CINQUE TERRE – THE ITALIAN RIVIERA
I had never even heard of Cinque Terre until I polled my Facebook friends on places to go in Italy. My husband and I decided to do a trip of a lifetime to celebrate our 5th wedding anniversary and we decided it needed to be Italy. Once I started googling photos of this Italian town, I knew immediately that I had to see it in person.
It turned out to be one of our favourite spots on our trip. The perfect majestic getaway after a few days of sightseeing in Italy’s most tourist packed cities. It was a chance for us to unwind, stroll the beautiful streets and appreciate the “Dolce Far Niente” or “the sweetness of doing nothing”. If this sounds like a place for you, read on for some helpful travel tips.
A little background: “Cinque Terre” literally means “Five Lands”. The five, small towns cling to the coastline and give you as much charm and character that you could ever want. Monterosso Al Mare – Vernazza – Corniglia – Manarola – Riomaggiore are all linked by hiking paths or a super convenient train that runs between villages every 30-60 minutes. Unfortunately, the commonly used trail that connects the cities, known as Trail #2, are closed indefinitely due to falling rocks and mudslides. BUT if you are adventurous then try one of the more steeper, challenging trails to get some great views of the cities (keep reading for more information). You can also enjoy travel and views from the sea by taking a ferry between towns.
Getting there: We wanted to try our hand at driving to the Eastern Coast so we rented a car from Florence and drove 2.5 hours to the Ligurian Sea. Rental cars are cheap and easy to reserve online ahead of time. Good tip: Get a good map! We printed out exact directions on Google Maps ahead of time and still managed to get lost heading out of Florence. The good part is that highways are great and easy to navigate but you will pay a toll fee. Once arriving in Cinque Terre, you cannot drive your car in any of the towns but there are car parks where you can park overnight and walk down with your luggage. You can also reach Cinque Terre by train from any major city but it does take longer as there may be a few stops along the way.
The Five Towns:
Monterosso Al Mare
Monterosso Al Mare is the larger of the towns and offers more hotel and beach options. We absolutely LOVED our stay at La Colonnina. A roof top terrace with lounge chairs, a shaded courtyard patio with huge lemons trees and a delicious breakfast every morning. Paradise! There are two sides to this town connected by tunnel: the Historical Centre and the pebbled beach area that you see above.
The coastal hiking train between Monterosso and Vernazza (Trail #2) is the only one that is still open but it is also the longest. It will take you about 2 hours (3km/2mi) to complete it. Do it early in the morning before it is too hot and take plenty of water!
If you decide not to stay here, plan for dinner in one of the many cute and quaint restaurants. Enjoy a Spritz and try the seafood pasta! Try a Limoncino for dessert. Limoncino is like Lemoncello but made exclusively in Cinque Terre: a little more sweetness and a little less alcohol. Take it from me, you’ll be buying one to bring home in your suitcase!
My favourite of the towns. A beautiful little harbour that makes for a great place to sit and enjoy a cappuccino while people watching. There is a medieval tower that is worth the climb for great views.
This town is perched high on the mountain-top. When disembarking the train or ferry, you must walk up hundreds of stairs to the top! On a clear day, you can see for miles, making the climb totally worth it!
The picture perfect postcard photo is from Manarola. After our long hike (see below), we stopped here to take in this tiny town while toasting with beers and fresh calamari wrapped in a newspaper cone. Life doesn’t get much better than a view and a moment like that one. Head to the cemetery to the right of town to capture this colourful photo.
Trevor and I took the train from Monterosso to the last town of Riomaggiore. You can buy a day pass or your single train ticket is good for 100 minutes after validation. We decided to do the 1 hour hike to Manarola as it is the shortest one. Walk up to the top of town and head right. Look up. See that incredibly steep staircase? Yep that’s the route. You literally climb through vineyards to the top of the mountain and back down again. It is extremely tough but absolutely breathtaking.
Cinque Terre is a place to visit at least once in a lifetime. I would have enjoyed many more days here but our trip only allowed us for two. If you are planning a trip to Italy consider taking time out and visiting these 5 Lands.