I wanted to enjoy some sunrise action in Manarola, Italy – that was clear from the start. But getting to Cinque Terre is not as simple as it may sound. Basically, you need to get to La Spezia first. Especially if you’re a train traveller.
Arriving at La Spezia (my base camp for the following days) was quite a positive surprise. To be honest, I expected the worst thinkable tourist trap with a bracelet seller on every strategically placed corner.
I was wrong, La Spezia is actually quite a nice place to stay, with a pleasant flair. It has a great park and a nice long promenade at the sea, and loads of yachts to look at. If you like that sort of thing.
What is Cinque Terre?
For those who have no idea why I ended up in La Spezia when I wanted to visit Cinque Terre, here a short explanation. Cinque Terre is not a single place but a set of officially 5 villages at the sea in the Cinque Terre national park, part of UNESCO:
These 5 villages are all equally pretty and also very tiny (absolutely forget going by car!). They offer only very limited and exorbitantly expensive accommodation.
So the perfect solution to this problem is finding accommodation in the neighbouring city of La Spezia.
Staying in La Spezia
La Spezia is a nearby city that is the perfect place to start your trip by train or boat. And has enough places to stay. Still not cheap but one can see that at least there are some free-market forces present.
At Lungomare Rooms & Apartments, where I stayed, I performed most likely the most challenging conversations in Italian so far.
First, a lady who didn’t speak a word English welcomed me for early check-in. Told me that the room is ready if I could give her my passport. She’d need to make a copy and that the payment will be done to the manager in the evening.
Then she showed me the room and I was amazed that I understood maybe two-thirds of it all. I even managed to react at some points. The second conversation happened in the evening.
The manager, who spoke fantastic English, found out within 5 seconds that I know some Italian basics. Nothing, and I mean nothing would make him switch back to English from that moment on.
Which was a good thing, otherwise we couldn’t have a nice chat about La Spezia. Which restaurants to visit, about Prague and about Germany. And about the fact that my Italian is not so bad after all. And where did I learn it? “In Siena“, I said proudly. Grazie di nuovo, Sabrina e Mauro from Saena Iulia!
Sunrise in Manarola
Anyway, I spent some time reading and writing in the park, and enjoyed my dinner on the lovely promenade. Because, yeah, I decided to take the very first train at 7 a.m. to Manarola, my Cinque Terre favourite.
I planned to see and photograph the sunrise in Manarola. But already on the train I realized, that it is going to be physically impossible to see the sunrise.
The thing is – when you’re on the west coast with a massive mountain in your back, you can’t see much of the actual Sunstar.
Still, could be worse, I had the whole town just for me! So I got immediately lost as there were no streams of tourists to follow. But I was happy.
It was beautiful and so calm. I walked up an enormous hill in order to see absolutely nothing of Manarola but at least a 120 degrees of the sea and the vineyards.
On my way down, I finally found the real view place from which all the best pictures were made. All that still by myself. I’m telling you – sunrise is the new sunset. I breathed the wonderful sea air as much as I could and enjoyed the view.
My happiness didn’t take very long – at about 9 a.m., an ENORMOUS amount of people turned up and started to ruin the moment with their selfie sticks and “record-as-you-walk” camcorders and smartphones.
Because it’s so unimportant to see the world with your own eyes.
When it gets too crowded, move on – direction Riomaggiore! Cinque Terre villages can get terrifyingly crowded very suddenly.
Riomaggiore doesn’t have that dramatic flair as Manarola. It’s rather sort of down-to-earth or rather down-to-sea since the town literally hangs above the sea.
The main street is a kind of city centre with lots of cute shops with spice, fruits and vegetables, pottery, souvenirs, small cafés etc. Definitely worth visiting!