One of the great delights of living in the Lucca area is that we have such varied landscapes. You can go to the high mountains and experience an alpine scene or enjoy the long sandy beaches of the Versilia coast. There are those mediaeval villages full of wonderful undiscovered treasures or our own mini Amalfi coast, Cinque Terre, which is found just over the border in Liguria. This group of haphazard brightly coloured fishing villages are tucked into bays along the craggy coast just east of La Spezia, where Shelley drowned. Each of the five villages has a small port. In the high season tourists swamp these tiny fishing communities but in spring and autumn they can be savoured with their benign climate. The villages were made a National park and Unesco World Heritage site in the late 90’s.
This winter has been hard and stressful and therefore when two special friends arrived just as our building work finished for the coming season Cinque Terre seemed a perfect day trip on a wonderful bright March morning. The beauty of these villagers is you don’t need a car. You can either take the train from Lucca but it does involve changes or leave the car at the station in La Spezia or Levanto, which is smaller but west of the group of villages. Out of the high season you can also leave the car in Riomaggiore, the first village east of La Spezia. Taking a boat from Viareggio is another option.
All the way along the coast is a train that acts like a local bus. In the summer months there are also ferries. I have never been when the ferries are working. In March 2011 the ticket options hadn't yet been decided, the Italians don’t believe in planning ahead! I think the nicest way is to take the train or boat to the furthest village Monterosso and work backwards unless of course you have left your car in Levanto in which case start in Riomaggiore. This means you can mix hiking with riding in the train when younger members start complaining or older joints don’t feel like tackling the steep bits. The flowers and cactus cling to the cliff capturing the perfect image of Mediterranean flora and fauna. If you wish to hike all the way the distances between the villages are between an hour and an hour and half except for the Via d’amore which is a paved walkway between Riomaggiore - Manarola and at points the paths are quite steep. There is a wonderful flight of steps to reach the village of Corniglia, and remember the sun beats down in summer. The village fountains provide wonderful cool water drinking water.
My trip however wasn’t about hiking and anyway most of the paths was closed due to winter landslides. Our party just enjoyed soaking up the sun the heat of the sun and looking at the flowers also ambling between the terraces looking at the vines just beginning to burst into bud ready to produce the famous Sciachetrà white wine. The grapes are harvested by using a mini monorail which can negotiate the steep terrace. The wonderful fat lemons are used to make limoncello.
Our lunch was a wonderful local pesto eaten by the waters edge and the lapping blue waves put us in all in relaxed summer mode.
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