Cinque Terre: The Italian Riviera at its Best


Bidding farewell to Rome, we took an hour and a half train ride to Florence, Italy. We arrived late in the evening so we went straight to our hostel to rest for our tour of the Cinque Terre the following day.

Cinque Terre, meaning “five lands” in Italian, is exactly what its name means. It consists of five smaller villages on the west coast of Italy, sitting upon the Ligurian Sea, and is known for its wine, pesto and fresh seafood. I heard of the Walkabout tour through a friend studying in Alicante, Spain. She highly recommended it, and I would recommend it to other travelers as well. The tour was well organized and everything from our train tickets to lunch was provided.

During the two and a half hour bus ride from Florence to Cinque Terre, our guide gave us a nice historical synopsis of the surrounding towns. I was really glad he did this because it was nice learning about the area and was rather entertaining. We arrived by bus to the first tow of Manarola. It is the second smallest village of the Cinque Terre, so small that we spent less than thirty minutes here. We walked up a hill on its side to take some pictures of the colorful houses with the blue Ligurian Sea in the background. After snapping about fifty pictures we ventured to the city’s train station and headed to the smallest village, Corniglia.

Manarola



Corniglia
From the train station of Corniglia, we had to climb 382 steps to reach the city (a lot easier than it sounds). We walked through the quaint village to see some amazing views and then headed to the restaurant for lunch. The food was superb, savory, exotic, and freshly caught at 3:00am. It was easily the best seafood I have had in Europe. The appetizer was a seafood platter consisting of a lemon-cured anchovy, potato mousse, a crab fritter, octopus and potato salad, tomato stuffed anchovy and octopus and muscle salad. I never thought I would enjoy this bizarre mix of seafood, but it disappeared from my plate in less than 5 minutes. The main course was pesto pasta with the Cinque Terre flare of green beans and potatoes. This course was tasty as well, but completely overshadowed by the seafood. After a look at the menu, I determined that the meal was about 23 Euros, so I felt like we definitely got our money’s worth from the tour. After a quick photo shoot of the scenery, we began our hike to the next village of Vernazza, known as one of the prettiest villages in Italy.

The amazing seafood platter

Pasta with pesto, green beans and potatoes
The two and a half mile hike was picturesque, right along the coast. Flowers were everywhere and the quaint villages sat in the distance. The hike was somewhat difficult however with steep inclines, so I would not recommend this tour to anyone who is not ready to break a sweat. Granted, some French visitors did do the hike in nice clothes and fashionable flats, but it is not recommended.

The view during the hike
Vernazza is the only village with a natural harbor, and was incredibly charming. The city had quaint little pizza shops and souvenir stores along its main street. The harbor surrounded by colorful buildings had plenty of seating amongst fishing boats. We grabbed some gelato and a seat overlooking the sea. I could have relaxed on a bench in the plaza and just enjoyed the hills growing with grape vines, the blue sea and the colorful buildings for hours. However, there were still two villages left to explore so we were off to the next.

Vernazza from above

Julie and I enjoying some ice cream!

The quaint little plaza on the harbor

Monterosso
If the day provides good weather, the tour usually takes a boat from Vernazza to Monterosso. Unfortunately, it was windy that day and the sea was choppy so we had to take a train.  Monterosso has the only extensive sand beach in the Cinque Terre and would have been a perfect place for a swim if the weather had been warmer. Parts of this city date back to the Middle Ages, with a church dating from 1282. The town also has a tower that used to defend the city from pirate attacks. We had a little bit of free time here so Zara, Julie and I, along with a majority of our tour, opted for some wine and the mysterious “pan frito” (fried bread) we had heard so much about. It was simply bread stuffed with some type of cheese and deep-fried. It was delicious and I could have easily eaten five of them, but I contained myself. At only a Euro each it was a perfect mid-day snack.

The next and final stop on the tour was Riomaggiore, the village closest to Tuscany. We walked around the town, bought some pesto and enjoyed some panoramic views of the Sea. Since the boat ride had to be cancelled, the tour provided us a free glass of wine at a local bar. The white wine, Cinque Terre DOC, is a dry white wine only made in this region. It was nice that the tour incorporated so much of the Cinque Terre’s specialties into the tour.

Riomaggiore

I am so glad we spent the money and enjoyed this marvelous region of Italy. It was so refreshing to have a planned day, where we did not have to worry about anything. It was a definite highlight of this grand trip and is a hidden gem of Italy. Cinque Terre still maintains its beauty even though it is becoming a big tourist site. So big that I met a current sophomore at Butler here on vacation with her family. Small world right?

Tips:
1.     A tour is a great option if you just want to see the Cinque Terre and take some pictures. If you want to relax and enjoy every aspect of each city, I would dedicate two to three relaxing days to the five villages.
2.     Trains and trails connect each of these towns, so getting from one village to another is rather easy.
3.     If you enjoy hiking at a medium level, Cinque Terre is the perfect place to take day hikes, with the villages as middle points.
4.     Make sure you have a back up camera battery because you will take an extreme amount of pictures.


Other photos:





Zara, Julie and I

Vernazza



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