Magical Cinque Terre – Paradiso Ceramics Australia | Handmade in Italy


Magical Cinque Terre

With a rare few days on our own, Marg and I drove some five hours north-west of Assisi for a short break in the Cinque Terre. We popped into San Gimignano on our way through Tuscany, a charming walled town with its medieval towers.

Distant view of the town of San Gimignano, Tuscany

Arriving late afternoon, we discovered our accommodation was in the small town of Volastra perched high above the five villages, but the paths between the grapevines gave us a splendid view of Vernazza below.

Strolling along paths through grapevines high above Cinque Terre

After settling into our little apartment, we set out to find food. The only shop opened in the morning around 10am for a couple of hours which meant we would have a late breakfast but what about dinner? Fortunately, the town’s only restaurant was open that night.

The next day we set out to explore. Although there was a bus we decided to tackle several hundred rough stone steps into the town below, past ancient olive trees and grapevines clinging onto the steep slopes. (We confess we caught the bus back up though!)

The ancient steps leading down to Vernazza from Volastra

Vernazza has a small harbor – the only secure landing point on the Cinque Terre coast - and it guards what is perhaps the quaintest, and steepest, of the five villages. Lined with little cafes, a main cobbled street links seaside Piazza Marconi with the train station. Side streets lead to the village's trademark Genoa-style caruggi (narrow streets), where sea views pop at every turn.

The narrow streets around Vernazza

A train links the towns and made it easy to explore each of them over the next few days.

A train links the five towns of Cinque Terre

Monterosso is the largest of the five towns. We feasted on anchovies in a lemon sauce, a dish it is famous for before a stroll along the beach. 

Delicious anchovies in lemon sauce, Monterosso

The beach umbrellas and chairs for hire along the beach were so colourful.

Deck chairs and umbrellas lined the beach at Monterosso

We figured we could manage the easy walk along the Via dell'Amore, the Path of Love, the most famous stretch of the Cinque Terre coastline and hiking trail. It connects the picturesque villages of Riomaggiore and Manarola and is only about 1 km long. It was a beautiful walk. We paused at a little cafe along the way for an iced coffee (literally cold black coffee in a glass).

Iced coffee on the Lovers Walk, Cinque Terre

Boarding the ferry from Vernazza involved balancing along a narrow plank from a large block of cement along the rocks (this was several years ago - I'm sure there's a safer system by now!).

Passengers wait on the 'jetty' for the ferry at Vernazza

The boat took us along the coast, a fabulous way to see all the colourful villages from afar.

Riomaggiore from the ferry

We ended up at Porto Venere for lunch and walked up the narrow streets leading to the Gothic-style Church of St. Peter which sits atop a rocky headland. Port Venere was just as colourful and interesting as the five towns, and we were glad we spent time there.

Church on the rocky point at Porto Venere

One morning we woke to a great deal of noise and popped our heads out the window to see what was happening. To our surprise men were pulling crates of black and green grapes down the street, then tipping them into a stripper which sent juice down pipes leading to a cellar in the side lane. There was no defining red or white. It all went down the pipe.

Grapes being tipped into a stripper at Volastra

Later we spied an elderly couple busy around a vat in their cellar. Stopping to see what they were doing, the gentleman told us ‘Grappa!’ with a shy smile.

A nonna and nonno making grappa in their cellar in Volastra

We love Italy!

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