By the time we reached La Spezia, I was missing all the beautiful picture postcard rolling green vine-covered Tuscan hills dotted with stone buildings. But just around the corner we found something else for me to gaze at – the pastel colours of the villages and the ever-changing seascapes of Cinque Terre.
We’re staying at Corniglia (‘Cornelia’), the middle of the 5 Cinque Terre villages. It was named after the wife of the Roman farmer who settled here. Corniglia is the only village without its own beach, although it does have a fair weather dock and it is possible to hire boats and kayaks. The day we arrived, the sea looked like glass and there were lots of yachts, a few ferries and probably many other smaller vessels out on the water. Yesterday it was rough and the Corniglia dock was mostly under water. Corniglia is the smallest of the villages, with a permanent population of around 250. There’s plenty of accommodation though, and I guess the population expands by several or many multiples of that during tourist season.
We’re staying in an Airbnb apartment on the first floor of a building at the sea end of the main street … which is actually a lane that’s only the width of 2 people. Lots of shops, restaurants and eye-catching stuff along here, and dodging people trying to take their millionth selfie or stopping mid-path to look at something on one of the shops can turn a brisk walk into a frustrating dawdle. We have lovely views from our balcony over the sea, the sunsets and of Monterosso, the first or fifth village of the cinque 5. Vernazza, the village in between, is hidden behind several rocky outcrops.
The drive into Corniglia is … interesting. Very narrow, very winding road down into the village. Greg watched a Youtube video by someone who had done it a few years ago, so he knew what to expect. Basically, it’s a road that is designed for traffic travelling in both directions, but it’s only 1.5 cars wide. So if 2 vehicles happen to meet, there’s quite a bit of reversing to let each other pass.I measure my fear whilst driving by how white my knuckles get, and they were okay during that drive … the whitest they have ever gotten was during some of the drives we did in South Africa!
Parking is very limited. I think most visitors arrive by train or bus, not private car. There are several 1-hour parks near the main street, which is good for unloading luggage, then there is paid and some free parking along the road into and out of the village and also down to the railway station. There are a couple of meters for the paid parking (2 euros for an hour, 10 euros for the day), but both of them are broken! They only accept coins, no notes or credit cards, so have probably been overloaded and not cleared. One meter has an old-looking sign stating that it is broken and it did have another sign on it, advising that there’s another meter 150 metres further up the hill, but as it is now also broken, the second sign has been removed. We originally parked in a paid parking spot and Greg followed others’ examples of leaving a note in the car stating the meter was broken. He went and moved the car early yesterday morning to a free park and it will stay there until we leave tomorrow.
It’s lovely here and I feel like we’re in some kind of weird alternate universe where time has either sped up or slowed down, but I’m not sure which. Have we been here for ages, or did we just arrive? And what day is it today anyway? As for the date … who knows? My computer tells me it’s Monday, September 18th. Okay then.