Cinque Terre is the name of a district that encompasses five quaint fishing villages perched high on the Italian Riviera.
Over centuries, people have carefully built terraces to cultivate grapes and olives on the rugged, steep landscape right up to the cliffs that overlook the Mediterranean Sea. Travel Associates advisor Fiona Boileau shares her personal travel experience to this unforgettable destination for a special birthday.
"Anyone who knows me knows that I love September; after all it’s my birthday month! I thought I would share my experience of how I spent my “special” birthday several years ago. Arriving into Monterosso on the Cinque Terre was spectacular. We disembarked the train and once out of the station the view was fabulous, a magnificent beach greeted us.
Our hotel for the next few days was the Porto Roca, perched high on the hill overlooking the ocean. Although the hotel had a bit of a 60’s feel (I was sure I would see Marion Cunningham swirl out of the kitchen) it all fitted together well. Any misgivings quickly disappeared once we were in our room. We had a large balcony that seemed bigger than our room, and nicely set out with lounge chairs and an umbrella. I could see us sitting here just watching the view, perhaps with a wine or two.
Our main reason for visiting Monterosso was that I had challenged myself that I would walk part of the Cinque Terre for my 50th Birthday. Some people hike Machu Picchu, some climb Kilimanjaro, some swim the English Channel. This was my personal challenge, and I wanted a good wine at the end!
It was a beautiful morning and I was looking forward to my challenge. At this stage I should also advise you that only 6 months or so earlier I had a knee operation. The early start of the trail was lovely. A few steps, a bit of a wind, an incredible view. It was the best 20 metres of the walk! We rounded a corner, and without exaggeration there must have been 200 steps, and not all the same size. Some small, some big, some narrow, some wide. It didn’t really matter; all I could see was a mountain of steps. I held my finger to my chest, I rubbed my knee, put my head down and started to climb. I won’t lie and said I did it easily, it was tough but when I reached the top I was so proud. We stopped for a while and took in the scenery and praised ourselves.
It was time to move on and the next hundred metres ran along the mountain top and was spectacular. I was so mesmerised that it took me a moment to realise that we were about to embark on more steps. Not as many as the first time, but still a lot. I won’t bore you with the finer details but we finally reached the pinnacle of the walk. The elevation gain was significant, but now, what goes up must come down. We loitered at the top for a while because it was so magical, but then it was time to descend.
It was incredible weaving our way through the vineyards, olive and Orange groves. When Vernazza came into view, it was jaw dropping. You have seen the pictures of the multi coloured buildings of the Cinque Terre, well this was it. It was like we were looking at a postcard. We continued our climb down, but even more slowly so as we could take in the view. I was so excited. Not only did I complete my challenge, but we were rewarded with a spectacular back drop for my victory wine. We had done it; we had walked 3kms of the Cinque Terre. Others may only take 2 hours, we were just under four, with my delicate knee in tow.
When it was time to head back to Monterrosso after our beautiful lunch, Ken asked if I would like to walk. I smiled sweetly and headed to the ferry terminal. After all, I had only challenged myself to one walk!"