Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Riomaggiore, the Queen of Cinque Terre

Cinque Terre is a chain of five coastal villages along the Italian Riviera. These beautiful gems, dotting terraced hillsides and rugged hills, are popular for hiking and vacationing. The entire area is designated as a UNESCO world heritage.

The villages are well preserved to reflect the traditional way of life. They each have only a few thousand residents, and are connected to each other by a coastal train route. Each village has a distinct character and unique layout.

Cinque Terre has many different hiking trails that link the different towns, both along the coast and in the mountains. They are at all levels of difficulty, and contain short hikes as well as day-long hikes. Sometimes the trails are closed off, so it is good to check with the local tourist information center.

We stayed in Riomaggiore, the southernmost of the five villages, next to the larger town of La Spezia. It was built in the thirteenth century.

Riomaggiore has one long main street called Via Colombo, with many alleys branching off to homes and wine terraces in the hillsides. It starts near the harbor and meanders up into the hills beyond. There are a few inns and shops owned by locals, though everything closed early in the evening. Like most traditional towns, internet access is limited and the streets are not conducive to anything but pedestrian traffic, but I think most people come here to retreat from the chaos of modern life.  

Each of the towns is stunning, with vivid and colorful buildings, surrounded by green mountains in the background and brilliant blue seas at the coast. I am especially partial to the village of Riomaggiore, perhaps because we stayed here for three nights. It's a good size - there are a few restaurants and two small grocers. The harbor at the bottom of the village is gorgeous both in the daytime and sunset.

We were lucky to be here in the off season, so there were only a few other tourists in the town, lending a peaceful and tranquil air to village life.

One early evening, after a day of hiking, we decided to go down to the wharf to enjoy the sunset. The sun rays striking the buildings at dusk is a really marvelous sight.

There was another visitor who bravely ventured out onto the rocks with a big camera and tripod to get some good shoots of the setting sun.

Right before the sun sank beneath the horizon, it gave off deep red and golden rays that burned the sky. Though it was rather chilly, we were content to sit on the stone steps of the wharf to watch this stunning display of nature.

Over our three days in Cinque Terre, we visited each of the five towns and tried out a few of the recommended hiking trails, so I'll be writing about those next!

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