The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one’s own country as a foreign land.” – G.K. Chesterton

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Cinque Terre (Italy) Part I: Hiking from Monterosso to Vernazza

Well, I'm busy packing for yet another trip, this time to Japan! We are really excited about our first trip back since moving from Japan 3.5 years ago, but I really ought to try and get the photos from our Europe trip out of the way. The main purpose of our trip to Italy last summer was the five villages that makes up the Cinque Terre (translates to "The Five Lands"). When we were first told in 2012 by a couple of very well-travelled relatives that we ought to make Cinque Terre on our travel list, we knew it must be an outstanding destination. Then when we found out I was expecting our second baby at the beginning of 2013, we decided that we'd better make another trip to Europe before #2 was born which would make travelling a bit more difficult. And we did a lot on that trip, visiting both France and Italy, a bit exhausting while 5-months pregnant, but I have no regrets.

The Cinque Terre is part of a national park (Italy's first national park), and the natural beauty and coastal hiking trails are a draw for many international tourists into the area. Landslides is a continuing problem in the area, and most of the hiking trails between the villages were shut for public safety during our time there. Except for one trail, between Monterosso and Vernazza, touted to be the most difficult of the four coastal trails between the villages, but also the most rewarding with the best views. It was just as well, because we had already set our minds on that trail. To be honest, I was a bit worried about doing the strenous hike, whether the boy and a 5-month-old pregnant girl could handle it. But I'm glad we did it, and all the more when we made it all the way to Vernazza! If I would change anything, it would be to start much earlier in the morning, before it got too hot (but alas, travelling with kids does slow us down quite a bit). It was safe to say that I was the only visibly pregnant woman crazy enough to take on the tough 3km trail that day, and our boy (then 4-years-old) was perhaps the youngest hiker that day. It took us 2.5 hours to complete the hike between Monterosso and Vernazza (most would finish the trail in about 1-1.5 hours), but the boy amazingly still had energy to spare for more walking, running and jumping around for the rest of the day.

Sit back, relax, and enjoy the views we enjoyed on our hike.

The beach at Monterosso, just after stepping out of the train station. Looking towards the other four villages of the Cinque Terre:

Panoramic shot of the beach at Monterosso (click image for larger view):

A clock tower in the main part of Monterosso town (which was a little walk from the train station through a tunnel under a large hill):

At the start of our hike, looking back on the little town of Monterosso:

The panoramic view from somewhere on the hiking trail, looking back on Monterosso while it was still visible. Click image for larger view:

A smoother part of the hiking trail. Hubby and I took turns between carrying the backpack and holding the boy's hand, though hubby was concerned about the boy tripping pregnant mummy, so he took on the holding hand duty a lot more. The terrain was quite rugged, and it was a steep fall a long way down in some parts:

This was our view for the better part of the hike - nothing but us and nature (click image for larger view):

A little bridge to pass over a downhill stream:

And after 2 hours of walking, BOOM! we were rewarded with this beautiful sight of Vernazza:

The view of Vernazza as we neared it:

So, so close! (Click image for larger view):

The first thing the boy did when we reached Vernazza:

Moving away from the touristy marina full of restaurants, the streets of Vernazza were also bustling with tourists (and I suppose a majority of them were hikers):

One of the many focacceria, where we bought our lunch, and carbed up after that huge hike:

No trip to Italy is complete without gelato! Here's a nut-free flavour for the boy:

I believe this flavour was named "Cinque Terre", and it was chocolatey and nutty with hazelnuts:

And thus ended our Cinque Terre hike. We reached the other towns by train, and photos of them will follow soon.

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