My mom was in town last week to visit and help us set up the new kid's room, so while she was in Italy, we decided to show her an area of Italy she hadn't seen yet - Le Cinque Terre.
I'm not a local, nor am I a Cinque Terre expert. But we do know locals and experts in the area, so we jumped at the chance to be shown around these great villages by a local guide. Our guide for this trip was Kate Little-Paradiso. We met Kate through Megan - of Bella Vita Italia fame - and I can't recommend her highly enough. She was a fantastic guide and made the day a truly memorable experience for my mom and me.
The day started in Monterosso, the most northern of the five villages of the Cinque Terre. Right away I started asking about the history and mom started taking pictures. That more or less describes how the rest of the day progressed. I asked (probably random) history questions and mom more or less filled her memory card.
After Monterosso we went to Vernazza. Both towns were recently severely damaged by flooding, but both were recovering nicely. While Monterosso is nearly back to normal, Vernazza lags behind just a bit; however, both communities are up-and-running for the summer season and well worth visiting. From Vernazza we traveled to Riomaggiore, where we ate bruschetta with anchovies and pasta al pesto in the Genovese style. Both are regional specialities and if you find yourself in Le Cinque Terre, you should try them, they are fantastic.
After lunch we began the hiking part of our day. The Cinque Terre has many seaside and mountain trails that feature better-than-postcard views of the sea and towns. My favorite hike was a 2-hour path from Volastra to Corniglia. The path takes you through terraced mountain vineyards and a bit of forrest. Though a bit strenuous and not for anyone subject to vertigo, it may just be one of those one-in-a-lifetime experiences for anyone not from the region.
Kate's tour had us travel by train, bus and boat. For my money, the best views of the villages are from out at sea and high above in the terraced vineyards. While we were there, mom and I took as much in as we could - the sights the tastes and the village architecture were all unique and enjoyable - but it wasn't until we were on the train at the end of the day that we realized how well everything had gone. What I mean is, Kate had planned the whole day around Trenitalia's bizarre schedules, ferry times and bus departures. Even when we wanted to change things in the middle of the day she still knew how to maximize our time in the area.