See below for an update to our Cinque Terre Blog!
Cinque Terre Part I
We finally ventured to the famous Cinque Terre- the destination that has been raved to us for great hiking and views. We missed the high season, which meant less tourists and heat for us in one of the most famous destinations in Italy.
We arrived in the village of Riomaggiore, one of the most popular starting points in the Cinque Terre, where paths connect the five beautiful ancient fishing villages along the rocky coast. The drive was reminiscent of the Amalfi Coast, but with views less dramatic and less steep. But it was stunning nonetheless! A positive aspect was that the roads were not nearly as narrow and dangerous as we had experienced in the Amalfi Coast.
Upon arrival, we were immersed in a tiny town with brightly painted colors. They were worn and gritty from the ocean water, but in a charming way. Riomaggiore was very tiny- we could have walked around the town center in 10 minutes.
We meandered down to the port and let JoJo run around in the water for a bit. The famous path linking the towns along the coast was closed, but we had another path in mind to take us to Manarola, the next town over for lunch.
Despite its charm, the village was geared towards English speaking tourists, with English signs, american food, and tourist menus advertised in the town center. This was my only complaint about the area, and I can only imagine how crowded it must get in the summer. After living in Italy for two months, we acted more like locals and preferred to stay clear of tourist- filled (especially American) areas.
The route from Riomaggiore to Manarola takes you over a mountain separating the two villages. We got lost and started walking on the wrong trail for 30 minutes. To rectify the situation we had to walk along a main road for 20 minutes, which was less than enjoyable- but eventually we stumbled on to the right path. We climbed up the steep path for another kilometer before making a very treacherous descent. Now this trail was labeled as easy to moderate, so I wasn’t expecting a workout. But this trail was STEEP. I almost feel several times walking down and was often on my hand and knees so as to not lose my balance. The rocks on the trail were still wet from yesterday’s rain, so you had to be careful not to lose your traction and tumble down the mountain.
When we finally reached the village of Manarola, we were exhausted! We walked around the quaint town center, which we could tell was slightly less visited/touristy than Riomaggiore. Our lunch spot of choice was Trattoria dal Billy, a restaurant recommended on several websites. Ryan and I shared the antipasti sampler, a whooping 12 plates of local specialties combining both seafood and vegetables. We then split the lobster with tagliatelle for two, a beautiful plate of handmade pasta topped with an enter fresh lobster. This would have been exorbitantly expensive in the U.S, but was only 36 euro for two people. We came out of there feeling gluttonous, but were certainty thankful that we had the hike back to walk it off. Although we only had one day in the official Cinque Terre park, we made a point to return when the weather was nicer and the better paths were open once again.
Cinque Terre Part II
Our most recent trip to Cinque Terre took place when our friends, Dave and Karen, visited us from New Jersey. We set off on a mild, clear December morning. Our goal was to make the trip to Vernazza and have lunch in Corniglia- two villages that we did not get to see on our previous trips.
This was the Italian first day trip for Dave and Karen, so they were not prepared for the curving steep road our GPS would direct us on to get to Vernazza. This was by far the most riveting road we had driven on in the Cinque Terre and was on par with the Amalfi Coast. Thankfully we were one of the only cars on the road that day!
Thankfully, we arrived safely and parked our car outside of the town. Vernazza was quite lively that morning, with a flurry of locals heading to the mountains for a hike on this brisk winter day. We walked through town to the harbor, where we had a glorifying view of the mountains. JoJo even had an opportunity to for a swim!
The path to Corniglia was conveniently located in town (compared to our first trip, where we accidentally started on the wrong path)! Immediately after starting on this path, we knew it was going to be an easier hike than our trip from Riomaggiore to Manarola. The path was wide, packed with gravel (compared to mud!), and had handrails across the side. The path had great views of water to your right, giving us plenty of photogenic moments. And the path was strenuous enough to feel our heart rates go up, but comfortable enough for us to have conversations during the entire time without having to focus on not falling!
We reached Corniglia in about an hour and a half. It was a smaller, quieter town that is located higher in the mountains than the other villages. We had chosen a restaurant for lunch, but they were so packed that they could not allow JoJo inside the restaurant. Fortunately for us, we found a quaint restaurant with outdoor seating. We enjoyed pastas, fish soup, and some seafood appetizers. We did not have high expectations for picking a random restaurant in town, but we were certainly quite impressed!
Instead of walking back to Vernazza, we decided to take the train that has stops in each of the five villages. Even dogs are allowed on the train if you a buy a specific dog ticket. The train was very convenient and only took 5 minutes to get back to Vernazza. We even had Chinese tourists take pictures of JoJo while on the train!
Overall, I would highly recommend this walking path for future visitors. The hike was of easy to moderate difficulty and the towns were both worth visiting. Also, for people who do not want to do so much strenuous hiking, the train is a great way to sightsee through the villages.
Cinque Terre Part III
We made it to the last Cinque Terre town of Monterosso al Mare! It is the biggest of the villages and it is separated into the old and new town. Although the stop was brief, we got to admire the miraculous views from the rocky coast on a clear day. Lunch was at the highly renowned Miky, which lived up to its expectations with a divine branzino in a salt crust and creative pastas. The old town is connected to the new town by a tunnel, and once we arrived in the old square it was filled with schoolchildren selling lemon baked treats for a lemon festival. In the summer, the beach in Monterosso al Mare becomes packed with travelers. I would have loved to be here on a mid-summer day!