Cinque Terre has been on my bucket list for quite some time, so I insisted that we include this UNESCO World Heritage site into our 2016 Europe trip itinerary. These five gorgeous coastal villages did not disappoint and staying for 3 nights allowed us to fully enjoy the blue blue waters, the colorful architecture and the tasty cuisine.
The greatest part of the trip was sharing our adventures in Cinque Terre with Phil’s brother and family, who drove down to meet us from their home in Southern France. Phil and I especially enjoyed spending time with baby Mia, the newest addition to the family. We loved watching her learn to walk (well, waddle like a drunk gorilla) and babble endlessly. She was also very popular among the locals and other tourists, basically charming her way through each village.
We stayed in La Spezia, another coastal village that was only a short 10 minute train ride to Riomaggiore, the first town from the south in Cinque Terre. It was a larger town, but still very beautiful, and generally more affordable than actually living in one of the villages in Cinque Terre. Unfortunately, La Spezia has now become a port of call for cruise ships, so it can become fairly touristy and rather packed during high season.
We were lucky to be able to visit all five of the villages at some point in time during our stay. Even with three days, it was hard to see everything.
The largest and most resort-like village with a long stretch of beach. We didn’t spend too much time here because we were more interested in exploring the smaller villages. But, we did stop here to check out the beach and start the famous coastal hike from Monterosso to Vernazza. Unfortunately for us, the trail was closed due to prior rain storms and needed maintaining, so after a brisk stroll back through town, we took the next train to the Vernazza.
The second largest village with a nice harbor for taking a dip. I think this village is architecturally the most beautiful of the five villages or maybe because we had lunch near the harbor and had some time to appreciate the views. After lunch we started the coastal hike from Vernazza to Corniglia, a moderate to strenuous hike up and down along the ocean with amazing views. Though climbing up was daunting, the colorful villages in the distance and the inviting clear blue waters more than made up for it. Along the way was a small shop that sold fresh squeezed lemon and orange juices and a terrace to rest and take in the breathtaking view of Corniglia in the distance.
Not right along the coast, but rather, perched a little higher above the rest of the Cinque Terre villages. We ended the hike from Vernazza here and treated ourselves to the most delicious gelato, all made fresh by the gelato master. Flavors like basil, honey, pistachio, mango, and fig. All amazing! We ended up coming back to Corniglia on another day to explore the town some more and found some hidden gardens and views.
The village on all the Cinque Terre postcards. A beautiful picture spot and a great place for a swim. Our treat after the hike was a dip in the Mediterranean in Manarola. There’s a boat entrance to the ocean where you can sunbathe. We found some shade near some rocks and set up camp for the afternoon. The swim was so refreshing, and you could literally float and relax all day under the sun.
And finally, Riomaggiore. We found a pebbly beach near the ferry stop for another swim, but it started drizzling when we got into the water. We stayed at the beach, as every one rushed to find shelter, in hopes that the rain would end fairly quickly. But, after 15 minutes of sitting in the rain, we decided we best pack up our things and head back to the town center. We wandered up and through town to the castle and back down to the train station. It was truly enchanting with the tall archways, colorfully adorned doors, floral draped balconies, and never-ending rows of colorful houses. We really felt the village come alive when we climbed the paths into the town and away from the main road.
- Beware of pickpockets at the train station. We met a couple that had their passports stolen and they had to make a trip all the way to Rome to get new ones. You tend to see them work in groups and after a few times, you’ll see the same people loitering around the different train stations.
- Hike the trails. They may feel daunting, but it’s worth it. Plus there are rest stations selling delicious fresh squeezed juices along the way.
- Stay for more than day. Most people try to see Cinque Terre in one day, and it’s impossible. This a place to relax, and it would be stressful trying to make it to all five villages in one day.
- Beware of mosquitoes. These buggers love me, and silly me, I didn’t wear bug repellent. This will be my third vacation”fat foot” from all the swelling after a mosquito bite on my foot. The swelling makes walking difficult and the adventure just a little less enjoyable. I just never learn, do I?
- Veer away from the main roads. Climb up the side streets to where the locals live and appreciate the beautiful details.
Cinque Terre is a must visit in my book! Happy travels!