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Five Alive

My over ambitious nature led me to decide that this summer, this 17 year old was going backpacking around Europe. So this proposal could become a reality, I artfully persuaded my boyfriend to also fall in love with the idea so my parents would be satisfied I had a “bodyguard”. The original plan was a five week trip; (I did say I was over ambitious) but this quickly turned into 17 days when I took stock of my bank account and a stack of ever increasing school work. One of the stops on our whirlwind trip was Cinque Terre located in Italy.

A testament to the allure of Cinque Terre is that not once, but twice, two teenagers stumbled to a train station at 6’ clock in the morning to catch a 3 hour train. I kid you not, when I say lack of sleep was a small price to pay for the beauty which is the North West Coast of Italy. Before I terrify you late risers into never wanting to step foot in Cinque Terre, our train journey was an exception as we were at the time based in Florence and Cinque Terre was a day trip for us.

Cinque Terre, meaning five towns in Italian, is quite literally five little seaside villages built into the coastline at regular intervals. The towns are named Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso. Cinque Terre is an easily accessible location from the main train station in La Spezia, from which trains depart and stop in every village of Cinque Terre every quarter of an hour. You can travel easily by train between each town, with boat trips also being an option.

The enticement of these towns for me was the brightly coloured buildings and an islander’s urge to be by the sea again. The area is a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to the landscape which encompasses the villages and it can be seen that the locals have worked alongside the land in a harmonious relationship. The towns have a rich heritage of churches and monasteries, castles and the architecture of the locals houses themselves.

Linking each town is a series of footpaths, which until the train networks were completed was the only way of travelling and trading between villages. Due to these paths Cinque Terre is a hikers dream with enchanting views of the coastline and the other villages from points high up on the cliffs. The tranquillity of the pathways is more than worth the trek up and down the hills between the villages. To travel along the footpaths you need to buy a pass, which you can buy in conjunction with unlimited train travel between the villages for only £16. Accommodation, despite the small size of each town is plentiful and reasonably priced considering the beauty of the location.

The town furthest from La Spezia is Monterosso which is also the largest. This town is best known for its vast expanse of beach and local markets. It is characterised by its brightly coloured umbrellas and is the most popular of the towns for those wanting to lie and relax in the sun.

Second along is Vernazza, my personal favourite. Vernazza is rich with characteristic buildings such as Doria Castle and the Church of Santa Margherita d’Antiochia. It has two beaches, a sand one incorporated into the harbour and a more private pebble beach used by the locals. It was here that we first sampled the exquisite seafood of Cinque Terre. Never before had I tasted deep fried seafood wrapped in paper cones and after Cinque Terre, never again will I be content to eat seafood in anything but, a paper cone.

Corniglia is the only village without a harbour, situated high up on the cliffs. It is renowned for the 377 stairs which you must undertake to get from the train station up to the main village.

Manarola is very clearly the local children’s favourite village as the harbour has a series of rocks perfect for jumping and diving into the sea. Manarola is thought to be the oldest of all the towns containing the church of San Lorenzo and the Bastion.

The last village is Riomaggiore which is split in two by the railway line. On the beach side, the sea is the clearest of all the villages and so perfect for swimming and snorkelling. Higher up is the agricultural area with expanses of vineyards and terraces.

Cinque Terre was my favourite location out of all the places I travel this summer. It’s brightly coloured houses and unique charm makes it a must see for anyone looking for a tranquil holiday.

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