"Cinque Terre National Park" La Spezia by jamequa
La Spezia Travel Guide: 120 reviews and 250 photos
After spending a week in Rome, we took a train out to La Spezia to stay a few nights on the Ligurian Coast. The town of La Spezia's fairly dull, but in passing through it, it seemed like a livable suburban/business area where the non-agricultural residents of the countryside came to work. Having taken a bus up the mountains to Biassa (about a 4-mile ride up windy, steep roads reminiscent of Ireland or Switzerland or West Virgina), we got to our hostel (a converted elementary school) in the mid-afternoon. Biassa was a fascinating little town, a classic quiet Catholic Italian hill-town. With the church bell tower and the intriguing alleyways weaving in and out of the residential areas, the precipitous town of Biassa proved a nice place to sleep and explore the neighborhood. There was a bus stop right outside of the hostel that goes both to Cinque Terre and back to La Spezia.
The morning of the hike, we took an early bus to the first town, Riomaggiore. The first half of the way through the town is a pleasant walk past some restaurants, a pier, and up the first few steps of the cliffs alongside the water. We didn't spend much time in Riomaggiore, as it seemed to be fairly quiet and we were eager to get out there. It did provide some nice sites, though, and is a nice town to start the day in. Once you get around past the train station, you'll find the park entrance. There are several paths (Lover's Lane, for example), but we took the normal path on a one-day pass. And thus begun our adventure.
The hike to the next town was fairly pleasant-- there were lots of places to pull off from the trail and enjoy the crashing waves and lay in little cliff-formed pools. Manarola is a nice little town, town #2 headed west, but it's not much different from Riomaggiore. We stopped for some food (they do have nice little markets and convenience stores throughout Cinque Terre), and pressed on to Corniglia without much hesitation.
By the time we had made it halfway between Manarola and Corniglia, it was mid-day, so the cover of the trees in this section of the hike was truly a blessing. Along the path, we noticed several signs for nude beaches, so we decided to visit one. The trouble with reaching them was that at that point in the hike, you're pretty high up, and the descent is steep, rocky, and inconsistent. Passing through an extensive grapevine patch, we reached the "nude beach," which turned out to be a stretch of rocky coastline next to an abandoned train tunnel. As disappointing as it was (it was fairly desolate and forgotten, except for several men tanning), being right in the water next to and in the crashing waves was an experience like I've never had before. This was certainly one of the better parts of the day in my opinion. But after a while, we climbed up to the path again to arrive at Corniglia in need of a serious water break.
- Pros:Pretty cliffside beaches, viniards; cool towns in Cinque Terre; connected to Eurail
- Cons:No hostels in the very close vicinity of La Spezia (~4 miles up a mountain)
- In a nutshell:Well worth a few days' visit, mainly to see Cinque Terre
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