After talking with a friend I realized that visiting Cinque Terre was a MUST on this trip. “Cinque” means five in Italian, so Cinque Terre is not an individual town, it’s actually a group of five little hill/seaside towns along the Mediterranean coast. I originally thought we would just take the train from Florence for the day and then come back, but I am so grateful I decided to spend one night…we actually should have spent 2-3 nights here. It would have been worth it!
We took several trains to get to Cinque Terre because there is no train that goes directly there. This part of Italy actually has it’s own train that goes between the towns and it is really wonderful and simple. I highly recommend just getting a pass for a certain time period so that you don’t need to buy a ticket each time. You just hop on and hop off. However, no one ever asked to see a ticket while we were actually on the train. Better safe than sorry though. In the image below Zack looks unhappy…but he was actually just HOT. It was incredibly warm here and it was March, not even summer.
Between the five towns, visitors and locals have three ways to travel: by train, by footpath, and by boat. Matt and Yolanda had come to Cinque Terre before us and had warned us about the intensity of the trails between some of the towns. They did Crossfit and still had a difficult time, so that meant there was no way Zack and I could do it without there being quite a lot of pain and struggle involved. That didn’t sound like fun. So, to play it safe we used the train and the boat. The boat was much more fun of course.
We rented a room in Monterossa al Mare, which is the northernmost city. I chose to stay in this town because it has the only decent sized beach where we could rent a couple of chairs and an umbrella. Good choice! Our room was so cute! We stayed at the Affittacamere Da Flo which was right on the beach. I was so grateful I chose this town after we walked through the other towns and watched tourists lugging their suitcases up and down hills and old, steep steps to get to their hotels. There are no cars in many places in these towns, so you have to take your luggage to your hotel and often in Cinque Terre, which means a very long, exhausting hike.
After leaving our luggage in the room we took the train back down to the southernmost city, Riomaggiore. This town was absolutely beautiful, but not my favorite. Worth visiting for sure! We had a great time wandering around, up and down hills and steps. Great workout! The houses were so old and so colorful. This is where you would find the easiest walk to the next town, but it was closed at the time, so we walked down to the water and hopped on a boat to head to Manarola.
As we were pulling into Manarola from the sea, we could see a restaurant up on a hill overlooking the bay. It was definitely worth the hike! The name of this little piece of heaven was Nessun Dorma and it was amazing! At each location we visited, I always had 4 things: gelato, pizza, and bruschetta. I am happy to say that the BEST bruschetta was at this location! Large chunks of tomato on crispy bread with parmesan, arugula and delicious olive oil! Yum! The sangria was wonderful too!
After wandering around the town for a while in the heat and watching people jumping off cliffs into the sea (if we go back we are definitely swimming more in the sea!), we hopped on the train to Vernazza. I think this was my favorite little town. So quaint! I had been watching all of Rick Steves’ videos and so I wanted to see the steps an the terraces made by this one man with the stones from the area. We found them…and we ran into the man who was featured in the video! It was really wonderful to meet him. We then hiked up the hill to watch the sunset and take pictures. At sunset we also walked through the town, got some gelato (of course!!) and sat in the little harbor. The colors were just amazing and the people are all so incredibly nice. I am still in awe of how everyone in the touristy areas speaks English!
This was our last town on our way back to our hotel in Monterosso al Mare. We quickly changed at the hotel and then went to a little shop to get cheese, crackers, salami, olives, chocolate, and wine. Don and Doris Flor have trained us well! This is the one thing Zack wanted to do in every town! We took our little treasures down to the beach and had a little impromptu picnic and a walk along the water. In San Diego we are used to finer-grained sand, but in Cinque Terre, the sand is more like pea gravel and not particularly easy on the feet. Very romantic though!
The next day was absolutely FABULOUS!!! We took a day to RELAX! We had been on the go for a week and I really wish I had had my Apple watch back then so I could have seen how many miles we had walked. It would have blown my mind. However, this day, we walked a little to explore the town, and then we rented an umbrella and a couple of chairs on the beach. We swam in the Mediterranean Sea, snacked on some tasty little treats, and took a moment to take it all in and breathe. We should have done this for DAYS but we only had until late afternoon before we had to jump back on the train to Florence. This is definitely a place I want to come back to!!
Aug 4, 2020
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I just LOVE this blog about Cinque Terre! Awesome Job, Nicole. I passed on to Sofia who is headed there this weekend.. Thanks for your practical tips! I hope she takes them to heart!