Cinque Terre is where you can get the complete experience of Italy all in one place. If anyone asks me whats my favorite city I visited in Italy, it will be hands down these romantic villages. The 5 fishing villages Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore are set on this dramatic coastal cliffs and dates back to 11th century. Originally built by villagers for farming, these 5 villages have been through a lot in the past few centuries. It has survived ecological and economical imbalance. It is now one of the must visit cities in Italy. And it does not disappoint. Read below to find out why its our favorite:
The illusion wanes, and in time we return to our noisy cities where the blue appears only in fragments high up among the towering shapes. Then rain leaching the earth. Tedious, winter burdens the roofs, and light is a miser, the soul bitter. Yet, one day through an open gate, among the green luxuriance of a yard, the yellow lemons fire and the heart melts, and golden songs pour into the breast from the raised cornets of the sun.
– Limoni by Eugenio Montale after visiting Cinque Terre in 1921.
Its easy to get to
The best and the most scenic way to get to these villages is by train. You can catch a train from Milan, Rome and Florence. The train ride one way should be about 3 to 4 hours maximum. And trust me the views during the ride are the best. The mountains, the little Italian houses with unmatched doors & windows, the ocean on one side mountain on the other, the clothes neatly lined outside the balcony to dry, the view after getting out of the tunnel are absolutely stunning. Italy in general is well connected by train! You can also get there by bus or car.
The best thing about including this destination on your Italy trip is you can see all the villages in a day. Two days would be ideal to get a more relaxing experience, but you can definitely do it in a day. I mean you can pretty much walk all the 5 villages in about 6 hours if you wanted to. Get an early train to the village, grab something light and start your hike. We reached Monterosso and hiked to Vernazza (a 3.5 km hike). And took a train to see the rest of the villages. The cars and buses cannot enter the village. It is strictly prohibited.
YOu can hike, Bike, swim, cruise and relax
Once you get to the village you can pretty much walk it all, take a cruise from one village to other or take the train as they stop in every village station. We obviously planned and combined it all to get the variety. The dramatic cliffs give you stunning views of the ocean and the flora. On turning points you also get to see the postcard view of the houses decked on the cliff. On a summer day, you can see the kids jumping into the ocean for a mid day swim. The lover’s trail from Riomaggiore to Manarola is simply breathtaking. You can kayak, snorkel, dive or go fishing in Riomaggiore as well. The rich water brings all the sea animals to the coast due to its flora and fauna.
The breath taking views are too much to take in. You will simply enjoy the hikes and the climb is so worth it as you can see. The air is so clean and you will notice the difference without the automobiles. There are other trails apart from the coastal ones as well. You can view the map in each town and play it by ear.
Just be sure to take a portable charger with you . As you see the villages consist mostly of restaurants, shops and homes. Unless you are staying somewhere in the village you will definitely appreciate the power bank. Same goes with WiFi.
It goes without saying but these beautiful villages are mostly crowded any time of the day. If you really wish to feel the vibe of the Italy town, get there before 10 am or stay till sunset. The summer has longer days but sipping wine over sunset will be totally worth it if you had a long day hiking.
Well, I won’t do justice if I do not speak about the food. Especially with these villages, which was formed for farming in the first place. The local wine grown in Cinque Terre is white and often sweet. Anchovies are a common menu item. Apart from pizza and pasta, I would totally recommend getting the fried seafood they sell in paper cone. The fresh catch of the day is fried and handed over to you with a squeeze of lemon.
“Nessun Dorma Cinque Terre” is the restaurant where you get the amazing view of the cliff while eating. Aperitivo here is pretty reasonable given the view. The mediterranean fishes apart from shrimp and calamari are quite expensive. If you do not have the appetite, avoid getting the seafood and opt for vegetarian with pesto or local sauce.
I hope you are inspired to visit these beautiful villages. Have you been to Italy? What is your favorite part about it? Let us know in the comments 🙂