So I had arrived to Italy! I stayed in an Airbnb in Sestri Levante run by a wonderful mother and daughter duo. The daughter handles the internet communications and the mom, who can’t speak English, runs the place! Thank goodness for Google Translate!
Sestri Levante is a lovely little town in an ideal location. Portofino is to the north and the Cinque Terre area is to the south. Both areas are easily accessible by either train or boat. There is a path behind the Airbnb that leads near to the train station which the mom showed me quickly as we drove by on the way to the grocery store.
The next day I set out for my first visit to the Cinque Terre towns. The mom saw me as I was leaving and insisted on driving me to the train station. I knew it was going to be a long day of walking up and down cobblestone clad hills, so I happily accepted.
One thing to note is that there are many lovely seaside towns along the hillside coast of the Italian Riviera, but what makes the UNESCO Cinque Terre unique is that the five pedestrian seaside towns are joined together by the Sentiero Azzurro (Azure Trail) walking path. Unfortunately due to mud slides in 2011 the two paths between Riomaggiore, Manarola and Corniglia are closed; with only 100 meters of the Via dell’Amore section open. However, the two challenging paths joining the three towns of Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso al Mare are (depending on the day) still open.
But even if you don’t want to walk the Sentiero Azzurro path, walking through the five towns themselves is very beautiful with the spectacular pastel colors of the homes popping out from the green hillsides.
The roads in the towns can be very demanding in and of themselves because they are steep and uneven due to the cobblestones.
Wear your swimsuit under your clothes because there are a few spots in the port areas where you can take a little dip in the water and lay out on the rocks. Which is very refreshing after the steep climbs up and down the streets in the hot sun!
Visiting all five towns is made easier by taking the train that joins them. Take note that the cost of each train trip between each town is €4, so if you want to visit them all, it makes sense to purchase the TM Cinque Terre day card for €16. This card gives you unlimited train travel between the cities of La Spezia, Levanto and the Cinque Terre; unlimited travel on the Cinque Terre town buses; access to free wifi; public restrooms; and discounts on some museums.
I finished my first day in Cinque Terre in Monterosso al Mare where I had a delicious dinner at one of the beach side restaurants.
After a long day of visiting all five towns, I decided that it was time to head home. I arrived to the train station and began the walk to where the path was…..or at least to where I thought it was! It was close to midnight, very dark and I couldn’t find the path! Because I hadn’t actually walked it yet, I didn’t know exactly where it was! Thank goodness I had the address of where I was staying and a map. After asking a gentleman walking down the street where So-and-So Street was, I found my bearings and headed the long way home.
Moral of the story……don’t accept rides……at least not until you are sure of the way home!