When you are in the city of Como, Italy on Lake Como don’t miss the chance to ride the funicular up to the small town of Brunate which sits 2346′ above Como. Of course, if you are in no hurry you can hike up! The funicular opened way back in 1894. The breathtaking views of the lake and the town below can’t be matched anywhere! While there walk around or hike to the Volta Lighthouse for more outstanding views.
Sitting high on the hill is the Church of Sant’ Andrea Apostolo in Piazza della Chiesa. This quaint lovely church is another nice place to stop and admire the view.
Stay tuned for more from Lake Como! Did you miss Part 1? Lago di Como
The Cinque Terre can be found between Genoa and Pisa and is an easy train ride from Milan or Florence.
The 5 towns of the Cinque Terre are a UNESCO World Heritage Site stretching for 6 miles on the Italian Riviera but are very different from their glitzy neighbors. We will explore each of the towns as we go.
Many people who plan to visit these towns also plan to hike at least part of the trail so I’ll start there. Heads up- starting April 1, 2019 a new law takes effect banning hikers from wearing flip flops or face fines. This seems like a no-brainer to me since I had on hiking boots but we saw many people who probably decided on the spur of the moment to hike part of the trail and were not prepared either with the proper footwear, water, snacks, first aid for bees, cuts, etc.
Hiking trails are available from Monterosso to Vernazza to Corniglia. Recently the path has been closed between Corniglia , Manarola and Riomaggiore due to landslides so be sure to check if they are open. You can hike in either direction.
We hopped the local train from Santa Margherita Ligure, our home base, to Monterosso al Mare and hiked to Vernazza then after lunch grabbed a ferry to Manarola. Plan your time wisely! It was insanely hot when we were there in early September and we encountered quite a few hikers. Move over and let people who are quicker pass.
Don’t overestimate how much you can accomplish in one day! The hike is strenuous, no matter your age, and exhausting!
Don’t forget to enjoy each town you do visit remembering why you went there in the first place. This section of the Italian Riviera is breathtakingly beautiful but sadly, too much tourism, like in Venice, is threatening these gorgeous places. Be considerate and don’t ruin it for the next guests. The area is fragile and needs to be preserved for us all to enjoy. Goes without saying in my book!!!!
Make sure when buying your tickets for ferries or hiking that you are paying for the right thing. We were sold hiking tickets in Monterosso but after hiking about 15 minutes up a steep hill we were told at a checkpoint that we had the wrong tickets- more money and too late to turn back!
Be prepared as things run slowly here! Our train back was well over an hour late unlike the Trenitalia trains that run all over Italy. The local trains are not as prompt where the Trenitalia trains are very prompt!!! Don’t be late! No one will wait for you! Buy your tickets in advance is great advice!!
Your choices are limited for staying in one of the 5 towns for the most part so you might consider staying nearby and making day trips to the Cinque Terre and Portofino. Some towns to consider are: Santa Margherita Ligure, La Spezia, Levanto, and Rapalo. Leave the car elsewhere.
Monterosso al Mare
This town has a beautiful stretch of beach where you can just hang out and relax and then explore the town’s architecture in both the New town and the Old town or just start your hike.
This town is so picturesque with its beautiful natural harbor and tiny narrow cobblestone streets and cute restaurants flanking the small Piazza. Linger along the breakwater built only in 1972 that surrounds the harbor. Take in the sights in Piazza Marconi and watch the boats come and go as children play in the waters.
In case you didn’t hike in from Monterosso be sure to take a few extra minutes to find the narrow stairs that mark the start of the trail that lead you up to the most quintessential view of Vernazza.
The harborfront church of Santa Margherita is unusual for its east facing entry rather than the more traditional western orientation.
This town dates mostly from the 12th and 15th centuries. The color of the buildings are regulated (known as ‘Ligurian pastel’) MAGICAL!!!
Just like many parts of Italy the hillsides around the Cinque Terre are dotted with olive and wine vineyards. Be sure to walk uphill in each town to avoid the crowds of the waterfront.
Manarola is the last town we visited as it was already late and our train ride back was about an hour and then we were delayed another hour plus. The town seems to hang in a ravine and is relatively quiet. These towns all seem to hang on the cliffs like on the Amalfi Coast and Positano. Manarola is probably the steepest of the 5 towns. Be sure when there to head uphill out of the harbor area where the crowds are less dense. The hills here are also covered with vineyards and lemon groves. For lovely views late in the day head up the trail towards the town’s cemetery.
Sadly we did not have enough time or an extra day to get to Corniglia or Riomaggiore but here is some information on both. Next trip!
Corniglia is the only town not on the coast. Wine is still the lifeblood of this town as it was in ancient times. The hike from here to Vernazza is a challenging, hilly 1.5 hour hike. Check to see if the trail is open to Manarola before setting out!
Riomaggiore offers lovely views back on the harbor from the breakwater. Have fun just strolling from the train station down to the harbor. This town is very photogenic especially just around sunset.
(sorry I couldn’t get there this trip) here is a great shot by Kevin Mercier
Where is your next trip? My wish list is so long and made even more complicated by all the towns I really want to revisit. Hard to complain! See you in our next town 🙂
If you are planning a trip to Italy I have blogs on many towns some which I have visited 2 or 3 times often employing guides so I don’t miss the local highlights that most tourists miss. Guides are well worth the extra money. If it is pricey for you, consider some less expensive meals or forget the souvenirs to compensate. You won’t be sorry. Travel Agents who specialize in Italy can help you with guides, train and travel arrangements as well as affordable accommodations in convenient locations so you don’t waste too much time checking out your location.
Lover’s Leap is a Connecticut State park located in New Milford along the Housatonic River and straddles the Housatonic Gorge. The history of this park is dark and full of mystery! The signature attraction is the red wrought-iron bridge built in 1895 and one of four iron lenticular truss bridges remaining in Connecticut. It rises 100′ above the rocky gorge below. Don’t look down if you are afraid of heights!
The legend of this park dates back hundreds of years to Native American Princess Lillinonah, the daughter of Chief Waramaug of the Pootatuck Indians. The Chief died in 1735. There are a variety of scenarios of what happened but one says that she fell in love with an Englishman who she married but while he was gone on business she supposedly jumped from the rocks at the top of the mountain when he didn’t return in the time frame expected. When he returned and learned of her fate he also jumped into the river to be with his love. There are many variations on this story so who knows! Some say she canoed to her death into the ‘Great Falls’ ( now 14′ below the surface of the Housatonic since the construction of the Shepaug Dam) and when he returned he saw her in the rapids and leaped to his death in an attempt to save her.
The park has several hiking trails with beautiful views of the Housatonic River and overlooks Lake Lillinonah and a now submerged Goodyear Island named for an early fur trader who traded with the Indian community in this area.
Part of this park once was the estate of Catherine Judson Hurd who bequeathed the land to the state for use as a public park. The native Americans occupied this site for over 8,000 years. It’s location was strategic for both observation and signaling.
Once a wealthy maritime power few regions of Italy are as gorgeous as the corner of Campania that is home to the hilly Sorrentine Peninsula and the Amalfi Coast. This is also the home of Naples, and the Islands of Capri, Ischia and Procida. Smack dab in the middle of the Mediterranean the sea is the most alluring blue green color and if that doesn’t win your heart the warmth of the sun and the people certainly will. From the Sorrento Coast to Salerno the views don’t disappoint. They take you to Mount Vesuvius across the bay of Naples and then across the sea to the Island of Capri. It is a world made up of stairs! Thousand and thousands of them so bring your most comfortable walking shoes. This is no time ladies for fancy high heels that will only get caught in the cobblestones!
Cultural highlights are everywhere from the ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum to the ancient history in Sorrento and Naples with sights and adventures that take you back to Roman times. The Amalfi coast is a UNESCO World Heritage site which hopefully will help preserve its charm and history. The landscape is dotted with alluring, charming towns and the most beautiful churches.
The food is “bellissima”! Make sure if you go to have the pizza! The pasta extruded using bronze dies creates a rough texture better supporting the sauce tastes nothing like ours here in the US and the mozzarella, gelato and limoncello are divinely delicious! The vine-ripened tomatoes beckon at every meal and the lemons and olives… well you get the idea! The hills are terraced with lemons, oranges, olives and grapes with Sorrento itself being known for its lemon production. They all thrive in this volcanic soil. Did someone say “Limoncello”! Be prepared for lots of seafood, desserts and more desserts!
All that walking though will let you eat and drink your way around. Did I mention the wine!!!!! Divine!!! Hang out and relax and enjoy the wine and the sunsets. Savor the slow pace and forget all those “To Do” lists, if even just for a little while.
What would a coastline be without the hidden coves and beaches that will try to lure you away from your intentions. These are not the beaches of the Caribbean however! First and foremost, you must plan to see the coast from the water, especially on Capri!
Of course, for those so inclined there are plenty of hiking adventures to be had. (coming in an upcoming post)
For those more adventurous, the cliff hugging Amalfi coast road, one of the world’s most beautiful scenic roads, with its 1,001 hairpin turns and breath taking views will test even the most accomplished driver. If you love roller-coasters then this is for you. Luckily there are taxis, private cars and buses that make travel easy and convenient because of course, you don’t want to miss the scenery because you had to concentrate on the road!
Sorrento is known as one of the world’s most charming and a old towns with it’s many cafes, shops and historic sites. (see upcoming blogs) Ravello is most famous for its extraordinary gardens and the Ravello Music Festival. Amalfi is the main coastal town and port. Positano is the jewel of the coastline with shops and houses cascading down the ravine to the sea. Don’t miss Capri or one of the other islands to the west of Sorrento in the Tyrrhenian Sea. Tourism is the major industry on this coast.
I am debating on the best way to tackle this blog so you don’t miss a second of my trips to the Amalfi coast so I think I will cover a few towns in separate blogs as there is too much to be said. Are you ready to continue on to Part 2 in this series? “Positano Bites Deep”
If you want to travel to Italy I can highly recommend a fabulous planner Ashley Turney of L’Esperta.