Today is the day we leave La Spezia to visit the Cinque Terre by boat and as we pull away from the Bay of Spezia I sense that there are many secrets of the sea that hide here as Percy Shelley well knows.
We leave the gulf of La Spezia and pass Portovenere a picturesque village of Roman times.
On a rock face overlooking the sea is Saint Peter’s church, consecrated in 1198 and extended in 1277. We now turn into the open sea and head towards the Cinque Terre.
The sky is bright, the water is blue and the air is infused with the aromas of sea and salt. We take up our place leaning out of the window of the ferry and like rays of happiness the sun shines upon us.
It is a joy to see the calm sea spread out before us as we look along the coastline towards the first Cinque Terre village of Riomaggiore.
They call Riomaggiore the jewel of the Cinque Terre. It was founded at the end of the XII century.
From the ferry you can see the typical coloured houses, which seem to hug one another as they climb up the hill which rises from the marina.
The rocky cove of Manarola is popular with swimmers. Its harbour is formed by a terraced promenade that has boats hanging over the edge of its walls. The few traditional brightly coloured houses that crowd the point are joined by a handful of bars and restaurants which compete for that special spot overlooking the sea.
Above on the hills you can see the terraces with grape vines and olives growing on them.
The sunlight scatters on the surface of the sea creating clarity in the water for which the Mediterranean is known world-wide. Blue colour tones of teal, turquoise, electric blue and aquamarine mix with the 30 °C temperature creating the sensation of heat you only get in early summer by the sea.
Corniglia is perched up high above sea level and as we know it’s a steep climb if you are walking. The painted houses and their residents stick to the top of the hill like ants on a mound.
A panoramic terrace overhangs the sea and you can get great views from the top of the headland.
You can see that Vernazza is an exceptionally small fishing port, where the buildings with their terracotta rooftops lay about topsy-turvy around the little harbour and up the side of the slopes.
As we head to Monterosso the ferry churns up waves of amazing colours which rush away to give a friendly embrace to the coastline of Vernazza.
Monterosso is divided into two areas, the old town and the new town. A tunnel allows pedestrians and cars to pass between each section. The main beach, which is the only extensive sand beach in the Cinque Terre, is just north of the tunnel.
Some say Monterosso has the least charm because it’s more like a beach resort but I love the colorful beach umbrellas and the chance to enjoy the outdoor dining.
We’ll just linger in the comfort of our café chair and watch the passing parade of people walking up and down the seafront chatting to neighbours in that enthusiastic manner that only Italians do .
On the return trip to La Spezia I look back at the shore line. There is not a cloud in the sky. Twelve kilometres of rocky coast, hundreds of kilometres of trails, acres of grape vines, orchards and olive groves.
From here on the ferry, a few kilometres offshore, everything in these five small towns appears to have remained as in the past, perhaps as it was with man hundreds of years ago.
There are no straight lines here, every beach is a curve and every pebble knows the story of how the earth began around these parts. This wonderful locality is surely one of nature’s works of art.
Back in La Spezia we have dinner, rest and prepare for more walking tomorrow when we will visit Riomaggiore and Manarola