Cinque Terre, Italy
Cinque Terre, Italy
Cinque Terre, on the Italian Riviera coastline was a bucket list destination for me- so I was beyond excited to explore this picturesque, colourful and delicious part of the world!
Cinque Terre means Five Lands, and the area is made up of the five small centuries-old seaside villages of Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso. All the towns slope down to sea-level except for Corniglia, which is perched on top of a tall cliff. The region is UNESCO World Heritage Listed.
We travelled from Rome by train to La Spezia and then on to another train to Riomaggiore in the Cinque Terre. We had prepaid for First class tickets, so our carriage was air conditioned, we had allocated seats and our luggage could be near us. Italian rail can be a little overwhelming as NOTHING is in English, so you need plenty of time and patience to do this.
We chose to stay at Riomaggiore, which is the southern-most of the 5 Terre and has an old-world charm about it. When you hop off the train you are looking up a very, very steep hill. There are only two taxis and they don’t work every day, so if the prospect of dragging your luggage up a hill doesn’t appeal to you, you should pre-arrange your hotel transfer! We stayed in a 2-bedroom apartment on the 3rd floor which looked over the main street. It was clean, reasonably priced and had everything we needed (fridge, washing machine). The (late night) Vertical Bar was located directly beneath us which was fun when we wanted a late-night drink and some fun music, …. not so much fun when we wanted an early night! The clothes line is the traditional pulley system outside your balcony window. I still have a giggle thinking about how many tourist photos our undies must have been in during our stay!
Riomaggiore has an active fishing Harbour which is always bustling with activity from fishermen, tourists, and locals. It was a daily ritual of ours (and many) to head to the Harbour to watch the magical sunsets- you can simply sit on the rocks with a takeaway beers or sip on a cocktail at a lovely restaurant.
The main street, Via Colombo, has a variety of bars and trattorias plus small grocers with fruits, meats, cheeses and olives. Which was handy for picnics. We ate in several restaurants and found the food in all to be fabulous. We were there during the Summer heat wave (40+ degrees) so our restaurant choice was often decided by who had the coolest air conditioning! Seafood and pasta were always on the menu- so fresh and delicious. The waiters speak limited English but enough to get by and are very friendly. The gelato is to die for, I had at least one every day and recommend you do too! There are also clothing boutiques and souveniers shops with some great little finds at very reasonable prices.
The beach is a rock beach and getting in to and out of the water takes some getting used to, and isn’t very graceful, but it is worth it as the water is crystal clear and just divine. We were there in peak season (July) and it was crowded with super tanned locals and many tourists, so personal space doesn’t really exist, but it was all part of the holiday experience!
The Cinque Terre region has some of the best coastline hiking trails in the world. You should always check before leaving if the hiking paths are open or closed, due to landslides. You must purchase a pass for certain trails also. It was WAY too hot for us to consider trekking, so we hired a zodiac for 3.5 hours (approx. $150 AUD). No boat license needed, you just need to adhere to the National Park no go zones which are explained to you to avoid heavy fines. This was one of our favourite holiday experiences- cruising on our own along the stunning Cinque Terre coast, stopping for a swim or snorkel along the way. We pulled in to Manarola Harbour for a walk and some photos as this is the most famous and photographed view of Cinque Terre. We were perfectly happy to view the other villages from the cooler vantage point of our little boat on the Mediterranean!
If you want to explore each village without the hiking, or by little boat, there is a railway cut through the granite cliffs which links all five villages with each other, you can also join a cruiser to travel up and down the coast with loads of day tripper tourists! When it was finally time to leave, it was an easy roll of the suitcases down the hill to the train station. We caught a train to Pisa, a shorty Taxi ride to the airport to connect with our flight back to London which was very easy to do.
I absolutely loved Cinque Terre and would highly recommend it if you want to experience traditional Italian seaside living. Rather than the more commercial coastal areas.