Why You Must Visit Cinque Terre at Least Once in Your Lifetime
Five quaint, colourful villages perched on the cliffs of the north-west Italian coastline- Cinque Terre is a place you NEED to experience at least once in your lifetime.
Cinque Terre, also known as the five lands, traditionally consists of five, UNESCO protected villages that can be found on the Italian Rivera. The villages that make up Cinque Terre are Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore. These beautiful villages are nested within the Cinque Terre National Park and are protected by the pristine Mediterranean Sea to the west. I was drawn to this place because of it’s beauty and colorful buildings.
Cinque Terre boast vibrant terraces overflowing with blooming bougainvillea, fishing boats painted in bright colors, and steep cobblestone streets where the smell of pizza combines with the fresh Mediterranean air. Stroll through the streets, enjoy the combination of nature, sea, and Italian culture that you can only find in Cinque Terre. One of the best ways to see these villages is by hiking Cinque Terre. I can promise you, photos cannot do Cinque Terre justice and you must experience these magnificant villages for yourself.
How to see Cinque Terre?
Cinque Terre can be seen by a combination of boat, bus, hike or train. Your choice is really dependent on how much time you have and budget. Some individuals spend several days in Cinque Terre, while others spend one day. We traveled to Florence for 3.5 days and decided to take one of those days and dedicate it to exploring Cinque Terre. Since we had limited time, were unfamiliar with the area and wanted to see all 5 villages, we decided to do a guided tour through Viator. We have used them several other times and have yet to be disappointed.
We did the hiking day trip from Florence, which departed at 8:00 am and returned around 8:00 pm. We met our guide at the Santa Maria Novella station in Florence and then we boarded the bus and began our journey to Cinque Terre. We were educated about the Tuscan city of Lucca and its famous resident Puccini, before learning about Cinque Terre. It took us approximately 2 hours to arrive to Cinque Terre and then we began our hike. The walking route covered roughly 3.4 miles on trails with some portions of the trail being very easy to walk and other sections you must climb up hills. The longest portion of the trek lasted about 2.5 miles along a series of steps and took around 1.5 hours to complete. If you’re not a hiker, this might not be the thing for you, however I should add that if you really want to experience Cinque Terre completely you will need to hike at some point. Hiking offers some of the most beautiful views and is really the only way to get between some of the villages.
Not convinced yet? Keep reading to see why you should visit Cinque Terre at least once in your lifetime…
The Five Lands
We began hiking on the hills above Manarola, which had magnificent views. Manarola is the second smallest of the five villages, but it is the oldest. The views during our hike up were gorgeous. The colorful buildings perched on the side of a cliff can only belong in a fairytale. I was literally in awe as I experienced this with my own eyes.
What we particularly enjoyed about Manarola was how easy it was to get away from the crowds. We had a great time here wandering around the alley ways and finding little view points. There was something about the antique shutters, colored houses and hanging clothes that was so captivating.
Cornigilia is the smallest of the five towns and is perched above the water. For this reason, we needed to hike from Manorola and climb up some 382 steps to reach the town center. This is where you will most likely work up a slight sweat. Hopefully you are in good shape or you may encounter some difficulties at this point. Luckily, our group had no troubles and were able to reach the top of the stairs! WOO! At the peak, you will see many beautiful lemon trees as this region produces a fragrant sub-species of the more famed lemons of the Amalfi. If you are looking to experience Lemoncino, the Ligurian version of limoncello, then this is the place.
Once we arrived in Corniglia, we had lunch at Cecio‘s Restaurant. We were seated on the outdoor terrace, where the ambiance was unbelievable. Picture yourself sitting outside with the perfect weather, overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, while eating an amazing pesto pasta and drinking Italian wine. It can’t get any better than that. Seriously! Need I say more?
Vernazza is easily recognizable by its picturesque V-shaped port and is home to the Doria Castle, a lookout tower built in the 15th century to protect the village from pirates. When exploring this beautiful town you will see that it is surrounded by vineyards and olive oil trees, which are very important to the region. We loved the time we spent in Vernazza. If you do one thing here make sure you buy gelato and sit by the water to take in all the beauty.
There’s a place right along the harbor called Gelateria il Porticciolo. They have cinnamon gelato. Get it. Trust me.
After exploring Vernazza we headed to the train station to make our way to Monterosso.
TIP: Be very aware of your surroundings and keep your valuables close by at the train station. Gypsies typically hang out in this area and will pickpocket tourists. Gentlemen don’t leave your wallet or phone in your back pocket. Ladies make sure your purse is in front of you and zipped closed.
Monterosso is the largest of the five towns and is divided into two parts: the old (Centro Storico) and the new. You will find the train station, several beach clubs and a large stretch of public beach in Monterosso. For this reason, Monterosso is also significantly busier than the other towns.
With our free time, we browsed some local shops and enjoyed a lovely wine tasting. I mean, how could we resist — especially on such a warm Summer day? I think we deserved it after all that hiking!
After tasting some wine and enjoying the beautiful views, we were headed to our final portion of our journey in Monterosso, which included a boat ride to Riomaggiore.
I would definitely recommend taking a boat at least sometime during your visit, so you can enjoy the views approaching the town from the water. As we approached Riomaggiore, we instantly noticed the vibrantly colored marina and houses. Riomaggiore is the town that is known for its locally-produced wine and picturesque wharf. If you have seen any photos of Cinque Terre it has probably been of the one below.
While in Riomaggiore, we mostly admired the views. We kicked back and relaxed on the rocks as we sipped on some more of Cinque Terre’s finest white wine.
Just before we hiked back to Manorola and hopped back on our bus to Florence, there was just one thing left to do: eat fresh calamari.
Our tour guide highly recommended that We needed calamari, smothered in lemon juice. And so that’s exactly what we ordered!
As I stated earlier, our time in Cinque Terre was limited as we wanted to also spend time in other cities in Italy, however I feel this day tour gave us the opportunity to see all five towns appropriately. Clearly if you have more time, I would recommend staying in the area for 2-3 days.
This is one of my favorite places ever and I really hope I have convinced you to visit! Cinque Terre is beyond stunning, romantic and should be a place everyone visits at least once in their lifetime!
Have you visited Cinque Terre? Tell me about your visit.
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