Club Italy Vacation 2023 Day 8

Friday, June 9, 2023

This was another very early morning and we were on the road before breakfast was served at the villa because we were driving to La Spezia to catch a train. We parked the van in the train station garage. We purchased our tickets for the Cinque Terre train. It was an all day pass and it allowed us to hop on and off.

Cinque Terre was comprised of 5 old fishing seaside villages that sit high on the Italian Riviera. You can hike between the villages and see the scenic coastline and countryside but we opted for the train! Our time was limited and we didn’t have the gear for hiking.

In 1997 Cinque Terre was listed as an UNESCO World Heritage site and in 1999 it became a national park.

The first village we visited was the largest and the farthest village, Monterosso. It had a long sandy beach. The water was so clear!

Make sure to see at the end of the beach the large sculpture of Neptune, the Sea God, or as the locals call it II Gigante, carved into the stone. It was built by a Jewish Italian sculptor, Arrigo Minerbi in 1910. It was made from concrete and steel. Monterosso was bombed during WWII and II Gigante lost his arms, trident and a giant seashell. It also suffered additional damage from rough seas and strong winds. Even with its wear and tear, it still stood tall!

II Gigante or Statue of Neptune

You also could see the Aurora Tower here. It was a 16th century fortress built by the Genovese against pirate attacks.

Aurora Tower

We went back to the train station for our next stop which was Vernazza. This small fishing village had a small port that was surrounded by typical colorful houses for the coastal Italian riviera.

The Church of Santa Margherita di Antiochia was built in the 14th century. It was said that it was constructed here after the bones of St. Margaret washed up on a beach nearby.

The Belforte Castle and tower was built to protect the village from pirates in the mid-1500′ attacks. The remains from the fortress were converted into a restaurant.

Belforte Tower and Castle

A few more photos from Vernazza and its port.

We walked back to the train station for our train ride to the next village of Corniglia. This village sat on a promontory that overlooked the sea and was the smallest. It also was the least visited because of the difficult accessibility.

As you can see in the 2 photos below, it was a minimum 30 minute hike up to the village and filled with switchbacks.

Due to only having a day to spend here, we opted to skip this village. I guess we’ll need to return some day.

We went back to the train to stop in Manarola.

Train station

This village also had a small harbor with colorful boats. It had a tiny piazza and multicolored houses that faced the sea. We found it very crowded in all of the villages. It definitely was a popular destination for tourists.

We were told to try Sciacchetrá, a sweet wine made from the grapes in Manarola. Unfortunately we didn’t try it. Another reason to make a return trip!

The footpath Via dell’Amore – the Path of Love was closed due to a landslide and won’t open until 2024. This was listed as the easiest of the hikes between villages. It connected Manarola and Riomaggiore and was also a little over a mile long. It would have been one we could have walked. It gave us yet another reason to return!

Our selfie in Manarola

The last village to explore was Riomaggiore which was the most southern of the Cinque Terre villages. It was known for its harbor with its colorful boats and the houses looked like they were stacked one on top of the other.

Riomaggiore- stacked houses and harbor

Before we left Cinque Terre we stopped in a place in Riomaggioree for either a glass of wine or wine tastings. It was a great way to end our day here.

On our way back to our villa, we made a stop in Pisa around 8:00 PM. It was nice because the majority of the crowds were gone.

The Arno river flows near Pisa. The Piazza del Duomo was near the northwestern end of the medieval walled city. In the piazza was the cathedral, the baptistery, the campanile or Leaning Tower of Pisa and a cemetery. Of course, the most famous was the Leaning Tower of Pisa which was tilting when it was completed in 1372 because the foundation was unstable.

We arrived back to the villa at 12:45 AM. It didn’t take long to wind down and get some rest for another day of exploring Tuscany.

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