Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Tuesday Travels - Trip to the Cinque Terre

Have you ever seen the film "Only You"? 

It is probably one of my favourite movies, not for the acting or the plot, but for the magnificent shots of the Italian Amalfi Coast, with its sharp cliffs that cut deep into frothy sapphire depths and steep hillside towns whose brilliantly coloured houses recall an artist's palette. 

I remember that the day after I first saw the movie, at the age of 11, I picked up an old shoebox from the basement, cut a hole in the top, and stuck a loo roll tube inside. I dubbed my shoebox the "Let's get Heather to Italy piggy bank". I'm pretty sure the shoebox only ever saw a few pennies, but the idea of one day living in Italy was firmly implanted in my mind with its creation. 

Now that I've been here for three years, the novelty of living in Italy has slightly worn off. However, there are some places that will never lose their charm for me. One of those places is the Cinque Terre National Park. 

Manarolo, the second city on the Sentiero Azzurro

You could almost call the Cinque Terre the little sister of the Amalfi Coast. It is a series of five towns on the Italian Riviera - Riomaggiore, Manarolo, Corniglia, Vernazza, and Monterosso al Mare - all of which are connected by a mountain passage called the "Sentiero Azzurro" that increases in difficulty the further you walk. 

My goals during my two day stay at the Cinque Terre were to complete the 10 km walk, eat a plate of top quality seafood, and photograph as many beautiful things as possible, with Cinque Terre cats being a number one priority, of course!

Riomaggiore on a sunny day

The first stop was Riomaggiore, the town which is linked to Manarolo by the simple "Via Dell'Amore" ("Love Walk"). It is so called because lovers leave locks inscribed with their initials on fences all the way along the path. 

While the Love Walk was easy, I found myself completely unprepared for the scorching sun. There wasn't a cat in sight either, but I didn't mind. The spectacular scenery was enough to keep me busy!

A lock on the fence (Via dell'Amore)

The next stop was Manarolo. I didn't stay long because it was nearly one o'clock and the heat was starting to overwhelm me. Besides, my Bed and Breakfast was in Corniglia, the next town along the line, and I knew that reaching Corniglia was going to be a challenge in itself. Why, you might ask? Well, Corniglia is located on a high hill, and can only be reached by foot via 368 stairs to the top! 

The stairs leading up to Corniglia. So tired!!
By that time, it was starting to get late, so I knew that it was time to grab some dinner and take in the delights of this quaint town. A mouthwatering anchovy pizza, a reddish fruit cocktail, and live jazz music in the town square were three pleasures of that evening I'll never forget!

As I trotted down to the seafront just before bedtime, I also came face to face with the first Italan cat of many that I would encounter. Here she is, giving herself a good scratch!

The first Cinque Terre kitty sighting!
At the crack of dawn the next day, I set off in the direction of Vernazza, feeling like a bona fide hiker with the world at her fingertips. This part of the walk was by far the most beautiful. Having left so early, the air was cool and sweet, and I was able to see the sun rise over the water and towns, its golden rays highlighting every nook and cranny along the coast. 

The sun rising over Corniglia

Arrival in the town of Vernazza after 1.5 hours
of cliff walking
It was well worth the hour and a half of hard walking to get to Vernazza. This town, besides being the most beautiful out of all five towns in the Cinque Terre, was overflowing with furry felines!

A shy moggie who didn't really want anything to do with tourists

A sleeping moggie. Her house overlooks the sea!

A moggie mum in the town centre. She was watching
over her kittens. They disappeared before I could take
a photo of them.

A mancat on a mission, near the Vernazza church.

A sweet moggie hoping that the door will open, and dinner will be announced!
Isn't Vernazza breathtaking? What lucky cats to live in such a place!
Sadly, I have to admit that the last leg of the journey, I completed by train. I would have walked to Riomaggiore by foot, but the sun was already too intense, and I didn't feel comfortable doing an extremely steep two hour walk on my own. I still managed to enjoy the rest of the day, however! I travelled to Porto Venere by boat, ate lobster on the sea front, and bought a beautiful painting for my mum. Before I knew it, the day was drawing to a close, and it was almost time to catch the train home. 

Snoozing moggie in Porto Venere 
A dove showing us the Porto Venere harbour 
My lobster dish! Mmm!
Porto Venere from the boat
The Cinque Terre is the first little piece of Italian coast I've been able to experience so far, and it lived up to every expectation. My dream for 2011 is to finally make it down to the Amalfi coast and follow the path which the characters in Only You followed. If it happens, you'll know about it here first! Thanks for reading!


Fuzzy Tales said...

Wow, what a fabulous adventure and such stunning vistas! I hope the cats have humans to care for them, provide food and water. I won't even ask about TNR programs. :-/

meowmeowmans said...

Amazing! Thank you for sharing your adventures with us. Such beautiful pictures, too.

BeadedTail said...

What a beautiful place to be! We've never seen any place like that before! Our mommy would like to go see all those kitties too!

Prancer Pie said...

What a pawsome adventure! We is a bit jellus. Thanks fur sharing with us! Purrs and headbutts.

Gattina said...

What beautiful place and then all these little kitties !!

Mr Puddy said...

Cool Place !!!! Thanks for sharing, My mom would love to be there..Lots of cats : )

Hannah and Lucy said...

What wonderful scenery - mum says she wishes she had been there.
Luv Hannah and Lucy xx xx

Cat Wisdom 101 said...

We love this kind of post and would love to visit.

Brian said...

Everything is so pretty, especially the kitties!!!

Jan's Funny Farm said...

Whew, what a trip. The photos are lovely.

~*Connie*~ said...

wow, most of those photos would make wonderful postcards (but I have to admit my first thought was of jigsaw puzzles.. )

Sounds like a wonderful day!

MaryMatthews said...

Magnificent Pictures! I loved seeing the cats of Rome and I want to return to see the Amalfi Coast too!

Sarah said...

This place looks AMAZING!!! I have to go there one day - for it's beauty and the kitties of course =^..^=