Cinque Terre - 5 magical towns on the Italian Coast
Cinque Terre is a picturesque town that epitomizes the Italian coastline. There are some iconic instagrammable shots of coastline villages on the mainland of Italy: The Amalfi Coast, Positino, The canals of Venice, Portofino and Cinque Terre. (Truth be told, everything in Italy is beautiful!) But Cinque Terre can stand its own in the battle of amazing Italian cities. Made up of 5 towns total: Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso al Mare, Cinque Terre is in the Liguria Region of Italy.
Where to stay:
I am impartial in the fact that I love Riomaggiore. Talking with some people who went before me, that was their recommendation and it did not disappoint. Cobble stone alleys, colorful houses and super friendly locals, Riomaggiore offers everything you can expect while in Italy.
Note: Cars are not allowed in the city. So, if you are driving, you’ll need to secure a parking spot in La Spezia. I got a pretty good deal on AirBnb but make sure to contact your hotel/host and see they have a lot in the city where you can park. It may cost you 20 Euros, but its better than getting towed.
You have 3 options of getting around between cities:
1) Boat! You are on the Mediterranean. A coastal seaside village… spend as much time on or around the water as possible. There are a few services that run between the villages but make sure you know where the launch point is. We were waiting at the wrong spot for a while and had to run to make the boat. Literally we were the last 2 on.
2) Train. You can buy a day pass that will give you unlimited times to hop on / hop off. The pass is also available for Option #3.
3) Walk. There is a series of 4 trails that links all 5 towns called Sentiero Azzurro or “Blue Trail”. But, just a heads up it is pretty tough. Doing the whole walk will take about 6 hours (as I’ve been told) and the south of the trail is a little easier than the north end.
0930: Get La Speiza and park (if you trained in, even better!)
1000: Catch the train to Riomaggiore. Luckily from La Spezia, this will be the first stop.
Local hint: You can buy your train ticket AND Cinque Terre all day pass from the tobacco store on the train platform. Everyone else will be in the ticket line.
1030-1200: Check in or at least drop your bags off at your spot. Then get ready to set off to explore. Don’t forget to pack the following in your bag:
· Your Day Pass (for the train and the trails)
· A swimsuit
· Small towel
· A camera
· And make sure to wear some comfortable shoes
By 1200: Catch the boat to Monterosso al Mare for lunch (then you’re off a schedule!)
After taking maybe 50 selfies on the boat you’ll arrive in Monterosso about 20 minutes later. From the boat you will want to hang a left, walk through a tunnel and head to the beach portion of the town. Lined with umbrella’d chairs, this the perfect spot to relax with an Aperol Spritz and take a dip into the Mediterranean.
Grab some lunch in the town and head off to Vernazza. This is where you could hike, but it is the toughest parts of the hike and although you’ll get some amazing views, I would suggest taking the train.
In Vernazza be sure to check out the Santa Margherita di Antiochia Church built in the 1300’s on the cliffs of the sea. Also, if you are daring, there is a rock that you can jump off that is about 10m high.
Train to Corniglia since this is the only town not along the water. A very small town (only 150 full time residents) with striking views of the coastline and local wineries. Perfect spot to take a break with a gelato.
Definitely try to make it to Manarola before sundown. A rocky cliff with turquoise blue water it is the perfect setting to catch the sunset. Grab a couple of focaccia pizza slices and a to-go craft of local wine and sit on the rocks with your feet hanging over the sea. (We asked grabbed the wine at the place selling pizza slices and asked him where the grapes came from. He walked us outside and pointed up the hill. About as local as you can get!)
Head back to Riomaggiore for a much-needed shower and wardrobe change and enjoy the rest of your night. As info, the restaurants close early in town. Where as in other parts of Italy and Europe as a whole, restaurants will stop seating close to 10. If you are looking for late night music and some drinks you should check out the Vertical Lounge Bar.
Hopefully you have more time than I did, but you can get a pretty good experience of Cinque Terre in just one day. I would recommend minimum 2 nights here. One day of exploring, one day of relaxing. Then you can head off to your next spot.