It’s our first full day in Cinque Terre, and we were all set to hit the trail. We laced up our walking shoes, bought a 3 day trail pass, and set out on the aptly named Via della Amore on our way to the next town in the chain, Manarola.

The Via della Amore is paved and an easy stroll. It’s also a place of breathtaking views of sheer cliffs, a calm turquoise and deep blue sea, and beautiful wildflowers. It was also terribly crowded with tourists visiting for the May Day holiday.   We edged our way through the masses of people either snapping pictures or making out on the benches.   Ah, Italy.

There is a charming custom here of lovers writing their names and dates on a small lock, such as would be used for a suitcase, and then locking it to various places – the chain-link fencing used to keep down rock slides, the benches, the gates, whatever looks handy. We watched a few of these being done by teenagers when they came up for air, and thought it a charming custom. Those who weren’t making out were making fun of the other tourists. You don’t need to speak Italian to read the facial and hand expressions.

OK, kids – now that you’ve proven your undying (at least until next week) love, now it’s time to spend some time working on your manners.  They’re almost as important as a healthy libido, and those middle-aged tourists with their alpenstocks and sensible hiking shoes are not as funny-looking as you think they are.   Someday you may be working for them.  Just sayin’.

Emerging from the celebrated walk, we traversed the Manarola train station, go through the obligatory tunnel, and we were in the town center.  It’s not as steep as Riomaggiore, but it is every bit as picturesque.  At the top of the town, there is a piazza with a lovely old church that dates from 1338. Wow.

We decided to take the Vineyard Walk since we’ll be returning to Manarola for dinner that night, when hopefully it would be less crowded.  We were glad we did.  It was a beautiful hike through one level of the terraced vineyards where the vines were spreading on their lines, lemon trees in bloom scented the air, and the occasional local working in his or her patch made the walk interesting.   More incredible views.

At the end of the walk, we decided to continue on to Corniglia, and climbed the rough stone steps to the next trail.

To be continued…