I can’t believe it’s already been two weeks since we came back from our 9th anniversary trip to Italy. How time flies ! (But if work days could speed up I wouldn’t be mad…).
We had booked it in late February so anticipation had definitely built up ! The first time I went to Italy was 8 years ago during a high school trip to Rome and I had loved it so I was looking forward to discovering more of this beautiful country.
I had asked my best friend E. if she had any recommendations as to where we should go and after a little research decided Cinque Terre seemed to be the perfect destination.
We decided to drive there as it was the easiest way for us (train journey would have been 7-9 hours long with three changes) and it would mean seeing more of the north-west (nothing to do with Kim K kid here… lolz) of Italy. Hum, apart from seeing a lot of tunnels (like over 50, easily) and get stuck in a 1.5 hour traffic jam during lunchtime, we didn’t see that much. Picture a super cranky, starving Gaby munching on a lolipop found in the car to calm my growling stomach. That’ll teach me not to have a snack when I’m not hungry !
As we wanted to enjoy the trip and have a more relaxed approach, we didn’t plan much. We just decided the day before which town we would visit and which day just for practicality. Other than that, we wanted to wander around and find things on our own as well.
Here is a little guide of what to do, restaurants we enjoyed and a few practical things of our trip.
We decided to do this one first as we knew we would arrive quite late on Saturday. The thing about not planning anything is that you are often faced with an unplanned choice. Like either pay for a (super packed) bus to take you to the town or walk 377 flights of stairs under 35°C and 70% humidity.
Well, after 7 hours in the car we decided to take the stairs. Were we drenched in sweat by the time we got there ? Yes, of yes. Was this a good idea ? Ab-so-lu-tely. We had such a gorgeous view of the sea and the little houses close to the path.
We then wandered the cute little streets and enjoyed the view from up high. I loved how every single street was unique and there were flowers everywhere ! Oh wow. As this is the only town out of the five that doesn’t have a direct access to the sea, we were really high up and has a different view from the other ones.
We wandered for a bit and then walked down the stairs again to take to train back to la Spezia, where we were staying.
We ate at Come Te and whilst it was good, there wasn’t that much choice on the menu. Both of us were craving ice cream so we go ours from one of the –many- gelato places and walked to the marina.
This is the town I was most excited for. I had seen insane photos of it and was so excited to wander around. We left a little before 9 and were at Riomaggiore a little after 9 and that was such a good thing because the town was quite empty ! We were able to really appreciate every little corner, take amazing photos and feel like locals really. I would advise you to do what we did which was walk up the town and then head left to reach the little church up there. You’ll get an insane view of the « inside » of the town with the mountains at the back, and once up there an amazing view of the sea. We actually sat down there and appreciated the view for a while. So nice. After that, as we were so hot and sweaty we decided to walk back down and enjoy the famous view. It was breathtaking, honestly. I kept wondering how they built everything and how freeing it must have been to be allowed to paint your house whichever color they wanted ! I’m pretty happy with the shots I got there !
As Riomaggiore has a little beach-y area, we had packed our swimsuits and after a little dance-behind-the-towel change, we went for a swim ! Words cannot describe how good it felt. We stayed there for an hour or so before heading to the restaurant « … ». It was really good and really quiet actually, by the time our plates were served we were pretty much alone, but that can be due to the fact that we ate quite early.
After lunch, we took the train to spend the rest of the day at Manarola.
Right from the start – probably due to the time of the day – it was very busy. The town has narrower streets so it’s harder to avoid packed areas. We made our way to the front of the city and walked along the montain to get the full view of the city. Wow. The view was so incredible from there. We walked all around the montains and spent a little while enjoying the view of the sea.
As we weren’t sure we’d have time to visit two cities the next day, we decided to head over to Vernazza.
To be honest, we didn’t enjoy it much. First, again it was packed (going in July meant so many tourists) and also it was so hot that if there wasn’t shade we felt bad. The city was still really pretty what with the cute streets and gorgeous houses, but after a little wander, we headed back to Manarola)
Back to Manarola
As soon as we got back to Manarola, we could feel that the heat the toll of the heat was taking a toll on us. We decided to head over to the side of the streets (along the mountain) and try to find somewhere to swim but unfortunately there wasn’t a way to be in the shade near the water. After a little wander we decided to head over in a little « hidden » area, up the stairs from the restaurant « Nessum Dorma ». It leads to a little area of games for kids, a statue and… benches ! We had the bet view of the city from there, and it was in the shade (though not less warm) and stayed there for almost two hours jsut taking it all in. I think it’s so important to take the time to do nothing and just be in the moment when you visit a city or go on a trip. It’s a little medidative moment.
As we had planned to go eat at Nessum Dorma but the cue was endless, we decided to try to get a table at Trattoria dal Billy. Okay… we honestly thought Google Maps had failed us. We had to walk up an insane amount of stairs, walk up streets, just up and up to get to the restaurant. Thankfully they could give us a table if we were done by 9pm and as it was a little after 7, we were good to go – well, to eat ! We chose the daily spacial of pasta and fresh lobster (absolutely not something we usually eat) as a little treat. It was delicious and the people were really friendly. The room we were in was quite small (4 tables of two and two tables of 4 to 6) but it felt really, cosy ? Like a family restaurant. I could also see the sea from my seat and that was pretty nice.
After that, we walked back to the city to watch the sun set. Unfortunatley it was just cloudy enough that we couldn’t see it, but we appreciated seeing the change of color of the sea and the town.
The final day, sigh. We decided to take the car there, to avoid having to take the train back and just waste an hour on the drive back. It was actually really nice because we got to drive « in the wild », along super tiny roads and see villages and little towns. It only took us about an hour and then we found parking suepr easily ! A 10-min walk in and we were in Monterosso ! The city layout is quite different than the other cities, more spread out with large square and larger streets. But the major change was that both « sides » of the city have large beaches. We started by walking around the « left side of the city », soaking in the different views of the sea and then walked along the mountain to the other side of the view, where the train station is. This side is therefore busier and has the largest beach area. On both sides, you can rent loungechairs which is not possible in the other four cities. We wandered around the right side, loving the flowers everywhere and cute store fronts. As we wanted to chill for a bit, we decided to walk back to the other side of the city to go to the beach area as it was smaller and way less crowded since the train station arrives on the other side. We wanted to rent loungechairs but it was a rent-per-day (week/3-weeks/month) deal aso my boyfriend convinced me to rent a paddle boat instead. It meant we could have our bags with us and swim as we please. I really wanted a loungechair but it was silly to pay for an entire day when we would have to leave a couple hours after. It was actually so much fun !! We went a bit far out so that it was only the two of us and what an experience, again he water was at perfect temperature, my boyfriend jumped and slide down the slide that was on the paddle boat. We changed areas a bit and it was so wonderful to watch the city from the sea and soak it in.
After our hour was up, we went looking for a little restaurant and got a pizza and bruschettas to share which were delicious. After a little souvenir shopping time, we go tour last gelatos and went back to the car.
Recommendations for travelling in Cinque Terre
Take the train but don’t buy the “Day pass” or “3-day pass”, it’s actually more expensive I think. One ticket is 4€ so in total we paid 16€ per day for two, instead of so 24€ for three days instead of 41€ for three days… If you are not planning on really visiting a ton of cities per day or other cities up north, it’s not worth the money.
Don’t wear sandals
We saw so many people wearing sandals and yes, it was very hot and our feet were burning but we walked so much (25km in 3 days) that wearing anything other than trainers would have been horrible. Do pack a pair if you know you’ll we chilling somewhere or going to the beach but please save your back and your feet from suffering.
Bring a bottle of water with you
It should be a habit anyway but if you visit Cinque terre in spring/summer, you will need water with you. We drank so much during this trip and I was constantly thirsty. There are water points in every city so you can easily fill it up during the day.
Sunscreen guys, sunscreen
Same as with water, it’s a staple. You are going to be in the sun quite a lot so do protect your skin with a high protection sunscreen – don’t forget your face!
What’s next for you on your travel list?