The lovely Trudy chimes in with her thoughts from a recent visit to the gorgeous Cinque Terre and its five villages in Italy.
Cinque Terre has always been somewhere that was very high on my travel bucket list.
As a teenage girl my Mum lived in Monterosso with her family for a short while and her stories about eating fresh foccacias every morning, walking between the villages and living in a beautiful Italian apartment have always given me a yearning to see this beautiful place for myself.
On our recent Italy trip I was adamant that we visit Cinque Terre so we set aside 4 nights for some seaside relaxing.
Riomaggiore was our home for this time; we chose to stay in the most southern village purely because it appeared to be the only one with hostels available. I believe fortune must have been smiling at us because we ended up in what I think was the prettiest village. We found our hostel office when we arrived and were asked to come back in a little while, she was in the middle of a giant plate of anchovies and wanted to enjoy them first. After checking in we were then silently led by her husband through tiny little alleys, up and down stairs until we came to an apartment nestled in the rocks right above the marina. We had booked 3 beds in an 8 bed hostel dorm which in fact turned out to be a self contained 2 bedroom apartment with a full kitchen and 2 bathrooms. Amazing!
We had been told that 5 days in Cinque Terre was going to be too long but I found it was just the right amount of time to fully explore each of the 5 unique little villages that make up this World Heritage Listed Site.
The most southern village, Riomaggiore is where most people enter the Cinque Terre. A short train ride from La Spezia, it provides a beautiful introduction to this renowned area of the Italian coastline.
Via Colombo is the main street which runs up the mountain providing a gorgeous view over the coloured houses and hosts a variety of authentic restaurants and local produce stores. We ate at a beautiful restaurant on our last evening and experienced some amazing local seafood. Keep an eye out for all the fresh baked foccacia bakeries dotted along the street, these are a specialty of the area and make a delicous backpackers breakfast for only a couple of Euro.
Via dell’Amore is the walk that brings you from Riomaggiore to Manarola – part of the famous hike between the 5 villages it is by far the most accesible, being even wheelchair accesible. ‘Lovers Trail’ winds slowly along the cliff taking you past locks that lovers have long since attached to the fence and the famous lovers seat just before you reach Manarola.
The second smallest of the villages, Manarola may also be the oldest with the church, San Lorenzo, dating from 1338. We didn’t spend a lot of time in Manarola regrettably as we continued on with our hike between the villages. As stunning as the rest, you can really tell the differences between them. I love that each village has its own vibe.
Manarola was a bit more sleepy but beguiled us with amazing coffee and a beautiful harbour where children raced amongst moored boats.
Sitting high above the water on a promontary about 100 metres high is the stunning village of Corniglia. Surrounded on 3 sides by vineyards and terraced farms, the fourth side descends steeply into the sea with what seems like a million steps which if persevered with will lead you to a beautiful little swimming hole. I loved wandering through the tiny little alleys of Corniglia.
We spent one of my favourite days braving the wild water to swim in the sea, eating local honey gelati in the street while watching dogs gratefully drink cool water in the heat and gorging ourselves on homemade pizza and foaccia bread on a terrace high over the sea.
Walking into Vernazza after our hike in the afternoon heat from Corniglia was like walking into a magical wonderland. We wandered through candy coloured terrace houses until we ended up on the jetty by the sea. An amazing gelati later, we sat by the water chatting so some Aussie guys we had met and watching local kids bomb dive into the ocean as the sun set behind them.
Vernazza is quite a large village and gives the feeling of a traditional fishing village, still whole heartedly involved in the previous industries which employed the majority of the residents.
The village that my Mum spent time in as a teenager fascinated me. I wandered around the streets trying to find the terraces and alleys that are captured in the oil painting my Pop painted that hung in the living room of the apartment Tom and I own in Brisbane. Monterosso is large and has a very distinct feeling that differentiates it from the rest of the villages. Hosting the only sandy beach (which for an Aussie wasn’t that impressive) it is overflowing with tourists in Summer.
We discovered a little trattoria down a side alley where we ate yet more delicious pizza and had a respite from the harsh afternoon sun. The first afternoon we visited Monterosso was my Mum’s birthday and wandering the streets trying to find wi-fi so I could Skype her, she fortuitously called me just as I was sitting outside the Church in the centre of town. I sat on the steps and wished her a happy birthday while she told me some memories of her time there as a teen. She told me to see if I could find the cemetery on top of the hill overlooking the village and the sea.
We traipsed up the steps to discover a crumbling cemetery filled with curiosities including the angel statue that my Mum had taken a photo of and carried with her always. I took the same photo and looked out over the sunset while Tom and Lisa joked around amongst the crumbling crypts. It was a beautiful day.
Cinque Terre is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen, it lived up to all expectations I had for it. If you are ever in Northern Italy make sure you put some time aside to discover this picteresque place.
Want more about Cinque Terre? Read our post that gives you all the information you need about Cinque Terre Hiking – one of the most beautiful walks in Italy!