The Cinque Terre (five lands) is one of the most charming and colourful regions of Italy, located along the North Western coast of Liguria. The remoteness of the cliff-side fishing towns, paved a relaxed and easygoing way of life for the local residents, until the tourism boom hit a few years ago. The region today welcomes millions of visitors per year as well as passionate photographers determined to freeze time with their photographs.
The easy going pace of life for the locals however is still maintained, as there are no chain stores, only local cafes, plenty of fishing, and vineyards. The region is best known for specialties including focaccia bread, fresh seafood, the famous pesto sauce, Limoncino (a liqueur made from lemons), and wine. It is very interesting to note that despite their close proximity to one another, every village also has its own dialect. In order to preserve the natural and cultural wonders of the villages, UNESCO has officially protected the region, in order to conserve its traditions.
Due to its tricky location sitting on the edge of cliffs and surrounded by hills, the towns can be visited by boat, bus or train. Visitors have the option to purchase the Cinque Terre Treno MS Card which grants access to the National Park where hiking trails can be enjoyed and unlimited access of the local trains.
My family and I booked a full day tour with “Ciao Florence” to visit Cinque Terre from Florence. Our journey started at 7am with a bus ride to La Spezia and then Manarola. From Manarola we took a local train to Riomaggiore, then proceeded to Monterosso by boat. We then took a 5 minute train to Vernazza where we enjoyed some free time, before taking a 30 minute train back to La Spezia. Our bus then drove us back to Florence after a 12 hour adventure. We were unable to visit Corniglia as we would have to hike and were time bound, however this is definitely an option visitors have. Now, let me introduce to you individually the five lands:
At first sight from above, this sleepy town is illuminating with vineyards. The hilly town is a collection of colourful buildings laced with little cafes and artisan shops. The best thing to enjoy is a typical focaccia while enjoying the views of the sea. The buildings are so close to each other that it would seem one can hear everything the neighbors talk about, just like in a typical village.
Nestled against a brilliant background of hills on one side, and the sparkling blue sea on the other, lies another colourful collection of buildings next to each other. Riomaggiore is located just one minute by train from Manarola. With boats floating in their docks, and visitors bathing in the delightful atmosphere, we enjoyed magnificent views. Riomaggiore is a great place to rent an apartment or stay in a B&B and hike along the National Park connecting all five towns.
MONTEROSSO AL MARE
Cinque Terre’s largest town, Monterosso resembles old world charms with narrow streets, close-knit shops, and typical restaurants with the smell of fresh seafood in the air on one side, while a short tunnel, connects the old with the new. Paved walkways dotted with gelato shops, boutiques and hotels form a promenade overlooking the crystal blue water where visitors can enjoy a dip in the sea in the New Town of Monterosso, giving its visitors the best of both worlds. We enjoyed a delicious lunch in the Old Town in Ristorante La Cambusa, situated along the main street “Via Roma” and feasted on spaghetti with traditional pesto sauce and a fresh seafood risotto cauldron for two. To cool off, we enjoyed the best artisan gelato in the New Town at the gelateria “Slurp” – try their lemon flavour, it is simply sensational!
Our first glimpse of Vernazza was from the seaside, while we cruised to Monterosso by boat. It’s vivid harbour stood out, with a beautiful clock tower chiming the time. We returned to Vernazza via train, which was only 5 minutes away from Monterosso. The town is characteristically defined by a plethora of restaurants throughout, an inviting breakwater promenade and large piazza leading into the sea. While visitors enjoyed swimming time, we took a moment to refresh with some typical Limoncino.
The only town in the Cinque Terre collection which does not lie on the sea, it rather sits 100 metres above, on a hilltop overlooking the magnificent natural ambiance, and is surrounded by vineyards and terraces. With its ideal location directly under the sunlight, Corniglia produces grapes which is today the town’s staple, and a special gelato made from local honey.
THINGS TO CONSIDER WHEN VISITING:
- The villages maintain an easy going lifestyle and some restaurants take a “siesta” break between lunch and dinner time, so be cautious of meal times.
- The train station is flooded with tourists, be careful of pocket pickers.
- The tour which we took was amazing as it showed us the villages through different modes of transportation, however it is somewhat tiring so prepare yourself the day before and make sure to bring along snacks and water.
- If you wish to stay overnight in any of the villages during summer especially, make sure you reserve well in advance.
With the colourful rooftops surrounded by the peaceful backdrop of the sparkling sea, and idyllic vineyard hilltops, a visit to the charming villages of Cinque Terre takes its visitors to a slower, easy going pace of life, best enjoyed with fresh seafood and glass of wine.
- Company: Ciao Florence
- Website: click here
- Cinque Terre “The Scent of the Sea” tour: click here
- Price: 89 euro per person* (prices may vary seasonally, please refer to website)
Disclaimer: All views are my own and all photographs are © My Pink Diary, unless otherwise stated.