These days almost everyone has heard of Cinque Terre. It is a very popular vacation destination — and it doesn’t take long to realize why!
If you aren’t familiar with Cinque Terre — it literally means “5 towns” — and is referring to 5 beautiful villages that are strung together on the western coast of Italy: Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, Monterossa al Mare.
This was my second trip to Cinque Terre and it’s still one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever traveled — (although, I think Santorini, Greece slightly tops it!)
Day 6 (continued):
After taking an early-morning train out of Florence: Firenze Santa Maria Novella to Riomaggiore (Cinque Terre) — we got checked into our AirBnb in Riomaggiore (the 1st of the 5 towns).
It took me a long time to decide which of 5 towns to actually stay in (even though I knew we would eventually see all of them). But we ended up choosing Riomaggiore based off a recommendation and we were very pleased with that decision in the end! I mean, it’s hard to beat this view from our room… 😉
FYI: Monterossa al Mare is the only town with a sandy beach. If this is a priority to you, I would recommend staying there!
After getting settled, we grabbed lunch at Fuori Rotta and then continued to explore around Riomaggiore.
By early evening we took the train to the next town over: Manarola. Here, we had aperitifs and dinner at Nessun Dorma. They do not take reservations and there is usually a long line — BUT the bruschetta, cocktails, and VIEWS are worth. the. wait.!
After dinner, we continued to explore Manarola (which miiiiight be my favorite of all 5 towns). And of course, stuck around for the best view of the sun setting.
If you know anything about Cinque Terre you know that the most popular activity to do there is hiking! Which is just what we planned to do with our only full day.
We started with breakfast at Britta (which has yummy smoothie bowls and other healthy foods) … and then got on our way!
Unfortunately, 2 sections of the hike were closed while we were there (Riomaggiore to Manarola (aka: Lovers Lane) and then Manarola to Corniglia). So we weren’t able to hike the entire trail as planned… but we trained to Corniglia and got on the trail from there.
Cinque Terre has changed a lot since I was there last (in 2011) — and you now have to pay to hike. There will be small stands along the trail that they will require you buy (or show) a ticket (€7.50 per day).
Most people hike to the other towns and then take the train (€4) or ferry (price depends on location) back to their original location at the end of the day.
But if you do not plan to hike from town to town you might be better off purchasing a Cinque Terre Card (€16) which bundles the price of trail hiking and unlimited use of the train. (If you are going to hike AND take the train 2+ times — it is worth it).
This 11 km hike is. no. joke. The trails are dusty, rocky, crowded, and there are A LOT of stairs. I mean, A LOT. There were many points where I was regretting this idea altogether 😉
If you want to hike all 5 towns or a significant portion of it, I highly recommend getting an early start to avoid the bigger crowds and packing water, sunscreen, sunglasses and a bathing suit if you plan to get in the water at any point!
Our hike from Corniglia to Monterosso al Mare took us a lot longer than we had planned — so by the time we finally made it Monterosso al Mare it was just after 3 PM and many of the restaurants were closed for siesta. This was not a fun realization for 2 sweaty, tired, and HUNGRY people who just spent what felt like the entire day going up and down stairs.
Luckily, we did find an open restaurant: Pizzeria La Smorfia — where we essentially inhaled a very late (and well deserved) lunch. The food was decent but Gastronomia San Martino was the restaurant we had planned on going to had it been open. I hear their pasta is delicious!
After a full day of hiking, we changed into our bathing suits (and gladly ripped off our dusty sneakers) and found a spot on Monterosso al Mare’s sandy beach.
Even though the water was a bit cold (early May) this was such a relaxing way to complete our day’s workout! I definitely recommend finishing your hike in Monterosso al Mare so you can celebrate your victory on the beach. We even grabbed cold daiquiris from Cafe Giovanni — which comes in large buckets!
After an hour or so of beach time, we trained back to Riomaggiore to clean up for dinner. (You could also pay more to take the ferry).
TIP: Make sure you do not make the mistake of thinking your TRAIL ticket also covers your (€4) TRAIN ticket back. We thought this was what we were told and ended up having to pay a whopping €60 fine on the train (not to mention – got called out in front of everyone in our cart)!
We ended out last night with a delicious seafood dinner at Dua Cila (reservation recommended). This restaurant is perfectly located by the water — and a gelato store!
After dinner, we grabbed two gelato and went out on the big rocks to join everyone for the last sunset.
Cinque Terre is actually a lot like a small town — it’s small and charming, with not a ton of restaurant options. Oh, and you will continue to see the same people over and over again!
We were able to see all of Cinque Terre in our 2 days there — but of course, you always want stay longer! Well, until you might actually HAVE to….
All this to say — when traveling to Italy be careful of strikes! They have a reputation of interrupting regular train and plane schedules. It’s always best to check on potential strike days when planning your trip 🙂