We spent three weeks seeing four countries and now we've reached Italy where we will spend the next two weeks.
Our first stop in Italy was the beautiful Cinque Terre, a national park on the north-western coast. Built into the sheer cliffs of the coast are five towns linked by train line. It is possible to drive between them, but the area is world heritage listed so traffic is restricted. There are also shuttle buses which go up the mountains, and saved our poor legs from some steep climbing! The towns are built in terraces and look as though they grow out of the cliffs in all their pastel shades. There are also citrus orchards, olive trees and grape vines planted on terraces all along the cliffs. It's definitely something different!
The national park is famous for the many walking trails it provides, which is the reason we visited. We started our walk on one of the coast trails beginning in the town we stayed in, Riomaggiore. The walk was literally on the edge of the cliff for the whole walk, with breathtaking views of the ocean, mountains and towns in the distance. When we reached the next town, Manarola, we had to take a shuttle bus to Volastra, a town further up the mountains, where we began another trail. The path meandered through vineyards, at times barely a foot wide, with a drop down to the next terrace right next to our feet. In places there was still snow from a previous fall so the walk was definitely not for the faint-hearted. The path went further up the mountain and into a forested area where the snow was still thick on the pine trees and the path. No matter what part of the walk we were on, the views were amazing. Every time we turned a bend, a view even greater than the last presented itself. The trail then wound its way back down the mountain towards the coast. Barely existing paths and stairs a hand span wide (with no safety railing) seemed to be the order of the day. We finally reached Corniglia and sat to rest our shaky legs, only to find that the train station for was another 365 stairs down the cliffs! But even a walk to the train station is well worth it when it sits parallel to the coast and you have a view of the ocean as you wait for the train.
The area is definitely worth the visit, and not all the trails are quite as hairy as the second one we took. In summer, there are a lot of water activities available if you'd prefer to stay clear of the steep climbs.