Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Conquering Cinque Terre

Italy is famous for its food, churches, museums and ancient ruins. Cinque Terre is a breather from all that history and art. Cinque Terre (translated as Five Lands) is a coast of the Italian Riviera. It is composed of five villages: Manarola, Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, and Riomaggiore. Everything that surrounds these villages is called the Cinque Terre National Park which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

View going to Cinque Terre

When I was doing my research for the Italy leg, I got a suggestion from a forum that I should try the CT tours offered by Walkabout Tours. Reading about the place, it can actually be an overnight destination. Even Rick Steves included CT in his itineraries. However, I found no suitable accommodation within my budget. The accommodations can almost go as high as the price of accomodations in Venice. Also, it didn’t appeal to me that I have to drag my suitcase and all my stuff for an overnight stay. Makes sense to just join a travel group for a one day trekking adventure so that someone will be with me in case something untoward happens. I simply reserved my slot via the website. You will pay the fee on the day of the tour itself.
The meeting time was around 8:00am in a parking area in Santa Maria Novella train station – your reservation page will show the exact location. It was easy to find the bus of walkabout tours. I paid 90 via credit card which they swiped in their mobile credit card terminal. When I was researching about this trip, €90 sounds reasonable enough for a day tour. But given that I’ve been traveling alone for two weeks already, this is a lot of moolah. This is the second tour that I joined since my Amsterdam Walking tour.

Two-leveled bus. Better take a seat on the first level.

The bus ride took around 2 hours. It stopped for a bathroom break after around an hour. Alternatively, you can take the regional trains going to CT and stay in any one of the five towns.

Our first stop was Manarola. We had to hike to the next town within two hours to catch the train going to Corniglia. This was the second time that I was going to wear my Merrell shoes which I bought for the trip.

CT had these farm lands similar to our Mountain Province Rice Terraces. They had to do farming in the mountains so they made these fields and planted grapes in them. While the rest of the group was ooohing and aaahing over this, I contained myself to blurt out that we have better rice terraces here in the Philippines. I was practicing my good travel manners.

I had to compare this:

Terraces in Manarola

To these:
Banaue Rice Terraces

Batad Rice Terraces
Namaaaan diba.

According to our guide CT’s farming industry was dying because the younger generation flee to the city. The older people are left to take care of these lands.

Super sunshine

The buildings are painted brightly.  I wonder, what if we do the same in Batad town? Perhaps paint the town all in the same or extremely different colors? Would it be as charming?

Okay, so enough with comparing the terraces to our Banaue and Batad rice terraces. Cinque Terre offers this spectacular (I am avoiding using the word “breathtaking” again) view of the ocean. I don’t think I’ve seen a view of the mountain this close to the ocean here in the Philippines.

We had this day pass which allowed us to ride the trains as often as we want. Ideally, you can hike on foot across the five towns. We had to ride a train because some of the paths were destroyed by a typhoon.

Train tracks with the ocean as the background

Dogs are allowed in the trains.

Some more climbing and hiking.

Finally, our lunch stop, Corniglia.

Lunch was filling. I was seated with other solo joiners.
Delicious pesto with potatoes.

The conversation revolved around traveling. When I said I was from the Philippines, they asked if I was a flight attendant. Ummmm, I stand 5'2"? Nope, I said I was an accountant traveling alone in this part of the world.  They shared that they do know some Filipinos back in their home countries - most of them are helpers. The American said she's been in Manila and Batangas - she hated Manila. I had to agree with her (now I'm thinking why did I say that???). I advised that should they visit our wonderful country, they should stay away from Manila and visit all our wonderful beaches instead. It pains me to say that they should stay out of Manila, but I'd rather have them go to Coron or Bohol to appreciate the beauty of our country.

After a much needed lunch and bathroom break, we resumed our trek to the next town. I was relatively physically fit than some of the joiners. Then again, the trek wasn’t really that taxing. The sun is your enemy. 

I got toasted.
Day off ni Inday, teh.
Are we there yet?
That town is our destination

Some paths are paved, some are not. The trail is not really that difficult. I was able to chat with a British joiner about traveling in Eastern Europe (someday, someday) - and I didn't ran out of breath.

Almost within reach.

Overall, it was a tiring trek. But being averagely fit, it falls in the Mount Pinatubo level of difficulty. It wasn't as tiring as I expected.

Things to bring for your Cinque Terre Trek:
  • Water. But don't drink too much
  • Sunglasses
  • Hat
  • Comfy shoes. Hiking shoes not really needed. Flip flops not recommended.
  • Sunblock-lathered skin
  • It is okay to wear shorts. 
Overall, the trek was a refreshing break from all the artwork that I've seen in Florence. This trip to Cinque Terre made me appreciate the natural wonders that we have here in the Philippines.


  1. What a coincidence! I was just reading about CT in a magazine. It is so pretty! Hope we can visit it soon.

  2. ahaha! naman talaga! mas majestic yung terraces natin... pero I like the train beside the the sea.... parang sarap sumakay dun...

  3. ^As in! Stairs, more fun in the Philippines! XD

  4. Such a lovely place! I've always wanted to spend some time at the Italian Reviera. Enjoyed reading this post. =)

  5. The best pesto pasta ever!!! hahaha namiss ko bigla.

  6. @Batang Biyahera: Thanks! :)

    @outonvacation: Yesh! I soooo love those potatoes in the pesto! Nomnom!


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