"Magnificent Manarola and the Cinque Terra" Manarola by sirgaw
Manarola Travel Guide: 185 reviews and 518 photos
They say getting there is half the fun - and it should have been, except both the French and Italian rail people had decided to strike.
We arrived at the Nice rail station to discover our train for 10.05 am was not running and the next to the French/Italian border was another 4 and a half hours away - ah well, time to catch up on writing up diaries, eating lunch and watch the snails pace of weeds growing.
Some time later we discovered by accident that our train was sitting on another platform and it was just luck that I found out, so we staked a claim on a couple of seats - and waited. Finally the train lurched into motion and a cheer went up from all the bored-out-of-their-brains passengers and we headed for Italy.
Arrived at the border at Vintimille and no help from anyone on which train or platform to try and access in the huge crush of angry people. Another Australian gave me a few pointers and so we staked yet another claim on a train heading for La Spezia and beyond - at least that train would get us to within one station of Manarola - and we had no idea how to get that last few kilometres to Manarola at 9pm. Station after station we stopped at - then we found the Italian trains would be going on strike as from 9pm that night.
It was a good Samaritan who came to our rescue and phoned the hotel using his mobile phone - you might like to read the separate travelogue 'Is getting there half the fun?' and the story of "Santo Mauro."
We arrived at Riomaggiore Station at 9pm and for the first time saw how steep the hills around the Cinque Terra really are - how did we get to the hotel - well read on.
We waited and waited in the railway station square just not knowing how we were to get that last few kilometres when suddenly an heavily accented voice said "Scusa me, are youa Australian."
"Si," we replied and so 'Sampson' and his boss helped us get to the hotels car - except it was parked UP what seemed the worlds steepest hill and with a broken handle of a suitcase I was soon struggling. Sampson, as we nick-named him, just hoisted the case onto his shoulders and took off like a mountain goat.
Exhausted we arrived at the hotel owners car and flopped into the seats. If we were not so tired I would have enjoyed the drive in the twilight to Manarola - then the surprise. The car park for the town seems to be about 2 kilometres from the hotel - and its the worlds second steepest hill, but at least time we were dragged down that hill by our suitcases.
We arrived at Hotel Marina Picola and really couldn't appreciate at the time the beauty of the town. The last thing we needed was a 4th floor room with no lift (escalator) and it was another 50 steps lugging those suitcases before we got to our room.
A quick freshen up and then into the hotel restaurant for something - ANYTHING - to eat. It had been a 9 hours since we ate on the platform in Nice. Really can't remember what we ate, but it was expensive. Bed beckoned in a loud voice - ciao.
Breakfast rooms have their good and bad points - apart from the food - and anyone talking in English is a magnet for other English speaking guests. Where are you from? How long is the trip? Where to next? What's that strange hat? - and so breakfast becomes elongated with travellers tales when we really want to finish brekky and get on with the business of the day - sight seeing. It was at the hotel breakfast room where we were bailed up
We have a collection of fridge magnets from all the places we have stayed in - our rule says we must stay at least one night to qualify for a magnet, otherwise we'd need 3 more fridges - LOL. We ventured into a gift/souvenir shop and were surprised to hear the woman owner of the shop speaking in English without any accent - she had left our home city of Melbourne 20 years earlier, married a local and now the proud mum of 3 Italian/Australian "bambinos" (one was a strapping 6 footer and objected to be called bambino) - yes we bought our fridge magnet after chatting about Melbourne. We then explored Manarola, went into the little church, got supplies for lunch from the tiny supermarket and tried to ring home at about the time daughter would be there - no luck.
Other half decided she needed to do some urgent hand washing, so I was left to my own devises to try and not get into too much trouble, but not before a "multi-tasking" visit to our own bathroom - bidets have some uses apart from, well you-know-what, and there are very useful for washing shirts - all this is done while sitting on the loo, now you understand what I mean by "multi-tasking" - LOL
I disappeared as requested and just took in the beauty of the town and its surrounds. A walk to the deserted station and maybe even a bit of train watching - except it was a rail strike.
The next day we just had to do the famous "Via Dell' Amore" - Lovers walk and there is a photo in the tips section. It was just awash with people all wanting to take in the beauty of one of the worlds best walks. Over the next 5 or 6 hours we covered the other 4 towns along the Cinque Terra by using the Cinque Terra card to access the trains - until the last station (Corneglia) where we misread the time table and missed a train. We had to camp out on the station for over an hour before we finally got back to Manarola
There are 5 towns on the Cinque Terra coast - which do I recommend as the best?
OK here are my votes and why.
They all have charm and character, however both Monterossa and Riomaggiore have - in my opinion - been over commercialised. There are bars and night clubs, shops and even crime - that's judging by the presence of local police. So I rank those 2 towns as 4th and 5th with Monterossa being number 5.
Vernazza has a smaller selection of shops, bars etc and in itself is a very beautiful town that "curls" around a small bay with a photogenic backdrop. That's number 3 on my list.
Corneglia is perched some 600 feet above the sea and has great views overlooking the cliffs. It has a lot to offer and has retained much of its past and remained as almost a backwater compared to the other towns along the coast. To me Corneglia is number 2 - and the winner is . . .
The town has only 2 hotels a number of B&B's and a small selection of eateries (sadly quite expensive). It has a small supermarket and a reasonable infrastructure, although it does lack a safe swimming beach (the small harbour is swimmable but watch for the rocks)
Well named the Via dell' Amore means the road (or street) of love and links Manarola with Riomaggiore via a well... more travel advice
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