Sunday, September 25, 2016

Cinque Terre with a Baby

Good evening! We arrived back in Bergen early on Friday morning, welcomed by the wonderfully rainy and windy autumn weather. Ah well, summer had to end sometime! Now we are in full countdown-preparation mode to our big trip to SE Asia. I am slightly nervous and apprehensive and wondering if we are a bit crazy, but mostly I am excited and full of beans! As you can probably tell from the amount of exclamation marks I've already used in this paragraph (hahah).

Anyway, in an effort to relive our glorious summer, I thought I'd write about our trip to the Five Lands, Cinque Terre. These five seaside villages are probably one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe. The only way you can reach them is by train and boats, as cars are not allowed in from the outside. There are also walking trails between the villages so you can hike between each one, paying a fee to use the trail of course.

We used the nearby town of La Spezia as our base to explore the villages, which was an excellent choice, firstly because the train link from La Spezia station was very convenient. Secondly, because we booked very last minute and could not find accommodation in any of the Cinque Terre villages haha. 
Now, because these villages are so small and connected only by train and walking paths, along with several sets of steep stairs, I did worry about how accessible it would be for us to visit with a baby. However we found that it was quite easy for us to visit the towns of Monterosso and Vernazza with Charlotte in her stroller. We were told that these two towns were the easiest to visit with babies, as there are no stairs, and Monterosso is the biggest village of the five.

So we split up visiting the villages over two days, heading from La Spezia to Monterosso on the train on our first day. Our Airbnb host in La Spezia recommended that we take a boat from La Spezia to Cinque Terre, which was 30 euros, and may be a good option for some people, especially with children. However, we decided to go for the more budget friendly choice of the train. You can't beat the price of 4 euros per ticket, and the ticket is valid for 4 hours once stamped!
One thing to note though, is that there are usually not elevators (or if there are, they don't work!) in the train stations, but we were lucky enough to have friendly offers of help with lifting the stroller up and down.

Monterosso has the largest village centre, and the largest beaches, which are filled with colourfull beach umbrellas. It is famous for its lemon trees, and all of the little shops there sell the most delicious smelling lemon soaps! I had to keep stopping to smell them, as lemon is one of my favourite scents haha
We took a stroll through the town when we arrived, and little Charlotte was able to have a nap in her stroller while we sat down and enjoyed a beer and a fresh foccacia. Later on we found a restaurant to eat lunch at, as the clouds turned grey and grim and we wanted to avoid being rained on. Nathan and I ended up sharing a delicious lunch of gnocchi with ragu sauce, baked anchovies, and one other thing, which for the life of me I cannot remember... but it was delicious! Meanwhile, Charlotte gummed on a crusty piece of bread :)

Unfortunately, after the meal we did get caught in the rain, but the sun came out as we headed to the next town over, Vernazza. This is a much smaller village, and probably the most 'rustic' true fishing village. 

 As you can see, there is no way we were hauling a baby stroller up those stairs!

 Not the best photo of our little Charlotte...

 future garden goals

So, on our second day trip to the five lands, we conquered Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore. For me, I think my favourite village of the five was Corniglia. The stairs going up there from the train station are actually not too bad! But there was no way we were bringing the stroller up there! We had actually left our baby carrier at home in Bergen, so Nathan ended up carrying our heffalumpa in his arms the whole day. Luckily he's got strong arms :)

The views from these villages were amazing! Beautiful azure seas as far as the eye can see, vineyards on hillsides, and tiny cute towns on mountain tops. Although it was September, Cinque Terre was still packed with tourists. I would love to visit there at a time when there are zero tourists, but I imagine that is just impossible now. Too many people know about this beautiful gem of a place ;)

So all in all, although it may not be the easiest place to visit with a baby, we managed just fine and we are so glad we managed to visit these spectacular villages. Anyone who wants to visit these villages with a baby should be more prepared than us, and use a baby carrier to save your arms! You will not want to bring a stroller with you, unless it is very very light weight, and you don't mind hauling it everywhere :) It would have been nice as well to stay in one of the villages, as I imagine they would be quite magical to see at night. Honestly though, we enjoyed staying in La Spezia and it really was a great base for visiting the towns. Plus you can easily visit Portovenere from there, which is not part of Cinque Terre, but is equally as stunning. I must write a post about that too in the future.

Good night, and thanks for reading.
Hannah xx

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