We’re waiting at the train platform in Manarola. The sun is shining, but I am dressed like an Eskimo. Layered up I have on a long sleeved shirt (check), long pants (check), rain coat (check), scarf wound around my neck several times (check), the thingy ma jig wrapped around my head and ears (check), and my hiking boots and wool socks (check). Yep, I’m definitely on an Italian Riviera holiday! Walking through the tunnel to the train station I felt sorry for the woman playing the violin. It was even colder in that tunnel. She had to be freezing and her fingers numb. There are many hikers waiting at the train station too. There has been so much rain the hiking trails are closed for fear of mudslides. The hikers are wearing shorts, coats, big backpacks with what looks like TV antennas sticking out of them (their hiking poles) and everyone looks COLD. I am not a happy camper this morning. Then I see my Australian friends that I met in Chiuso and traveled on the train to Florence with. We have a good robust talk and it lifts my spirits. There are just some people you hit it off with immediately and this is the group. They are always smiling, laughing and talking. I am reminded that there is no bad weather, just improper clothing. I have on the proper clothing, so let’s go! My friends are off to Vernazza this morning and SB and I are off to Corniglia. Stand back, when the train flies in it can blow you right off the platform!
Corniglia, population 240, is the least touristy town in Cinque Terre because it does not have an ocean view beach front. It is remote with only a small number of restaurants, shops and inhabitants, but for some reason that is where I want to go today. Only three people on the train get off here, we are two of them. The train station in Corniglia is small and it is not a long walk to the tiny uphill street where a green shuttle van for the locals waits. Here we have to make a decision.
We can walk up the 380 stone steps to get to the village or do like the locals do and get on the green shuttle town van. We opt for the van and in a few minutes we are in the tiny town circle. The town square is a town circle. There are a few people milling around and to the side of town circle a cart is set up selling cheese and sausages. We decide to walk higher up the hill to get a better view. There is a small enotecha notched into the hillside with an entrance of glass bottles filled with wildflowers.
Some travelers are sitting outside under the terrace wrapped in their coats willing away the cold. Across from the enotecha the cliff drops off to the sea and is covered in grapevines. What we notice is the rail, one you would see on a roller coaster and a cart sitting on the rail. It is a cart to carry the picked grapes up the hill or down the hill, which ever may be the case.
We walk back down to the town circle and take a look at the notch in the wall of buildings to see what is down the only walkway, a characteristic alley called a carugi, through the village. To my surprise there are several restaurants, grocery shops, boutique shops, wine shops and gelato stops with a two foot wide stone center aisle separating the two sides of the walkway and shops on either side. Bonanza! I check them all out. I am fascinated by the design and decoration of the shops.
The shops are tiny, offer unique gifts locally made and I can practice my Italian with the proprietors. What more could I want? One of my favorite shops turns out to be Fanny’s Bazar with Sondra Righelli the proprietress. I like her fish dishes. That’ s what I call them. Pottery shaped in three sizes of fish, all painted in bright colors. How can I get those home without breaking them? Then there is the rope lady. She makes necklaces out of rope that looks like it has tied a boat to the wharf for a few centuries. The rope is woven and twisted with a shiny rock or two looped in to make each necklace unique.
We walk all the way to the town overlook of the sea. It is still sunny, blustery and cold up here, but the view is worth it. There is cactus and wildflowers in full bloom. The seagulls make big swoops along the edge of the wall. The ocean roars below. The view is incredible. We turn to head back to town circle and decide to eat at one of the stone caverns called Osteria a Cantina de Mananan, that we passed by earlier in the day. We walk up a few stone steps and inside the warm cozy cave we are greeted by a smiling mischievous looking grandfather type who seats us at a table.
He tells us the meat sauce is made fresh daily along with the pasta. No second thoughts for me, pasta sounds wonderful. We enjoy the pasta, bread and local red wine along with our table mates who were from Minnesota. We carry on a delightful conversation with the proprietor, “Grandfather”. I really could have stayed in this small village the entire week, I liked it so much. As we waited for the shuttle bus back to the train station I had a good long “Italian” chat with a local woman. Maybe I should drink more, my Italian seems to get better. Maybe I’m just not worried if my Italian is correct or not. She understood me and I understood her. It turned out to be a perfect day!
Don’t miss Corniglia! It turned out to be my favorite place in Cinque Terre! You can find Fanny’s Bazar, the rope necklace shop and Osteria a Cantina de Mananan easily. Just climb 380 stone steps to the village of Corniglia, make a left at the town circle, follow the carugi between the buildings and have a fantastic day!