The phrase “Cinque Terre” which translates to “the five lands” in Italian, perfectly describes this gorgeous region outlining the Italian Riviera, where there are hills dotted with hundreds of tiny colourful houses surrounded by a gorgeous view of the mediterranean sea. Our journey to Cinque Terre began early in the morning in the city of Florence, where our tour bus picked us up in the middle of the city centre. As we travelled to the this dream destination that I had been admiring on Pinterest for the past year, I couldn’t help but to stare out the window the entire ride. Our bus climbed the hills into the first village, and as we approached, I could not take my eyes off of the most picture perfect little town that I had ever seen.
We had arrived in the first village of Monterosso, which is the largest town in Cinque Terre. Monterosso is the most modern and resort like of all the villages, and has everything that any tourist could need: plenty of shops and restaurants, seaside views, and a large beach front. We spent our time in the village enjoying the sun drenched beach scattered with bright umbrellas. There was a boardwalk near the beach where plenty of people sipped cocktails and had ice cream and gelato from the famous gelato shops on the water front. The series of the five towns span the length of about 10km, and so we decided to take the hiking route through the villages. We did however opt for the option of taking the shuttle bus from Vernazza to Corniglia to save some time and energy! Although the day started off overcast, the sun eventually came out and made for a hot and sweaty hike.
The second town of Vernazza was just as gorgeous with its V shaped harbour, where plenty of fishermen and photographers gathered. With its gorgeous colourful buildings and pier, Vernazza is probably the most picturesque of all the villages. It is also famous for its sweet lemons grown local, so we took a walk through the village to hunt some down lemons and taste them for ourselves! After about an hour in beautiful Vernazza, it was time to head to Corniglia. Our guide lead us towards the shuttle bus, where we were shocked to see that it was jam packed with tourists! We squeezed our way into the little train and did our best not to fall on top of one another as it shuttled us toward our next destination. Being so tightly packed, half of our group did not make it off at the Corniglia stop. We were split up from our tour guide and group, however we considered ourselves the lucky ones who got to explore Corniglia.
The little village between Vernazza and Manarola is known as the quiet “middle” village, and it is the only village with no direct sea access. Being the smallest and highest of the five villages it can only be reached by the 377 step stairway, or by the shuttle bus/ train connecting it to the other towns. It had a much more genuine feel, and was less busy than the other towns resulting in a perfectly peaceful spot to enjoy the beauty of Cinque Terre and the views of the sea. After saying goodbye to Corniglia, we began on the path towards Manarola continuing our long hike across Cinque Terre.
In the village of Manarola the views were no less stunning that the last. Manarola also contains more grapevines than any other village and is mostly famous for its wine, which is the local Sciacchetra. Here, the paved path from Manarola to Riomaggiore begins, which takes about 20 minutes to cross. We enjoyed every minute of our time in Manarola, wandering through local shops and streets and finding our way into a local restaurant to taste a glass of the famous white wine. After sightseeing and wine tasting in Manarola, our group began the rest of our journey on the path to the last town of Riomaggiore.
Riomaggiore is another town famous for its white wine which is made in the village from the local vineyards. There is a large port in the middle of the village surrounded by clusters of colourful houses, where small boats gathered in the harbour. After meeting up with our tour guide again, he pointed us in the direction of a small cove where you could climb through the opening to swim in the sea. Riomaggiore was our last stop in Cinque Terre, so we spent a while simply sitting and enjoying the views and walking through the village streets.
Every town in Cinque Terre has something special to offer and are all worth the visit. It felt so surreal being in a place that I had once put on my bucket list. It was one of the most beautiful places my eyes had ever seen. If you are planning on visiting Cinque Terre, I would only suggest the 10km hike if you are physically prepared to walk up and down steep hills, and are willing to swelter in the sun for a couple of hours. The hike was difficult, but it did allow us the opportunity to enjoy all the stunning views, and stop along the way to take some pretty amazing photos. We enjoyed close up views of the hills, villages, and water that surrounded us. Our day trip to Cinque Terre was wonderful and we got to glimpse into the culture and history of each town. I would suggest staying longer than just a day if you wish to experience even more of each town and see the beauty of Cinque Terre by night!