A Weekend in Cinque Terre
Cinque Terre, or “five lands” is a stretch of the Italian coastline made of up five villages – Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso al Mare – situated between two industrial towns, Levanto to the North and La Spezia to the South.
The historic, multi-coloured, seaside villages overlook the Mediterranean, and are nestled between steep, rocky cliffs, and are connected to one another with a spider web of small roads and walking trails, as well as railway. The area is a National Park, and therefore it is protected, which means there are no large yachts docked, but plenty of taxi boats and smaller ferries also connecting the towns.
It makes for a perfect weekend to wander around and explore the villages by train, boat and foot, which is exactly what we did.
Friday, July 3
As you really can’t drive in the villages, we skipped the rental car and hopped a cab from Genoa to Riamaggiore. Our crazy Italian taxi driver practically made us all car sick stopping and starting up the windy road, and then ended up leaving us with luggage in tow in the wrong town, Monterosso!
We decided to embrace it and enjoy lunch by the sea before making our way to our hotel in Riamaggiore. And following the eventual arrival, it was time for a swim – Riomaggiore’s beach is just past the marina, down the stairs to the left and past the ferry dock. It is a small, rocky beach which at first, looks uncomfortable, but with a bit of effort to arrange the rocks, you can create a nice little nest.
We had planned to head over to Manarola for dinner, but just as we were leaving to catch the train, it started pouring and thundering. So instead, we decided to stay local – we waited out the storm in the hotel bar and then continued down to the marina for dinner. Fortunately, due to the rain, there looked to have been some cancellations and we managed to have an absolutely amazing meal at Dau Cila, followed by drinks nearby.
Saturday, July 4
No trip to Cinque Terre would be complete without experiencing a bit of its walking paths. Given the heat, we decided to keep it simple and choose to take the train to Monterosso and just hike the trail from Monterosso to Vernazza. While it is 600 steps and mostly up hill, the trail itself is an easy walk and the views are stunning
Despite it not being technically difficult, we were tired and sweaty, so it was time to relax and cool off in Vernazza.
Vernazza is a one street town, and has it’s been under extensive repairs after a landslide in 2011, but looked like new to us! We climbed just up the hill and enjoyed a nice lunch with a spectular view at Ristorante Belforte.
We then opted for a water taxi back instead of the train, and has a chance to take in all of the villages from the sea – a perfect way to get back quickly.
That said, that was just the beginning of our boating adventures for the day. We next rented a Lugurian gozzo, “Angelina” and went for a tour around the villages, combined with some afternoon wine, snacks and swimming.
While it was getting late, we thought we would spend the evening with dinner/drinks in Monterosso as that is where the nightlife was. Unfortunately, the trains stop at midnight and there are no options to get back without spending an ridiculous amount on a taxi, so we decided to go with a more sensible option – the hotel bar suggested that Manarola some nice restaurants and was only a 20 minute walk back should we miss the last train. Seemed reasonable, right?
We caught a train to Manarola, and walked uphill, just north of the marina, to a picture-perfect, killer cocktail spot, Nessun Dorma. We thought about leaving as the kitchen was closed, but the manager was kind enough to whip up some nibbles so we could continue to enjoy the view and great drinks. We had a lovely evening, but the bar was then closing and it was time to figure out how to make our way home — we leisurely enquired about the walking path back, which shocked the locals. Apparently the path between the two villages
We then learned that the walking path was inaccessible, and had been closed for the last three years due to falling rocks! This left us with a bit of dilemma, but still a few options:
- Walk alongside the train tracks, but with about 2-3 minutes of walking along in the tracks inside the tunnel, which may potentially be life threatening if a train were to pass!
- Call a taxi from La Spezia, and be prepared to spend a few hundred euro
- Sleep on the beach
- Take the temporary route over the mountain top, which was apparently a real challenge during the day, but less late at night.
- Get a bottle of wine and walk along the car road for an hour or so
While the last didn’t sound terrible, we had been walking all day and wasn’t exactly our preferred way of ending the evening. We decided to still get a bottle of good white wine, but go down and assess how risky the train path was.
As we walked down, we decided to get a second opinion from the manager at Restaurant Marina Piccola. He really tried to think of options, and eventually decided to make some money off of it, and offer us ride in his boat – a little night water taxi was the perfect ending to our lovely evening.
We were thrilled to arrive back in Riamaggiore, and ended the night on the hotel terrace, drinking wine into the night.
Sunday, July 5th
We had a chilled out last day, and just had lunch on a cliff side bar overlooking Riamaggiore’s marina, followed by a swim in the marina itself — it was a perfect place to swim with lots of fish due to the rocks all around.
We then headed out and made our way Pisa, with just enough time for an ice cream pre-flight.