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Your Guide To The Best of Italy – Cinque Terre (Part 3)

Cinque Terre – The pearl of the Italian Riviera

Cinque Terre is a rugged part of the Italian Riviera beautifully made up of 5 centuries-old villages with colorful houses, turquoise waters, harbors with fishing boats and little trattorias with yummy pizza and traditional for the region fritto misto (more on this below). The villages are super small and don’t really take up a long time to tour around but I strongly recommend allowing yourself a whole day to go through all 5 villages at a nice slow pace so you can enjoy every second of this one of a kind day trip.

3.1 Getting there

The Italians are lucky to have super well organised and fast trains that easily connect the country. So with no doubt to get from Santa Margherita to Cinque Terre hop on the train to Riommagiore, the last of the 5 villages when you go from north to south. What’s really important however is to get your ticket from the people at the kiosk at the train station and ask for the Cinque Terre card. The card costs €16 and gives you all day unlimited wifi, train and bus rides within the Cinque Terre area (from Levanto to Riomaggiore) as well as free access to the trekking trails that link up the villages (yes! funny enough, otherwise you have to pay to walk between the villages 😀 ). That way you can do a daily trip going from village to village, without worrying about getting a ticket each time and of course, it’s cheaper. A single train journey say from Riommagiore to Manarola is €4 so you’ll save yourself some euros if you get the Cinque Terre card. For more info, see here: http://www.cinqueterre.eu.com/en/cinque-terre-card

3.2. Must do’s

Riomagiorre

This is the village I did most walking in. I’m not sure if it’s the largest but it certainly is one of the prettiest. You have to go to the top and bottom of the village to see both views and take some cool pictures. Some people take a boat trip from here to tour around the other villages but that was too expensive for me so not really an option. The water is super clean so you can have a swim if you’ve got the time but there isn’t really a beach as such. People just seem to lay down on the rocks and jump in the water when they get too hot 😀 This is the place to have some fritto misto. I tried a place called Mamma Mia! and it really was Mamma Mia 😀 Sooo delicious!

There isn’t anything exact to pick out and point to in any of the villages so I’ll be showing you a lot of pictures to prove to you how much you just gotta go see these places for yourself because they’re just one of a kind.

The view from the shore at Riomaggiore

Just casual cute houses of Riomaggiore

Manarola

Now this place is definitely easy to recognize by two exact things 😀 – the colorful flags that spin from side to side on majority of the streets and the washing hanging out from most balconies. We were joking that it’s really mainly the colorful washing that makes the place look so bright and colorful and not so much the actual colors of the buildings 😀 The truth is somewhere in the middle 😀 Whatever gives this village its real charm, I can’t exactly tell but it definitely is the village I loved the most. When you get to the shore, you’ll see a hill on the right hand side. You must climb to the top. The views are remarkable! That’s when you really appreciate the beauty of this place. So regardless of how hot it is on the day, you gotta do it 🙂 To calm you down, let me tell you that there is a nice garden right on the top where you can have a nice rest and recharge after your walk. But if that doesn’t do it for you, you can always jump in the water and refresh 😀 I certainly wanted to do that a number of times!

The view from the hill

Did someone say washing? 😀

The hill you have to climb to get the best views

Corniglia

I must admit that getting to this place was a real pain and the least worth it of all 5 villages. Getting to the train station was easy but unlike all other villages, the station is a good 5-7 min bus ride from the actual village with buses running every 10-15min. None of this is a problem unless it’s super hot day and chances are it will be if you go in season. So another alternative is to take the coastal walking path which in just 365 gradual steps (one for each day of the year) will lead you up to the top of the town. I personally went for the bus on the way there and back because it was a very hot day but the walking path will be a lot better experience since the bus travels back and forth on way over its maximum capacity so it’ll be an experience in itself 😀 (I for one had a great laugh). When you get to Corniglia you’ll probably need 30min to walk round the whole village because it certainly is the smallest of all with only a couple of places to eat and have gelato (so don’t plan a sit down lunch there).

Colorful Corniglia

The view over the old town

Vernazza

Vernazza has a couple of interesting sites you can visit, the the Church of Santa Margherita d’Antiochia and the more interesting Doria Castle which has a great tower giving amazing views over the village. You can check those out or you can just have a nice walk on the shore and have some lunch overlooking the little harbor. When you get to the left side of the shore, go round as if you want to see the tower from the ground. You’ll see the amazing structure of the rocks which look if they’ve been manually layered one piece after the other. Super interesting!

The view over the church

The shore at Vernazza

Monterosso

This is the place with the proper beach. As you walk out of the station, a panoramic view of a long, wide sandy beach will strike your vision. It’s the perfect place to lie down for a little rest and swim at the end of your trip. The water is gorgeous, as always and it’s so nice and quiet, it’s almost impossible not to rest yourself completely. If you’re not up for a swim though, there’re a few cute streets in the old town to have a wander around and grab an espresso. When you get out of the station, don’t think that this is the whole place because it’s not 😀 The best bit of the town, i.e. its old part is hidden behind the hill so you have to turn left from the station and either go underneath the tunnel or walk over the hill to get to the other side of the hill and the town. Have a nice wander in there! The streets are an absolute gem and for some reason I found Monterosso the least busy of all other villages so you’re really up for a nice stroll.

Sunset over the beach in Monterosso

Just one of many cool streets in Monterosso

3.3 Tips before you travel

Top tips:

  • If you only have limited amount of time, i.e. can’t see all 5 villages, prioritize Riomaggiore and Manarola.
  • Try the traditional fritto misto. I know it’s not healthy because its fried but it’s so traditional and yummy – fried mix of little fish and calamari in a paper cone (ideal for a quick lunch).
  • There is a coastal footpath which links all five villages, allowing you to hike from the first village to the last in five hours. If you can do it, do it because the views will be extraordinary. Another way to get some of that experience is to walk between Riomagiorre and Manarola which is the shortest walk of just 40min.
  • Finally, if you’re travelling back from Florence you might want to venture out into rural Italy and truly experience Tuscany by visiting the iconic city of Montepulciano. It will truly make up for an authentic finish of your Italian adventure.

The yummy fritto misto you must try


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