This post will be 100% biased since we all know I am in love with anything and everything to do with Italy (barring the smell of the Arno in the humidity). Anyway, I arrived in Florence on August 31st, 2012 and my school coordinators took 30 twenty year-olds (God bless their souls, both of those women are sainted angels) to Cinque Terre the first full weekend we were in the city. The weather was about 600 degrees Fahrenheit, and none of us knew what we were in for. Cinque Terre is a series of five connected villages (hence the name) along the a very rugged coast of Italy.The towns included in the name are Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore. Most travelers go to Cinque Terre for its scenery and the beaches, but these towns are the epitome of small and colorful Italian villages. Whether you are Italian or living in Florence for a while, I strongly urge you to visit Cinque Terre. It is one of those trips you will never be able to explain to another person unless they experience it for themselves.
How to Get There:
Photo via: news.italianoleggio.it
Lucky enough for all travelers in Italy, the train system is fantastic. If say, you are travelling from Florence, Trenitalia will take you from Santa Maria Novella Station to La Spezia. From La Spezia, you should hop a train to the village of Riomaggiore, which is part of Cinque Terre. From there, begin your excursion through the towns. These directions vary for every train schedule and stops in each city, but the best way to get to Cinque Terre is ultimately by train. Cars are practically impossible to use in the region seeing as there are no roads that directly connect the villages. Once you arrive in Cinque Terre, there is a train system, a hiking trail, and boat services that connect all of the towns.
What to See:
Photo via: preesworld.com
Usually in this part of our weekender series Travel Freak will give a list of the best attractions to see while vacationing in a town. Cinque Terre is slightly different. The five towns are unique because there are not so many touristy attractions, but there is a ton of Italian culture to witness. Cinque Terre is easily the greatest place to soak up a small Italian coastal town lifestyle. Life is slow paced and the beach is all that matters. Each town has its own character, but all of the towns are charming in a specific way. As I said earlier, cars are basically non existent in these towns, not even the little Italian cockroach Fiats can be found. That being said, walking through each village is a dream. Shops, cafes, fruit stands, and gelato galore. Once you are done taking a stroll through any of the towns, you will ultimately end up at the beach, soaking up the perfect Italian rays and staring with disbelief at the beauty of the cliffs. There are a few things Cinque Terre is famous for other than its towns:
Via dell’ Amore: I would like to refer to Via dell’ Amore as the deceitful love stroll. When I arrived in Riomaggiore, my group started on the beautiful Love Stroll, which I thought was the famous hiking trail. Sadly, I was mistaken. The love stroll connects Riomaggiore and Manarola. It is an easy walk that gives its visitors the most stunning views of the water and cliffs. Along the walk, couples and loved ones place love locks on the railings as a sign of their eternal love for each other (same concept as the bridge in Paris). Once you end the walk in Manarola, you have to try some wine (Manarola is famous for its wine)… but don’t get drunk because that is when the real hike begins…
Hiking Trails: All five towns are connected by a hiking trail, which is the most rigorous hike I have ever experienced. People from all over the world come to Cinque Terre during tourist season to hike the trail. To be honest, while I was doing the hike I thought I was being tortured, but once I finished I felt a feeling of accomplishment that was indescribable. What is almost as incredible as the views, are the Italian people who live in the area. They open their homes and backyards to hikers who need to rest and refill water bottles. It was the first time I experienced authentic Italian hospitality, which in time, I learned is the most genuine type of hospitality. Just remember, there is a train that connects the towns. If the hike becomes to strenuous, don’t wipe yourself out. You can make it to the next town another way.
National Park of Five Lands: The national park is in Riomaggiore and is what it claims to be: a park. It holds all the flowers and plants you could imagine. If hiking isn’t really your thing, well then taking a walk through the national park should make up for that missed adventure.
Church of San Pietro: This Church built in 1334, is still standing in Corniglia. Get cultured for a day and check out some Gothic history here.
Boat Rentals: This is getting thrown into the list of things to do because you would be crazy not to spend a day on the impossibly blue water that surrounds Cinque Terre. Rent a boat or go on a boat excursion, it is the best way to see the towns from a different perspective.
Where to Stay:
Photo via: tripadvisor.com
The most popular place to stay in Cinque Terre is Monterosso, because it is considered the town with the most to do and the best beaches.
Hotel Villa Steno: in Monterosso. Ranked number one on Tripadvisor. This hotel has the best views of Cinque Terre. It may look tiny, but it is clean and has the rustic Italian charm that is so important to experience while vacationing.
La Scogliera- Riomaggiore
Hotel Pasquale- Monterosso
Where to Eat:
Photo via: tripadvisor.com
Let’s be honest, the possibilities are endless when in Italy of where to eat. Local Italian food is rarely inedible. Here are some of the top rated restaurants in the area anyway:
Lunch Box: Don’t be fooled by the American name. This place has the best panini and freshly squeezed juice. It is in Vernazza, and is the perfect place to refuel on your hike.
Cappun Magru in casa di Marin: in Manarola. It is a bit pricey, but the seafood is unforgettable.
Trattoria Locanda Il Porticciolo: in Manarola. The best place for authetic Italian food on a budget.
*Note: Cinque Terre is famous for its pesto, so be sure to try at least something with the green stuff while visiting.
Where to Drink:
Photo via: tripadvisor.com
After a long day of hiking, the nightlife in Cinque Terre usually comes down to a prolonged dinner with drinks to finish up. Here are a few places that offer late night drinking as an option though:
Fast: The cheapest beer you can find in Monterosso. Enjoy a few beers, then walk to the beach and watch the moon over the sea.
Bar Centrale: in Riomaggiore. The name may not be the most original, but it has the best views. A bar on the beach… that’s a definite yes.
Enoteca da Eliseo: in Monterosso. The perfect place to enjoy a glass of Italian wine at the end of the day.
Usually my sarcasm takes toll in my writing, but there is nothing not to love about Cinque Terre. Make time for this relaxing trip. You’ll regret it if you don’t!
Feature Image via: hdrcreme.com