it was one of the final weeks of our holiday. we were growing tired and weary, ready to rest and have the sun kiss our skin as the winter had hit early on our last leg of Spain. we set off from Florence, backpacks on (and rather heavy), and after a few stop offs we ended up in a place that has got my heart and is already calling me back to visit.
you see photos online and read all about it in the travel guides, but seriously, nothing can prepare you for the beauty of the Cinque Terre. a UNESCO world heritage site made up of 5 beautiful little villages nestled on the coast, each vastly different from each other, with hundreds of little hidey holes and historic buildings to discover. terracotta tiles, pastel walls and bright popping houses will have you with your camera firmly in your hand and struggling to put it down as everything is oh so photographable.
we spent a quick, but incredible, 2 nights here and still managed to squeeze in all 5 towns. I suggest you give yourself a good few nights, at least, to get properly stuck in to this place.
getting around: Train is the easiest form of transport around here- passes for the day and one way tickets are reasonable in price and easy to buy. Train stations will either have a ticket machine or a ticket office (manned during business hours) and train timetables are scattered at various platforms. So just buy your ticket, validate and go. Cinque Terre passes are also a great idea for those taking several trips during the day. Be aware that trains will not always run on time and that the times are scattered so be sure do check the timetable. Boat trips are also a popular way to get from town-to-town but are more of a leisurely thing as apposed to practical- also great for photos.
trekking: We trekked the 531 trail from Riomaggiore to Manarola. I found this trek difficult (note I am far from fit at the moment) but the view was oh so rewarding. It is made up of stairs and rocks- like a goat track- so make sure you wear decent shoes as it can get slippery. There are plenty of other trails around- check online or speak to locals for whats open and also look at The Italian Fix for her picks for easy and amazing trails. It was my life line throughout Italy.
sleep: After much debate + googling and I decided to stay in the town of Riomaggiore and we wouldn’t have changed that one bit. we slept in a double room at Alla Marina Affittacamere which was run by two lovely brothers who went above and beyond our expectations. this place is a 30 second walk to the marina, has renovated bathrooms, comfortable beds and even brekky provisions. winning.
Riomaggiore: Filled with plenty of great restaurants, cafes that overlook the marina, walking trails and in my opinion, one of the best views in the Cinque Terre. Sneak around to the left of the marina on the path along the water and find a secluded beach (made up of pebbles) and dip your toes in, or just relax- and eat gelato of course from the nearby icecream hole in the wall. Look up and see a incredible castle (Castellazzo of Cerrico) and two old churches (St Giovanni Battista and the Oratory of San Rocco) which are a must see on your stop- it also has spectacular views.
Manarola: hundreds of houses resembling a watercolour palate, vineyards and produce in abundance and some of the most friendliest locals you’ll ever meet. there is some incredible views to be had and it’s obvious why this place is one of the most photographed of the towns. when it’s open the “love’s lane” trail is said to be a must (sadly not open when I went)- so I opted for eating teramisu gelato in the sunshine.
Cornigila: Get your walking shoes ready, as you have to trek 345 steps all the way to the top of this town. However it’s well worth it- being one of the sleeper towns with a very relaxed atmosphere and some excellent hidden bars with views of the coastline. I’d call it the black sheep of the 5 towns. Try the homemade lemon granita from Alberto Gelateria or visit one of the many restaurants overlooking the bright houses for the perfect view at dinner.
Vernazza: A church on the water, a huge range of bars and more breathtaking views. Vernazza is a hot favourite and is easily one of mine. Eat at Bacareto Osteria- hanging on the cliff face with views of the marina boasting fantastic seafood and to-die-for mozzarella or for a more casual affair grab a bottle of san miguel beer, a foccacia from Batti Batti and get comfortable on the rocks at the marina where you can people watch and cosy up and watch the sun set. Pure bliss.
Monterosso: This would have to be the most touristy of the towns, with several large hotels and eateries. It also has a beautiful swimming beach which in the warmer weather, is lined with stripy beach umbrellas. Be sure to walk towards the tunnel and explore the main area of the town where there is ample restaurants, souvenirs and handmade goods. My tip: as you walk towards the tunnel from the train station check out the WW2 bunker that is down a set of stairs overlooking the water. The views from there are breathtaking and will rekindle your love with Italy all over again.
wining and dining
Bar La Conchiglia di Zonza Donatella, Riomaggiore- excellent foccacias and cinque terre wine
Alberto Gelateria, Corniglia- the freshest lemon granita with lemons sourced locally
IL Grottina, Riomaggiore- fabulous ravioli and seafood pasta (also plenty of options for anti-seafooders)
Batti Batti, Vernazza- every type of foccacia you can imagine and drinks to take away
Vertical Bar, Riomaggiore- great wine, friendly staff and the perfect spot for people watching
Restironte Belforte, Vernazza- TO DIE FOR views, the freshest seafood and mozzarella salad to die for
Resturante il Porticcolo, Manarola – cheaper eats, a good mix of pasta and mouthwatering desserts
ave you ever been to the Cinque Terre? What’s your favourite town?