The Magic of Italy’s Cinque Terre
Cinque Terre not only delivers dramatically breathtaking views of Italian hillsides dusted with pastels villas but also provides endless activities throughout the fishing villages. Made up of five coastal towns, Cinque Terre, which literally translates to “five lands,” is a hidden hillside gem situated on the northwest coastal region of Italy and has been a part of the Unesco World Heritage Site since 1997.
The five coastal jewels are positioned one on top of the other from north to south beginning with Monterosso and followed by the remaining four: Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore. The villages are made easily accessible by train, which runs through each stop every 30 minutes to shuttle roamers for a thrifty single Euro per trip. Additionally, there are walking paths between the settlements that allow for superb photo snapping of cliffside terrain otherwise only seen in dreams. Whether you are planting your stake for a week-long vacation or just penciling in a day trip, your best option for getting to Cinque Terre is starting in the nearby city of Pisa or Genoa (both approximately an hour and a half by car) and traveling by train, since the road to your destination is winding and parking is scarce. In order of increasing proximity, airports in Genoa, Pisa, Florence and Milan are the best options for travel.
With five cities full of personality, the life among these fishermen villages is anything but boring. The well-marked Cinque Terre Coastal Trail lines the territory connecting all five beauties, starting at Riomaggiore and reaching to the farthest western town of the handful, Montrossa. The hike begins with the most romantic trail in all of the land, Via dell’Amore or “Lover’s Walk.” Although small in length at one kilometer, the path bears a seductive legend that dates back to the beginning of the 20th Century, when it is said to have been used as a meeting place for lovers during the construction of the tunnel between Riomaggiore and Manarola.
Though the footpath varies in difficulty and terrain throughout the remaining coastal charms, the magnificent views of jagged cliffs, endless seas and cobblestone structure are consistent throughout the slog. In its entirety, the trek is 12 kilometers and can take anywhere from four to seven hours. G Adventures offers guide options to fill your day. There is a small fee that is required to use “Lover’s Walk,” with checkpoints at both ends that require you to show your ticket. The best way to secure a pass is to purchase a Cinque Terre Card, which includes entry to the paths as well as unlimited train travel between Levanto, Cinque Terre, and La Spezia.
Shopping is among the top things to do in the area, but every village speaks of their unique character by suitably selling goods and crafts that best represents their flavor. Corniglia is a town so close to heaven, taking literally 360 steps to arrive, that it is not surprising how the selection of boutiques specializing in handmade jewelry, scarves, and knick-knacks is absolutely dreamlike. The quaint village is painted with cobblestone streets connecting local vendors through narrow lanes of pure wonderment, and the individuality of the Italian handmade pieces make it feel like they were created just for you.
The biggest of the five villages, Monterosso, is a melting pot for all things fun, filling the beaches with sunbathers and swimmers where lounge chairs equipped with umbrellas are available for a small fee and tents offering surfboard, paddleboard, and jet ski rentals stroke the oceanfront sand. While sipping margaritas, the boardwalk above the sand is packed with both sit-down and walk-up bars.
When you are in Italy, you eat pizza. It’s as simple as that. In the narrow streets of Manarola is a pizza spot nestled between larger establishments that are so trifling in size that you might miss them if you blink. Discovolo is home to a pie that is remarkably unique, with a variety of toppings and focaccia dough melded with creamy cheese in a way that will change your impression of pizza. The shop is small and lacking tables, but if you meander toward the popular fishing spot, there are plenty of benches and tables suitable for dining.
Belforte offers one of the best views in Vernazza with its open deck, allowing diners to gaze into the vast Mediterranean Sea while they feast on understated yet delectable Ligurian cuisine. Although they are recognized for their seafood selection, Belforte offers a multitude of alternatives for those not keen on fish. While family-owned and operated, the Italian way of life is plastered on the walls like a fresh painting, creating a place where sunset views and cookery mix to become a setting rich in culture.
The nearly vertical vineyards above the town of Manarola tease the Ligurian seaside with supple grapes and luscious terrain. If you are looking for wine-tasting, this is the place to do it. GetYourGuide offers a two-hour tour at $66 per person through the historic village of Manarola, where you will receive an informative glimpse of the traditions of the Ligurian people, as well as learn about wine production and distinction on a path through a small cellar before you finally sample the territorial wine of Cinque De Terre.
Hotel Porta Roca is a four-star hotel perched on top of a cliff hovering over the Monterosso Bay. The elegant hotel tallies 40 rooms and most include a balcony that allows guests to soak up the Mediterranean Sea breeze. With the features included at Hotel Porta Roca, you can expect to book a room for approximately $250-$900 per night depending on the room and time of year. Expect to pay an increased rate during the busy summer season.
The family-owned and operated Affittacamere Anna Michielini resides on the main drag in the historic town of Riomaggiore where your sea-searching soul will meet the Mediterranean waters within a quick two minute stroll from the front door of your room. The refurbished apartments include a kitchenette complete with coffee and tea-making amenities, and when a bed and breakfast names their apartment rentals affectionately after family members, you know that you will feel right at home. Prices start at $123 per night and climb depending on the time of year and apartment you choose.
Hotel Baia is a three-star seaside hotel located in the core of Monterossa, easily the largest among the five villages. Their simplistic Italian energy is evident upon entering the building, which is a stone’s throw away from the beach. Your days rising at the Hotel Baia will start off right as you sip coffee and indulge in a buffet-style breakfast in a dining room facing the morning sun-lit waves. Rates vary from $135-$325 depending on the number of guests and your time of stay.