When I checked in from Italy last, I promised that my first & most recent post on Cinque Terre was not all you were going to get. While it shared a few of my favorite things from this iconic vacation spot, I realized after collecting the moments & things that I wanted to share that I had failed to include a single image of the small towns dotting the coastline. Obviously, this is a major fail. They are SO beautiful & you really will love seeing photos from all of them. Just so that you can prepare yourself now, this is going to be a monster post of photos & I’ll be sharing thoughts & stories on each of the villages as well. Enjoy!
As the name implies, the Cinque Terre is made up of not one but five different small towns along the Mediterranean Ocean. You can easily get between the three villages via trains that take only a couple of minutes each & come approximately every hour (& less easily, but very enjoyably by hiking). They are all pretty full of tourists, but I don’t think that makes this place any less enjoyable. The hiking is fabulous, the views are absolutely jaw dropping, & everybody we talked to was very very sweet. I’d come here again in a heartbeat.
Riomaggiore is the southernmost village & the drop off point for the shuttle from our hostel (Ostello Tramonti, which I definitely recommend if you’re looking for a good hostel in this area).
We started every morning here with a cappuccino & some pastries from the same bar (Italians call all coffee shop cafés a ‘bar’). I loved having this little tradition because by the end of our week there, she knew our orders & started getting them ready the minute we walked in. That’s the kind of experience I really really value when I’m traveling, so it quickly became something I looked forward to & is definitely something I will remember from that place.
In my opinion, the harbor here is the most picturesque of the villages. The town is small, but it’s very much worth your time to get a gelato or some pizza & watch the sunset from here. The boats, the view of the sea, & the tiny overlook are just SO magical. I promise you’ll love it here. Plus, it’s quieter so you have the sunset a little bit more to yourself than some of the other villages.
We had some of the best gelato our of time in Italy (& that’s saying something) at a small place at the top. I could eat their arancia (orange) gelato every day if I lived there & the pistachio was nothing to sneeze at either. There were little bits of orange or pistachio in the gelato that totally added to the experience. GAH. My mouth is watering just thinking about it!
Manarola was Sam’s favorite of the villages. It’s the second one if you’re heading North along the coast & it’s just lovely. There’s a wonderful park that’s above the city & gives you a great view of the harbor & houses on the cliff. We sat there for almost a whole afternoon, just soaking up the sunshine & watching the boats & writing in our journals. We also laid down on the benches & took a nap. So lovely.
We ate great focaccia pizza in Manarola & tried the local speciality of farinata with cheese, too. It’s like a pancake in shape & more like polenta in texture, made of chickpea flour & some oil, spiced with rosemary & salt, & served crispy & hot. It’s got to be one of the tastiest lunches you can have there & … lucky us! … I chatted up the owner & got the recipe. I’ll be making it the minute & get home & sharing the recipe here, too! (In the meantime, check out my Mom’s version on my blog HERE. It’s totally different, but also very delicious.)
Given that we were visiting in mid-April, the water was really cold, but when I saw the COLOR of it, I just HAD to get in. I almost couldn’t breath from the cold during the first moment I ducked into this water (do you know that feeling!?), but I got used to it & was able to enjoy swimming around for a bit before getting out & soaking up the sunshine on the nearby rocks. Cold but worth it was my verdict.
Vernazza is probably the most famous of the Cinque Terre. It has this little spit of land covered in houses that stakes out the harbor & it’s got to be the most photographed view of the area. I took my own version, although it was slightly overcast, so take a look now & tell me if you recognize this.
We enjoyed walking around this village, but I must say that my favorite memory from here was the meal we had. We are pretty cheap & we don’t drink very often, so even though we spent most of Italy eating out, we didn’t spend a lot. In Vernazza we had splurged & had a real “date night.”
It was a magical, sunny day & we grabbed a seat at the last restaurant before the ocean. We ordered beers (or first in Italy, believe it or not) & just hung out in the golden afternoon sunshine. I’m not sure if it’s just because I’m a photographer or if this happens to everybody, but that golden light as the sun starts to head towards the horizon has significant power to make me very happy. This was a really really good way to start, if you as me.
We got hungry soon enough & ordered a bruschetta… followed by some main dishes, too. I started munching too soon to take a photo, but we had gnocchi with pomodoro (tomato sauce) & too much parmesan as well as a plate of the trofie with pesto. Trofie is a hand rolled pasta that is a specialty in area & not something we saw elsewhere. It’s a bit chewy, which I love & just SO good with pesto. I want this meal again, stat.
After dinner we just sat on the cliff & watched the waves roll in & the people go by… it was probably one of the best days of our time in Cinque Terre (& maybe in Italy, too) & that was a meal I hope I’ll never forget.
Corniglia is the only one of the Cinque Terre without ocean access. It’s very small & you have to go up a million stairs to get to it from the train station (that’s hyperbole, folks! 😉 ).
We spent almost no time here, just wandered through on one of our hiking days, but I enjoyed seeing the view from so much higher up & it has a more local feel. I guess if you don’t touch the water, you’re less enticing to tourists? It felt real here & I liked it.
Monterossa is by far the largest of the five villages. It’s missing the charm of the other small towns, but it has one grand advantage: a BEACH. While all of the Cinque Terre are on the ocean, most of them just have rocks, a small harbor, & overlooks where you can enjoy watching the waves. Monterossa seems to have been made for swimming. It has a large beach with real sand that gets hot in the sunshine. There’s a large town, too, but I couldn’t tell you much about it as mostly we only spent time in this town on our last day & only because we wanted a real “beach day” before we left.
We napped in the sunshine & brought a real Italian style picnic for lunch… it was pure magic. Since we arrived early, we had the whole beach to ourselves for a few hours, but by early afternoon, we were definitely sharing this place. The view is pretty impressive, but just like in Manarola, the water is COLD. It’s a little easier to manage here though – you freeze for a moment in the perfect water & then you towel off & warm up in the sunshine right away. It’s perfect.
(Dress by Tysa Designs. I LOVE it very very much & feel so beautiful wearing it!)
Feet in the water… Gotta love that Mediterranean ocean!
WOW. I wasn’t kidding when I promised a big post, was I!? The TL;DR is this: Go here! It’s gorgeous. It’s lovely. It’s worth visiting, for sure. It’s also a little (read: a lot) touristy, but that’s just fine. I think you’ll love it lots anyways. <3