We took the train from Juan-les-Pins, France, changing once in Ventimiglia, Italy, a border town. I had never been to this part of Italy before, partly because I'd rather go somewhere less crowded, and partly because I have no family in this area. But my traveling companions wanted to go and I will always go (almost) anywhere at least once.
The last seaside town in France before the border
Mint green in Monterosso
Typical mediocre tourist fare
A step up: delicious fish carpaccio
Vernazza-the first town we arrived at on our hike
Lunch in Vernazza
My favorite church in all the five towns- this one in Corniglia
The trails from Vernazza to Corgniglia were closed so we had to take the train-the town is a big hike up from the station
Popular diving cliff for tourists in Manarola
The sun started to set during our delicious dinner in Manarola
And continued during our final "hike" to Riomaggiore- the timing couldn't have been more perfect
Lover's walk to Riomaggiore; the easiest of the hikes in Cinque Terre
Messages to significant others
In the end, I was happy I visited Cinque Terre, but I probably would go somewhere else new next time. Its natural beauty is definitely worth seeing firsthand, but there are so many other places in Italy that I feel more of a connection to, like the Campania region, where I still have relatives. Cinque Terre is crowded for a reason, and unfortunately mass tourism can be both a blessing and a curse. The news of last fall's flooding in Vernazza saddened me, as surely the unregulated crowds year after year have a role in the weakening of the hiking trails, yet the path closures are taking a hard toll on the local economy. Tourism is everything to these five towns. I urge you to check out Save Vernazza, a website dedicated to providing updates about the region as well as the ability to donate money towards the restoration of the town. Rick Steves wrote a great article about an inspiring art event called A Rainbow of Solidarity for Vernazza. On January 6, artists transformed Vernazza's boarded-up doors into beautiful works of art. The colorful creations showcase solidarity and hope. The people of Vernazza are strong-willed, proud, and working hard to make sure everything is open by Easter, the start of high season. I have no doubts that they will succeed.