Saturday, 12 September 2015

Monterorosso to Vernazza (Cinque Terre 1)


Today we start to walk between the five villages of the Cinque Terre. We catch the train from Levanto, where we are staying, to the most northerly village, Monterosso. We had naive hopes that the main tourist season might have passed, but the train is crowded and when we arrive at Monterosso the area around the station, which is on the promenade at the far end of the beach, is absolutely heaving. Oh no, we fret, are we going to be shuffling along the famous coast path?

We walk to the end of the promenade and observe most people carrying on through a tunnel under a rocky headland. Our South West Coast Path ethos kicks here and we studiously walk round the headland to emerge in the main part of the village, where we are delighted by the loggia at the back the church of San Giovanni Battista (rebuilt at the end of the 13th century)

We continue along the back of a smaller, quieter beach and follow a rising path at the end. There is a steady stream of other walkers, but we have left the real crowds behind.  There is soon a lovely view back over the town and you can see the rocky headland which divides it. The tower nearest the sea is described as being "in the style of 1500" and is presumably therefore Victorian.

There are several of these dramatic plants leaning out over the sea. We have seen the same thing on the Costa Brava in Spain,

We continue to climb as the path becomes steeper and more rocky, passing the control booth where you have to show (or buy) your day pass to walk along the coast path. Many more steps bring us to a short level stretch of path behind a terraced vineyard.

The path is very narrow in places and there is a significant traffic of people in both directions. It is a bit frustrating to constantly have to stop to let others pass. Gradually the numbers thin out a bit, but you are seldom alone for more than few moments. It's the same for all of us of course.

At some point we passed a headland and the views from now on are ahead only. We came to a viewpoint from which the whole of the Cinque Terre stretched out ahead.

A bit more climbing brings the first clear view of today's destination, Vernazza, far below.

The path follows a fold in the coast and where a small stream crosses it there are a few butterflies. I took this picture of what I think must be a Purple Hairstreak which has been subject to a bird attack and lost the orange spots and tails at the base of the hindwings. (These are actually a defence mechanism as they look like a head. It looks as though the defence worked.)

Suddenly there is a quiet section and we are walking along on a level, enjoying the peace and the easier walking. Ange says "isn't it nice to be able to see the clear path ahead and not be following perspiring Americans". Before I can respond, I voice from behind me pipes up "What about Canadians?". I say that we love Canadians and we walk along enjoying a pleasant chat for a while. This only ends when Vernazza springs into view in all its glory and I stop sharply to take some photos - our Canadian friends carry on.

Now the inevitable long descent continues until we enter the village via a narrow street. We turn right at the end and head down to the waterside to admire the church of Santa Margherita di Antiochia (13th century).

We had spotted that the highest point of the village was the ancient fortress and we had also noticed a large canopy which we thought must denote a restaurant. We found a sign for the Ristorante Castello and plodded up some steps to a narrow street leading to another set of steep steps (just what we needed!) to enjoy an excellent lunch in a prime position looking back toward Monterosso.

Conditions: warm (25 degrees), quite humid and, yes, we did perspire ourselves.

Distance: it is only 3.6 km between the edges of the two villages, plus whatever walking you do in them. The official map suggests two hours for the main walk. We took a bit longer with pauses for rest and photography.

Rating: four and half stars.

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