Wednesday, June 17, 2015

The European Trip, Day 11 - Vernazza

Vernazza, regarded as the crown jewel of the Cinque Terre or Five Lands.  Most guidebooks gush about its scenic beauty, tightly ensconced within a very small pocket along the coastline of La Spezia in Italy's Western Coast.

We had us a late start but it still all worked out.  I learned how to use the expresso machine in the lodgings Martha had booked for us, everyone got breakfast and we still made it to Vernazza and back in good time and before the full heat of the afternoon!

We had decided yesterday to take the Ferry over to Vernazza from the town of Monterosso al Mare.  The trains were looking a bit crowded and Martha preferred the seas route.

Martha and Patrick, waiting for the ferry in Monterosso al Mare

Not much to say about the ferry, pretty big boat.  A pair of similar ferries were making the runs between the five towns of the Cinque Terre and doing it as smoothly as one can, given the vagaries of human crowds, sea conditions (mild) and hot weather.

It was only a ten minute ferry ride from our town to Vernazza, here's how it looked as we approached from the northwest.

The disembarking operation went smoothly enough, and soon we were standing on the edge of the breakwater looking at the town:

Church of S. Maria di Antiochia

We tried a nearby set of stone steps, thinking it led to the tower 
but found it roped off not too far up, still, a good place for a family picture.

Martha and Patrick were not up for the uphill trek to the trail between Vernazza and Monterosso that I wanted to take to get the "money shot" of Vernazza.  So, we split up at this point, her and Patrick to explore the small town of Vernazza and Miles and I to go hiking for a little bit.

Onward through the town we went, up many many many stone steps, winding our way to the park trail.

I called it the money shot because to hike the trails (which are in the La Spezia National Park), one must pay a fee (which goes to trail maintenance and such).  I also call it the money shot because the park service here placed their toll gate from Vernazza about 50 meters before the best spot to take a picture of Vernazza!  Still, it was only 7.50 Euro for myself and Miles, hadn't come all this way to let the fee stop us!

Taken from slightly different elevations and angles, 
you can see why Vernazza is considered such a scenic place.

Note how the rail road goes into the town.
Apparently, you've got to pay attention since it'll look like
you're just in a tunnel, but you're actually at Vernazza's train station.

Suns out, "guns" out

Hopefully this gives you an idea of how steep parts
of the trail were.  Still, overall, not bad.  Of course
we didn't hike the whole trail!

Miles spotted this weird contraption, looks like something you ride 
on the rail, pulling along a cargo "trailer".  I guess that's
what the local farmers/vintners use to haul materials
up and down these steep hillsides?

Yep, one more shot, but this time you can see one of the 
ferries leaving the harbor.

We made rendezvous with Martha and Patrick soon after we shot the above picture.  The town had been fully explored by them in the 25 minutes it took us to do the shots above so we decided to head back to our town.

But first, while Patrick and Martha got a gelato/coca-cola break; Miles and I decided to ascend to the tower you can see in the pictures above.

You get through it through winding narrow stone steps , which at times had me wondering if we were headed in the right direction!  Still, eventually we got to a toll booth and paid 3 Euros for the both of us.

The views from the castle tower are pretty good:

The view towards Monterosso al Mare

At max zoom, Monterosso al Mare

A view of the Castelo Doria's roof, from the watch tower

Vernazza from the castelo's tower

The narrow circular stair case within the watch tower, 
it was a bit of a traffic jam at times.

A view from one of the watchtower's windows,
showing another church in town

Not much to say about the tower itself, a pretty plain affair, built to guard against pirates I think.

We made our way down back towards the ferry's docking area and soon enough it arrived along with a full load of people bound for Monterosso.  It was a full boat back to town this time as we had been joined by at least three tour groups.  Oh well.

The above ferry whipped into position much faster than our boat,
although it was much smaller too....

Goodbye Vernazza

Hello again, Monterosso al Mare!

We made it off the boat with no incident and hurried on ahead while the tour groups regrouped.  Found a nice ristorante well away from the maddening crowds and had us a good lunch:  Spaghetti Carbonara for Miles and I, Shrimp Scampi for Martha and Spicy Salame Pizza for Patrick.  Mmmmm.

The waters today were quite clear and made for good pictures

Even Patrick remarked on the clearness of the water

We have rented one of the condos in this condominium
building, through

While I started work a bit earlier than usual, Miles and Martha enjoyed
some time on the beach.

The remaining three towns that are part of the Cinque Terre will have to wait for another trip.  The crown jewel was crossed off the list, the other three are smaller than Vernazza and the crowds at Vernazza were displeasing.  Such is traveling in Italy in the early summer.  We leave the Cinque Terre area tomorrow morning.


Andy & Laura said...

Bellissimo! What a beautiful sight...the crystal clear blue water, the lush green hillsides, and the spectacular views are simply amazing. Thanks for a great post so rich with nature's eye candy.

I'm curious, what was the water temperature like? The water looks cold and it appears as if Martha & Miles are "wading" as opposed to swimming.

RichardM said...

Beautiful shots from the trail! I think I've seen photos of this location before. I like the colors...

redlegsrides said...

Laura and Andy, I am told the water temperature was fine but the sandy floor was very "quick sand-like". Also, pretty rocky beaches.

Thanks RichardM, it's those photos I'd seen on the Internet that drove this destination in part.

SonjaM said...

Another classic destination for the so inclined tourist. Again brillant pictures. I want to go back!

Trobairitz said...

More hillside towns. So lovely.

Love all the bright buildings against the blue sea and sky.

Artie & Leinen's Grand Adventure said...

Wow, makes me wonder if I would rather take a self guided tour around Italy like you are instead of a Mediterranean cruise.

redlegsrides said...

Thanks very much SonjaM. We got lucky on the weather.

Trobairitz, very scenic these hillside towns, but not sure I'd live in one.

Bridget, it's all in what you make of it as situations develop. A cruise would be nice too, show up, drop anchor, flood the town with people for a few hours, get back onboard ship to nice stateroom.

Martha said...

Another advantage we have is Dom's familiarity with Italian. Yes most people speak some English but I think the ease in which we have been able to travel around comes from Dom's confidence both behind the wheel and interacting with the locals.

David Masse said...

Dom, last May, Susan, myself, our three kids, and our sons' girlfriends hiked the trail from Monterosso al mare to Vernazza. What an exhausting but spectacular experience that was. We had one of our most memorable meals at one of the restaurants at the edge of the harbour. Such good times.

redlegsrides said...

David M, so you guys like death marches too eh? :)

ToadMama said...

I'm glad you did the money shot trek. The pics are worth it. What a beautiful, beautiful place. You captured it all beautifully. Sorry my comments may be getting repetitive, but you DO take fabulous pictures. Don't feel as if you need to reply to each one. :-)

redlegsrides said...

Thanks Kathy K for your kind words.