Friday, 1 April 2016

Cinque Terre Trek

The hubby and I were recent guests of Walkabout Florence, which is a small tour operator offering a small number of very unique one day trips in the region. The tours are all quite different and include a cookery school, wine tasting and driving Fiat 500's through the Tuscan countryside. I do believe there is something for everyone at this company and being specialised they offer personalised service and aim to cater as best as possible to the individuals needs.

We selected the incredibly popular and highly regarded Cinque Terre Trek. Ensure you reserve online in advance as these day trips are busy and ours was completely full. The tour began at 7:45am with a meeting at the train station before boarding the coach. We drove for around two hours to the Cinque Terre region. The journey included a rest stop for toilets, coffee and snacks. Our two tour guides Fabien and Martina kept us entertained the whole way with facts about Cinque Terre and pointing out highlights on the journey such as the marble mountains.

On arrival the group were split into two so there were around twenty guests to one guide. We began our trek in the small village of Manarola where we had time to admire the view and given a little free time to wander around the town. We then boarded a train to the village of Corniglia. On arrival we did have a four hundred step climb or a shuttle if really needed. However, the climb was taken at your own pace and the reward was spectacular coastal scenery.

Next up was lunch! The restaurant had a large open air but covered terrace overlooking the sea. The view was incredible. We began with a mixed fish appetiser. There was an octopus and potato salad, seabass and potato puree, mixed seafood salad, anchovy in olive oil and a fried anchovy. It was genuinely delicious and gave the group a chance to try new dishes. The main course was fresh pesto pasta with potato and green beans. The portion wasn't huge, however, once we began hiking again I was quite relieved! There was plenty of fresh, natural water and ciabatta too.

After lunch the real fun began! We started the trail to Vernazza. The hike was one hour and twenty minutes although we were allowed to go at our own pace. If you stuck with our wonderful guides there would be rest stops and further information. However, we took the opportunity to break off from the group and have some time to ourselves. We did the whole hike in about forty five minutes, which meant we had plenty of time for a large glass of white wine produced in the Cinque Terre region on arrival in Vernazza.

Do not be nervous of the hike, you really can take this at your own pace. It's up, it's down and it's flat in certain areas and there are plenty of places to rest and take photos and enjoy the views. The path is a little uneven and rocky in parts so definitely wear walking boots or trainers. You are exposed so a rain coat, sunglasses and sun screen will be necessary depending on the weather. There were plenty of people around of all ages and fitness abilities so it really isn't anything to panic about. The Walkabout guides will keep you well informed of the journey and help whenever needed.

From Vernazza we took a train to Monterosso where we decided to find a small wine bar and check out the regions Limoncino. This is made from baby lemons and is stronger and sweeter than the familiar Limoncello we Brits are used to! From here we boarded a boat to Riomaggiore. The boat was a little choppy but it did give us the opportunity to marvel at what we had hiked from another perspective. The area really is beautiful both from land and the sea. This village is famous for fried seafood but as we had train issues and therefore a later than planned arrival many shops had run out of the super fresh fish. We did, however, find some other amazing delights so were not disappointed.

Next up was a short train journey to board the coach and take the one hour and thirty minutes drive back to Florence. This is a long day, we left at 7:45am and arrived at 9pm. With fresh sea air and hiking you will be shattered. However, the guides gave us some great late night dinner options on the journey back and enabled us to nap if we needed. All in all this is an amazing day out of Florence. It's great to get out of the city and experience another region. Going with a group and guides brings the area to life and keeps you on a tight schedule needed to encompass all five villages in one day.

It is worth noting that the Walkabout guides will give you a short briefing at each village to ensure you can maximise your time. They pointed out the best organic gelato's, taught us about the white wine produced in the area and where to taste it, the local delicacies of fried fish, cheese filled doughnuts and various cakes. They highlighted the best two towns for lemons and encouraged us to try certain products such as fresh lemon juice, lemon slushies' with vodka and limoncino. There is then free time in each village to wander, relax, take photos and experience the guides recommendations. You can spend time alone or with new friends made on the journey or with the guides themselves. All train tickets, boat ticket, coach journey and lunch are included as well as the guides obviously. The villages are not expensive, wine was on average 5 EUR per glass and similar for a portion of gelato or a limoncino, all of these are on your own account but won't break the bank.

The guides will also point out rest rooms and water fountains along the entire route so all of your comforts will be taken care of.

Walkabout Florence are an amazing tour company, you will so impressed by taking one of their tours. We hope to return and experience a wine tour but can thoroughly recommend Cinque Terre. I think a little piece of my heart has been left amongst the vines, olive trees and fishing villages in the region. It was magical and providing you have average fitness is more than manageable as a day out from Florence.

Thank you to Walkabout Florence for hosting the hubby and I.