We start off part 2 of Cinque Terre back in Vernazza, with views from the Castello Doria. Although it might be a slightly unconventional view of Vernazza (the typical postcard view seen from the walking trail from Monterosso), it's still quite a sight to see all the pastel houses & roofs from up close! It's something to add to your bucket list now if it already isn't!
It's a wonder to see the homes up close as they're all stacked on each other so delicately, striking the fine balance between an organised chaos or clutter. Looking towards the old town it doesn't even seem like these places would be situated next to the sea, yet all you have to do is turn around to the other side of the castello to be greeted with waves crashing upon the cliff / shore on the other side!
If you're lucky you'll be able to hop onto the boat rides that depart from the pier at Vernazza and you can enjoy the views from the sea & also get to the different towns along the coast line. We however weren't so lucky with the weather & water conditions on the day so we took the less scenic option of the train ride down to Riomaggiore.
There are definitely more iconic, postcard views from the town that sits furthest south of Cinque Terre. The train station is positioned on the other side of this view, so you'll need to follow the signs through the tunnel to get to the marina part of town.
Just around the start of the marina is a little gem of a restaurant, Dau Cila. We stopped here to fuel ourselves for the next hike we were about to embark on and I had a superbly tasting seafood pasta here!
Unfortunately, rockslides occurred on the most direct path, more well known as Via dell’Amore between Riomaggiore and Manarola during the heavy rains in 2012 and has since not been reopened. An alternative route, and the walk we did was the Beccarra trail, (trail 531) which essentially goes all the way up the mountain that separates these 2 towns. As it's a harder walk/hike, there were a lot less people on this trail when we were on it, which is always a nice change from the masses of crowds you'll get in each of the towns. You'll need to head back towards the train station to find the start of this trail, and look out for the signs to Manarola.
The walk goes through the vineyards of the region and the patheway, coupled with the height from the walk make for fantastic views above the towns and the water. The walk is a lot longer than the paved walk that has since been closed but the views & peacefulness from up high definitely make up for the extra effort required! Regardless, I was definitely relieved to see the start of the steps to the town of Manarola!
Manarola is the 2nd smallest town out of the 5 towns and definitely has a charm of its own. We strolled out past Punta Bonfiglio to catch this glimpse of the town before heading back towards the town to grab a bite to eat. There are a strip of restaurants along the main drag and we just popped into the one that looked the most popular on the night, which is a safe bet in these smaller towns.
After spending the past 3 days in the main towns of Cinque Terre we decided to head down the coast to its equally charming neighbour, Portovenere. Not to be thought less of, Portovenere also gained UNESCO heritage status at the same time as the 5 fishing villages of Cinque Terre were! The town is a short bus ride (about 35 minutes long) from La Spezia with frequent departures.
The waterfront is definitely a sight that you won't miss upon entering the town and while here you can sit by the water & people watch while savouring some gelato from any of the cafes along the waterfront. These buildings also served a purpose apart from creating a colourful facade, they previously formed a defensive wall for the rest of the town! The old town can be found just behind, on Via Capellini and runs from the old town gate all the way to Byron's grotto and is lined with all types of shops & restaurants.
Another sight not to be missed while you're in Portovenere is Castello Doria, and was essentially built as a military fort. Once you're there you can get great views of the town & of the surrounding cliff faces.
After we walked around the fort and to the Church of San Pietro church (located within the fort) we headed back to the old town and picked up a focaccia each (Matt grabbed a pesto one and I grabbed a nutella one - how can I ever say no to nutella!) and we sat by the waterfront and people watched while we enjoyed our last taste of the Ligurian towns and Italy for the weekend!