Cinque Terre: Monterosso al mare, Italy
Wednesday 7th July
Our first and last morning in Parma promised yet another hot and sunny day ahead. It was already very warm when we woke at 7am, a relative sleep in for us all. Point of note here: our Bed &Breakfast, ‘Rubra B&B’, was really just a B as it did not offer breakfast. A sense of humour, Italian style. It had a kitchenette though and, as we had our own cereal, we decided to have breakfast in our room. There were numerous tiny cafes along the main road downstairs though but we were a bit too lethargic to be bothered to explore them.
We set off for Cinque Terre at about 9.30am and were thankful that there weren’t as many trucks traversing this section of road westwards to the coast. We were still in with the luxury car market though. No Japanese cars here, just car after car of Audi, Merc or BMW. The scenery reverted back to picturesque limestone mountains again, dotted with Castles and Monasteries, as soon as we got out of Parma and ventured a bit further west.
Cinque Terre literally means ‘5 lands’ and is the named given to the 5 Villages set into the rocky cliffs along this part of the rugged Italian west coast. The area is therefore not easily accessible by car. Many tourists would catch the train in for there stay in Cinque Terre. I chose a hotel in one of the Villages based on the fact that it had a small private car park and was well reviewed. The roads into the Villages of Cinque Terre are very scary and more suited to bikes than cars. At one stage a small wrong turn had our Sat Nav directing us up what looked like a pebbled goat track! We knew the area was remote but lost a bit of faith in her then and decided to turn around until she could think up a better route for us. We eventually arrived at our little villa hotel, The Hotel Villa Steno, at around midday. The hotel was beautiful and looked just as it had appeared on the web-site. Our room had a nice patio that looked out over the harbour with a table and deck chairs. We were looking forward to having our chilled Lambrusco (bought in Parma) out here later on today. We dropped our bags off and took the 2 min walk down to the harbour/beach for lunch to a restaurant over looking the beach. ‘Beach’ sounds a bit glamorous but that’s what they call it; no waves and with black volcanic sand. Our table was just up from the sand and, thankfully, under an umbrella. Lunch was delicious and, surprisingly, reasonably priced. It was a magnificent scene of various sized boats milling around the tiny harbour, kids jumping off the pier, people swimming and lazing on the private beach and others dining or just wondering around the village in this beautiful part of the world.
After lunch we wandered back to the Hotel through the maze of tiny lanes that were lined with cafes, shops and historic sites. We went inside the Church of San Giovanni Battista, an amazing construction made of layers of black and white marble. I thought of my sister here as this was surely a Church dedicated to Collingwood / Magpie supporters.
It was so hot that we decided to have a rest in the cool of our air conditioned room before heading back down to the black beach for a swim in the Mediterranean. We eventually sauntered down towards the beach at about 4pm and, to our complete surprise, found another ‘Collingwood’ style Church along the way, the Santé Croce. This one was painted in stripes rather than made up of layers of different coloured stone. In 1584 there were 6 churches in this area of Monterosso! The mind boggles! Once down at the black sand we were amazed to find that the cost to rent an umbrella and 2 chairs was 26 Euros! Global Financial Crisis…hello!!!!!!!…Who would, or rather, should, pay such a ridiculous amount for such a ****** beach!!! We opted for the free strip of pebbles a little further along and chose to sit 30cm from the water so that we could manage our belongings and simply fall into the water. It was impossible to walk in to the water without crocs or thongs. I couldn’t help but think that these guys would think they’ve gone to Heaven if they ever make it down to Bondi Beach…free, white, fine, powder-soft sand, blue sky and……waves!
We eventually ambled home and showered before having a pre-dinner drink on our terrace. I had researched some restaurants to try out and we headed down to ‘Via Venti’. It was amazing. The waiter’s father, at the age of 63, did all of the cooking and made all of the pasta by hand. Our meals were delicious and we thought of Matt and wished that he was here with us to sample the fine food fare. Next year??
We’re now back in our room and Mark is watching Germany vs Spain, with commentary in Italian, whilst I blog. We have a big day tomorrow; walking the Cinque Terre paths and we all need an early night.
This place is pretty special!