Friday, February 26, 2016

Tips and Tricks for Walking the Cinque Terre - Monterossa to Vernazza

The Cinque Terre (CHINK-weh-Tay-reh) in Italy is a series of five small fishing villages connected by cliff side trails and a railroad line. Walking the trails of this UNESCO World Heritage site offers spectacular high up views of the Ligurian Sea and the jeweled  colored villages below.

The village of Vernazza 

Before heading out be aware of the fact the trails can be haphazardly closed at any given time. Too wet or slippery, a rock slide or trail maintenance is often the cause of these closures. When we were there in November there was only one trail open and that was between Monterossa and Vernazza. All five villages could be visited by train but only these two were accessible by the trail We didn't know this until the morning we bought our tickets at the Levanto train station, To be safe check the website before making plans. 

To check for trail closing click here to visit Parco Nazionale delle Cinque Terre. You'll find an interactive map showing all the trails in the park system.

You'll Need a Ticket 

We bought our ticket at the train station in Levanto where they have a special window just for the Cinque Terre. Apparently the price can vary depending on what's going on but the day we visited we paid 12 euro for each person to walk the trail with unlimited use of the train. The very nice English speaking agent made it clear that we had to write our full name on the ticket or take a chance on getting fined. We did as we were told but we never saw anyone who looked remotely interested in whether or not we even had a ticket!

A Most Challenging Trail!

I would describe the trail from Monterossa to Vernazz a as very challenging. When you leave Montersossa you'll have to climb a series of stone staircases. Lots of stairs. Not just a few stairs but LOTS OF STAIRS and they go straight UP! At one point the stairs seemed to have no end. All I could think of was the song "Stairway to Heaven". 

Fortunately the stairs ended and we were on a fairly flat trail. (OK sort of flat)

Parts of the trail were very narrow.

We came across a small waterfall and creek and a stone bridge.

Steady climb up on an uneven, rocky trail.

In some places the trail went up and then back down. 
It's time for a snack!

And more uneven, rocky trail...

The trail is quite difficult but if you're in reasonable good health it should be doable. I'm in good health and walk a lot but I'm certainly no athlete and I made it!  Just take your time climbing and enjoy the views, the vineyards, flowers, cactus and the cats. Lots of variety on this trail! 

Looking back on Monterossa

Huge, beautiful cactus growing on the rocky cliffs.

and can you believe it? 
A cat sanctuary on the trail. Complete with houses and food and water! 

We even found a geocache in a small cave on the trail.

And Just in Case

Signs like this are posted at intervals on the trail in case of emergency. Of course you need a cell phone...

WC, toilet, bathroom? Whatever you call it you won't find one on the trail...

The Reward for Our Efforts

Our first view of Vernazza!

Now we just have to get down there...

The trail down into Vernazza didn't have as many stairs as there were coming up from Monterossa. It took us about 2 hours to walk the trail. That included a few stops for photos, to have a snack and to find a couple of geocaches. 

If you're ever in the area don't pass up a chance to walk this trail. The climb is something else but the reward is so worth it. Just to be able to say "I did it!" is a pretty good reward. 

What to Bring

  • I wore hiking boots but a good walking shoe would be fine.
  • Carry water 
  • A little snack might be nice
  • Sunscreen and a hat - especially in the summer
  • Camera to record all the wonderful sights
  • A hiking stick is nice but not necessary

Monday, February 22, 2016

Unknown Wall Painting of the Crucifixion in Lucca, Italy

While on vacation in Italy we made what was to be a quick stop in Lucca.

Lucca is in the Tuscany region not far from Pisa and famous for the well preserved Renaissance wall that surrounds the city. The wall is broad and perfect for walking or biking and at a distance of 2 miles makes for a leisurely walk. The idea was to walk the wall, hop back in the car and make the drive to our Airbnb that was to be our home during our stay in Tuscany.

You know what they say about the best laid plans. Hunger drove us down into the town in search of lunch. We ended up walking just about every street in this beautiful town.

Have you ever snapped a photo of something and later on wish you'd taken the time to get more information? Or a better photo? That happened with me while in Lucca.

As usual I was trailing behind my travel companions as we walked down an alley. Suddenly a rusty iron fence caught my eye and I stopped to take a photo. It was in front of what I thought was just an arched doorway. I was delighted to see the fence was some what protecting a wall painting.

See the small white rectangle on the wall below the painting? It say 'Eleosine' which translates as alms. There is a small slot for depositing coins. Could this have been a convent or a monastery and the money used to help the needy?

A beautiful rendition of Christ on the cross. How long before it completely disappears? Anyone familiar with Lucca or this wall painting? I would love to know more about this painting before it's gone.

Sharing over at 

Friday, February 19, 2016

Hiking Punta Levanto - A Cliff Side Trail Along the Ligurian Sea (Bonassola, Italy)

The rail to trail from Levanto to Bonassola was a nice flat trail and easy walking. Once we arrived at the edge of the town of Bonassola we spied a hiking trail that went along the edge of the cliffs. Of course we had to venture up it to see where it went.

Punta Levanto (trail 662) We never figured out the number system but there's probably a map out there that has them all listed. Anyway the trail went up and headed back towards Levanto.

I'll say right away that the rail to trail was easy this trail was not. It was a rocky and root covered trail that went steadily up along the coast. Thank goodness there was a nice handrail between us and the rocks and water below!
This is the end of the trail! It actually continues on the other side of the rock slide but we heeded the warning and stopped here!
Looking at Bonassola

It took us about 40 minutes to hike to the top or tip of the trail. We did make a few stops along the way to take pictures and catch our breath. 

Directions and Tips:

Leave Levanto on the well marked walking/biking trail. As you come out of the last tunnel and reach the outskirts of Bonassola you'll see a small area on your left that has a bench and a trail marker. The marker says Punta Levanto 662. Take the trail. There will be a sign marking the top that says Bonassola with an arrow pointing back the way you came. You can't get lost! I doubt that the path will be cleared to go any further but if it is you'll probably end up back in Levanto.

  • Hiking boots and a walking stick would probably be helpful although we had neither and managed just fine. 
  • Bring water 
  • There are no bathrooms on the trail but there are a few secluded spots in an emergency.
  • Take your time and enjoy the views. 

Don't be afraid to get off the main path and discover somewhere new!

Walking the Rail to Trail from Levanto to Bonassola Italy

It seems that all over the world old railroad lines are being re-purposed into walking and biking trails. We found one such trail while visiting Levanto, Italy. It is an unused railroad line that runs along the Ligurian coast and connects the towns of  Levanto, Bonassola and Famura.

The trail is paved and has divided lanes for walkers and bikers. There are several lighted tunnels to walk through along the way.

Me and my favorite guy.

It's an easy, flat trail with plenty of opportunities to view the beautiful Legurian Sea as you walk.
View looking back on Levanto

There are several places you can leave the trail and get to the water. It was a little chilly in November but I'm sure in the summer it would be wonderful to dip your feet in the cool, green water. 

Lots of interesting nooks and crannies to explore along the way. Josh wanted to check out the many caves craved into the rocks below. Might have to come back in the summer for that.

Me and my other favorite guy.

The trail between Levanto and Bonassola is around 3 miles one way but it's flat and an easy walk. We  took a side trail along the cliffs and then rewarded ourselves by having lunch in Bonassola before heading back.

One of the best ways to explore an area is on foot. There's always fun and interesting things to check out along the way.

This is a short video we took if you'd like to see and hear the sea from the trail.

I wish I could remember what I was telling my son. He's looking at me like "mom, you're crazy"!

Stay tuned for more posts about Italy coming soon!

Thursday, February 18, 2016

A to Z Guidebook - Walking the Cinque Terre in Italy

View of Vernazza, Italy from the trail above the town.

Five fishing village make up the Cinque Terre in the Liguria region in north-west Italy.This area is known as the Italian Riviera and the villages are connected by train or on foot by way of  narrow cliff side trails. 

The villages of the Cinque Terre or five lands beginning at the northern most are: Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggirore.

We were there in November and although you could visit each village by train the only trail open was between Monterosso and Vernazza. 

Every guidebook I read stated that the trail leaving Monterosso and heading towards Vernazza was the most difficult. But some things you have to experience to really comprehend. It wasn't the worst trail I've walked but it seemed that the climb up was unending!  It helped that there was a series of stone staircases leading up and the reward of seeing Vernazza from the cliff high above the town made the journey worth while. 

The Cinque Terre was one of my most favorite places on our trip to Italy. 

Check out other 'I' places to visit over at Tiffin's A - Z Guidebook.

A-Z Guidebook Badge