Cinque Terre Travel
Cinque Terre was a top destination spot to see when I first came to Italy. I was so excited to experience the beauty and see the picturesque towns hanging on the cliffs and lining the coast line with all its colors and allure.
Within one week of moving to Turin I booked a train ticket and couldn’t wait. I am so relieved I went when I did because there was still a little warmth in the air from the Summer season and enough to convince me swimming was absolutely acceptable!
Last minute as I was telling my new friend Rosalyn from Seattle, Washington about my plans she asked to join and of course I said yes! We had a blast together and built great memories and met amazing people while there.
If you don’t already know, Cinque Terre in the Liguria region of Italy means “five lands” and is comprised of in fact five little towns! WHAAA?! Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia (the American in mean pronounced this as “COR-NIG-LIA”…don’t do it), Manarola, and Riomaggiore. Aren’t these names adorable? I can’t get over them. And they are equally as adorable in person. Experiencing these towns was just like jumping into a postcard from a souvenir shop and living the dream you imagine when gazing at those gelato colored buildings.
Cinque Terre Hiking Trail
The most popularly used trail is the “blue path” which follows the coastline from Monterosso to Riomaggiore or vice versa. If you want to ease into your hike and work up to the steep sections then I recommend starting from Riomaggiore and working your way up North to Monterosso. Most advice columns said that you don’t need to be athletic and “fit” to complete the full hike that would take about 6-8 hours depending on your pace and if you wanted to take your time in between to explore and refuel. If you are a nature lover and enjoy outdoor activities then this is the perfect hike for you with views you can’t beat. The sky was breathtaking when we were at the highest point from Corniglia to Vernazza and we even saw a double rainbow (mind blowing!).
Though I have expressed my disappoint in the Italian transportation system, hopping on a train to each town was incredibly easy and inexpensive (round of applause)! We stayed both nights in Riomaggiore (the furthest South) but spent an evening in Manarola which was a quick 5 minute trip away.
Seasons to Visit
The best time of year is in the off seasons when there are fewer tourists and the temperatures are mild. If you plan to hike, April, May or late Summer/early Fall in September or October are the best times to visit.
Eats & Drinks
Pesto Pasta (literally amazing!)
Limoncino (you can take a shot during your hike 🙂
Local white wine such as Bosco, Albarola and Vermentino.
Gelato (always, always, always)
Because Cinque Terre is primarily a tourist spot and not a place locals choose to visit, often prices are pretty high for dining and hotels. We were traveling on a budget and stayed in a hostel which was only 15-20 euro per night but most of our expenses went towards our food experience. You can get away with spending 20 euro for dinner with a pasta dish and glass of wine at selective locations but you will have to be less picky on location. The trail costs 7 euro to hike for a day but gives you access to all the paths. A tourist trap that I was caught in the middle of are the small cafes you pass by while hiking. We stopped in for freshly squeezed lemonade and when I found out I had to pay 7 euro for a tiny plastic cup and changed my mind, the woman serving me threw a HUGE fit and insisted I buy it. I stood my ground (because that’s ridiculously expensive!) but I had created an obvious enemy…so uncomfortable. One positive is we made friends with the guys from Seattle who affirmed I had done nothing wrong and continued the hike with us. Thanks Gabe and Samuel!
This was my favorite of the 5. The white sand beaches, great for swimming, many seaside restaurant options, and small town feel while walking through the city center in 5 minutes time. Such a sweet setting.
This city is at the highest point and sits on a cliff overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. Very small but full of culture and narrow stone pathways. Luckily the hike leads you through the city to continue your trek to Vernazza so you see the main streets and all the views. We enjoyed lunch here with friends we met on the hike from Michigan and Seattle. Small world (but not too small because nearly everyone hiking was American or British lol).
Vernazza ties for first place in my books. The view from the path was to die for! Even though it was pouring rain when we visited, the sun peaked out just long enough for us to jump in for a quick swim. I swam far out and took in the scenery of the city and gave myself a moment to re-realize for the 100th time that I was in freaking Italy! It was perfect until I suddenly developed a fear of sharks and swam closer to shore. We ate lots here from pistachio flavored gelato (my fave), seafood cones (order one fresh) and foccaccia. All things you HAVE to try while in Cinque Terre. We sat with our gelato and peered out at the sea from the main port with views of the cliffs, open sea, tourists wandering and a lovely church on the edge of the center.
This is the most well known “postcard view” of them all. Quaint with layers of pastels and perfect for snapping a picture. The most picturesque award goes to you!
There is a lovely boat port with a short hike up to the top and gorgeous view of the whole city. It isn’t designed for swimming but there are plenty of rocks to sit and enjoy the sea breeze and peaceful sound of waves crashing against the shore. I sat for awhile in the evening to take it all in and journal. Best choice ever. If you have the time, visit the medieval tower on the top of hill that you can so plainly see lit at night from the port.
First impressions matter friends and I left these “lands” having felt like I got an honest representation of what they had to offer. They wear their heart on their sleeve and the vulnerability will draw me back to its shores again.
I have to add this spontaneous Little Mermaid performance in Monterosso. We were just a little excited to be here and I promise completely sober.
Con Tanto Amore,