is the view from our room.


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We arrived in Riomaggiore (the southernmost town of the 5T) around five in the evening after driving through a torrential downpour from Pisa to Cinque Terre.  The town was very quiet with almost no stores open and very few people in the street.  When the owner Roberto showed up to the hotel to help with our baggage and check us in, he told us “today is no good for you”.  He was telling us that Friday had been a red alert day in the Cinque Terre. The storms were the worst they had experienced in five years.  Here was the main point: all of the restaurants were closed.  The Mamma Mia pizza shop was supposed to close at 5 pm.  It was 5:08 pm.  Russ and I took off quickly to see if we could beat the closing, but were called back when Roberto had secured us a reservation at his friend’s restaurant up the hill.  Our gracious, but frazzled host, Eduardo, seated us quickly and was very helpful in helping us make our selections.  Being the only restaurant open in Riomaggiore, the staff was just overwhelmed.  Despite this, our dinner was one of the best we had.  My grilled sea bass was delizioso!img_4583

Saturday turned out to be an excellent day in the 5T.  We wanted to take the ferry up to the northernmost village, then make our way south on the train.  Roberto our host told us “today, it is not possible.”  So we made our way down to the train station and purchased a ticket for the day.  The availability of gelato is a dietary challenge on this trip.  While some people like to bar crawl, drinking from bar to bar, we chose to go on a “gelato crawl”.  Eating a small cup from each village but one, we ate our way through the Cinque Terre, always in search of the elusive ameretto.  Most places could only offer us amarena which is vanilla with cherry mixed in.

We had lunch on Saturday in Coniglia which is the only village off of the water having been built on the top of a hill.  Coniglia has the most level streets of the five villages.  One can easily walk from one end to the other in less than 15 minutes.  We chose lunch at a restaurant in the middle of the village which put us in a prime location to pass Alberto’s Gelateria on our way back to the bus.  Corniglia is the only village where the only way up from the train station is by bus or a long staircase with 365 steps.  We chose the bus.