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Cinque Terre


Cinque Terre almost didn't happen for us. I had a burning desire to go there, having seen beautiful photos of it for years. But we almost skipped it because there was no easy and direct way to get there. We would be coming from Nice, France toward the end of a 7-week trip. We had been exploring all the options from buses to rental cars to private drivers to trains to flying and all of them presented a challenge. We finally decided on taking the train, I should say trains, since we would have to change trains a couple of times to reach our destination. Actually, it was our luggage that presented the biggest challenge, as it was too big, bulky and heavy to easily maneuver. I had visions of trying to get on and off trains and falling onto the train tracks or throwing my back out or dropping my suitcase and spilling its contents all over. We didn't speak any Italian, so would we get on the wrong train or miss our stop or get off at the wrong place and end up stranded? Somehow we managed to stuff all that train anxiety aside and we left Nice and started our dreaded yet exciting journey to 5T. It was as challenging as we thought it would be, although none of those horrid visions materialized. So glad we did it! The photos below say why! The villages look like a rainbow sherbet ice cream cone exploded and drenched all the buildings with beautiful color! This may be the coolest and most unique place I have ever seen!

Cinque Terre...or Five just that, five fishing villages along the Italian Riviera. It has been a UNESCO site since 1997. You'll notice right away how clean and clear the water is. Our days were mostly bright and warm and the water, sometimes blue, sometimes green, sparkled in the sun.We based ourselves in Riomaggiore, the southernmost village, for our three night stay. When we arrived, I was blown away by its beauty and especially blown away by the view from our hotel room. See below. On our first full day, we visited Manorola and Corniglia. Our second day, we saw Monterosso and Vernazza. We spent a 1-2 hours in each village and that was adequate to get a feel for each, but it would have been easy to linger and spend more time taking it all in. They were all very enjoyable and beautiful! I would not want to cram seeing all five villages into one day. I think being rushed would ruin the whole vibe you come here for.


Taking the train from village to village is pretty easy. The trains ran every 15-20 minutes through midnight when we were there. I think there were a few trains though that did not stop in every village, so be sure to check the schedule if you're going to take the train.


Two things we didn't do, regretfully...take a boat ride and hike. There are plenty of boats available and plenty of trails between all the villages, but a couple of them were closed when we were there in May of 2023. One was a long-term closure due to a landslide, and I don't recall why the other was closed, but we opted to just take the train between villages. I'm sure the hikes are amazing and if I ever go back, I will be sure to do it. You can get the latest updates on trail conditions here.


Another thing I will do if I go again is be sure to try more of the foods this area is known for.  Pesto is one of them, as it is said to have originated around here. I did have it once, but should have had more. Also, anchovies. I saw them on menus everywhere but didn't think they would taste good. They are apparently delicious. Also on my "next time" list, Tegame alla Vernazza-made with anchovies, potatoes, tomatoes and olive oil and I would try more focaccia-it originated near here in Genoa. Lemons are everywhere, so take advantage of all things lemon, as well as the gelato, which is also everywhere and is so much better just because you're in Italy! 



Monterosso is the first of the five villages, north to south and is the largest. It's divided by a pedestrian tunnel into an old town (Centro Storico) and a more modern town (Fegina). The train station is near the newer section and it's about a 10 minute walk to the old town. We spent a couple of hours here, had lunch and explored mostly by the beach, and then went on to Vernazza. A popular thing to do here is take a cooking class to learn to make your own pesto pasta. Something I loved here at the beach was a huge statue on the rocks above the water. It's called Il Gigante (see below).


Monterosso is probably best known for its flat and easily accessible long beaches. And umbrellas.  Lots of umbrellas, blue and white on one beach, orange and green on another. We spent a couple of hours exploring, but I think we missed a good part of the town.  We stayed right along the water and there was a whole section behind the main road of both the old town and the newer area that we didn't explore. We missed out on a lot of great little cafes, restaurants and shops.  But what we did see we liked a lot!  



Vernazza is the second village north to south and is known as the "jewel of Cinque Terre". We stopped here after seeing Monterosso, spending a couple of hours in each.  You can walk right down to the water and there is a very small beach where you can take a dip if you're so inclined. Another plus here is the train stop is conveniently right in the town. Some of the stops require a bit of a walk, but not this one. There is a medieval fortress on top of the hill, Castello Doria. A turret remains from the original castle and the view from there is beautiful. It served as a watchtower for pirates and also as a lookout in WWII. We did not have any meals here, but I had an amazing ice cream cone. I did discover and become hooked on Stracciatella, similar to chocolate chip, on this trip.