WHERE: The Cinque Terre, Italy
WHEN: September 2015
HOW LONG FOR: 3 days
The Cinque Terre, or the ‘five lands’. Higgledey-piggledey houses chaotically scattered over sheer cliff faces that somehow instil you with an intrinsic sense of calm. Each house a different shade of yellow, orange or red, boasting terraces overflowing with beautiful flowers adding extra pops of colour to what is already a little rainbow blob on the Italian coastline. One of my favourite places ever! I spent 3 days exploring this lovely little corner of the world, eating incredible food, drinking wonderful wine, and wandering through the charming little streets. Here is what I thought of each town, with information on how to get around and, more importantly, where to eat at the bottom of the blog!
When we walked out of Riomaggiore station, not realising that the tunnel to our right would lead right into town, we walked up the hill in front of us. This took us up into the residential part of town, which was beautiful, so I would thoroughly recommend walking this way! We spent our last night sat on the rocks in the marina, enjoying a take-away pizza with a bottle of local wine watching the sunset. Perfect.
Manarola was one of my favourite towns of the Cinque Terre. It’s the smallest of the five and, I think, one of the most beautiful! We walked towards the Riomaggiore trail to find the most stunning view of the town, and an awesome bar.. but more on that later! The one thing I will say about Manarola is, aside from the aforementioned bar, there weren’t as many dinner choices as the other towns (we aren’t seafood fans). We actually had our most expensive, but least enjoyable dinner here.
Before going to the Cinque Terre, I read on a lot of other peoples blogs that Corniglia was the least impressive of the five towns. I have to say, I think its underrated. Granted, you have to climb a few stairs to reach it, but once you get there wandering the cute quirky streets is definitely worth doing. It’s also a lot quieter, and it can be nice to escape the crowds of tourists sometimes.
Vernazza was our favourite town of the Cinque Terre. It was incredibly beautiful and we had the best food of our trip here! We walked up the first hill of the Vernazza to Monterosso trail to get an amazing view back over town, which you can see in the very first photo of this blog! Vernazza also has some of the biggest waves I’ve ever seen! One evening, we sat on the rocks in the marina planning to watch the sunset… turns out Vernazza faces the wrong way to see the sun go down, but the huge waves were pretty cool to watch in the evening light.
Monterosso is the northern-most town of the Cinque Terre. If I’m totally honest, it was my least favourite of the five towns. It is much flatter than the others and more resort-ey with lots of sunbathers and inflatables. I do , however, think it would be the best place to spend a day relaxing and swimming in the sea!
EATING IN THE CINQUE TERRE:
The food in the Cinque Terre was absolutely incredible. I had the most delicious bruschettas and the pesto is so fresh and flavourful. We managed to find places which serve amazing food with even more incredible views… it’s often hard to find both. Here are my top picks:
Nessun Dorma (Manarola) : Italian tapas with one hell of a view.
La Torre (Vernazza) Walk the first hill from Vernazza to Corniglia to find this little restaurant and have the most amazing bruschetta with a side of pretty. We also tried both the meat and pesto lasagnes which were yummy.
Take away pizza slices – If you want a slightly cheaper option, the take away pesto pizzas are delish! We had one from de Paolino in Riomaggiore.
Il Pirata delle Cinque Terre (Vernazza) Our best meal of the trip. The bruschetta, aubergine parmigiana and pesto gnocchi were all AMAZING.
- Buy the Cinque Terre Card: This includes unlimited trains, access to all trails, free Wifi, and use of paid public toilets
- Walk the trails if you can: The five towns of the Cinque Terre are connected by hiking trails. When we visited, Riomaggiore – Manarola – Corniglia were closed due to a landslide, but we walked the trail from Corniglia to Vernazza and it was beautiful. The trails from Corniglia-Vernazza-Monterosso are much harder terrain though, so definitely wear proper shoes if you tackle these!
- Stay in nearby La Spezia: It’s included in stations accessed using the Cinque Terre Card and it is infinitely cheaper. It’s also an hours train away from Genoa, where many airlines fly.
- Fill up your water bottle using the free drinking fountains: Most towns have one
- Don’t forget to validate your train ticket: This is true for all italian trains. You also have to validate your Cinque Terre Card once – remember to line it up with the left hand side of the machine. I saw lots of people struggling. For overground trains, its useful to know your seat number before you get on the train. Here is my little guide to an Italian train ticket:
The Cinque Terre is honestly one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited. I really, desparately, want to return next year. It felt totally indulgent – the salty sea air helped relax my mind, the yummy food satisfied my tastebuds, the incredible scenery entertained my eyes, the lack of cars soothed my ears, and the beautiful walks helped me work off my mozarella and gelato baby. Bellissimo!