What? No Art, No Churches, No Queues?
Rick Steves’ Tours know what they’re doing with the Itinerary. Just when I was getting a little tired of all the art and churches they scheduled a vacation from our vacation in the sunny seaside Cinque Terre Town of Monterosso al Mare. We arrived via train after a serpentine drive down to Levanto (skillfully driven by our professional driver Dirk) and made our way to Hotel Punta Mesco. A great bright white hotel about a half block from the beach and right next door to a Laundromat. It was time to do some laundry again. We bagged up our clothes and took them to the laundromat and then walked along the beach before a fantastic dinner with the group at the Belevedere Restaurant. You can spend your time doing your own laundry or you can drop it off and do touristy things and then pick up your folded clothes. The prices were reasonable and our clothes were clean. Remember to plan on packing light and doing laundry as needed if you do one of the tours. Heck, we now pack light all the time.
Monterosso al Mare is the most touristy of the Cinque cities but it also has the best accomodations for groups. Just down the street there are several restaurants, a foccacia take out bakery, and several bars. The beach is lined with umbrellas and lounge chairs for a fee. There is a lovely board walk that takes you to the old town which is very charming and full of restaurants and shops. Typical seaside curios, pottery shops, and other artwork. We met the group for dinner at Ristorante Belvedere which overlooks the old town harbor. I had the pesto pasta, a regional specialty and it was soooooooooo gooooooood! Veronica had some seafood pasta. I heard nothing but good things from the rest of the group. We had a great time with the group and then wandered around the town and then back to the hotel.
We had been looking forward to completing the entire Cinque Terre trail and visit all cinque of the cities but, alas, the trail was closed after Vernazza. After a nice breakfast Phil, Sharon, Veronica and I hit the Monterosso – Vernazza trail which promised to include nearly 1,000 stairs. Thank goodness we had done some stair work in Roma! It was a very nice day and although we were at the beach it was warm with very little breeze.
The climb was strenuous but well worth the effort because of the views. We meandered along cliffs overlooking the azure sea and cliff side vineyards. We caught up with Linda, Frank and Jane along the trail. Words don’t do the sights justice so here are a few pictures to communicate the beauty more effectively.
We made our descent to Vernazza and walked around looking for cafe. Vernazza is a picture postcard town with the tourists to prove it. The ferry arrived shortly after we completed the Monterosso-Vernazza hike. The ferry was packed full of people from a cruise and it soon got very crowded near the harbor. Vernazza is a quite charming town but not the sleepy little town I visited in the mid 1990’s. But then again, this is the beginning of the peak summer season so I accept the crowds with the timing. We had a snack and decided to make our way back to Monterosso via train as the afternoon heat was picking up.
We walked along the boardwalk and made our way back to the hotel for a little siesta. We met up with Phil and Sharon for dinner and walked to the old town. We wandered around for a while peering in at the various restaurants and then chose one. After dinner we found a shop with some interesting painted pottery depicting the Monterosso Church and other buildings. The store was closed but the shopkeeper next door gave the owner a call and they opened the store for us. Now that was a surprise and a delight. We chatted with the friendly shop keeper who told us the pottery business has been in his family for years and years. We made the purchase and headed back to the square for some people watching. It was a very lovely summer evening in Cinque Terre and it was nice to have a full day off from our vacation and it couldn’t have come at a better time. Kudos to Rick Steves!
The dinner and Monterosso shopping experience was great and it was a fantastic way to wrap up our visit to Cinque Terre. I wish we had more time there. Next time….