Ever since our friends honeymooned in Italy, Cinque Terre and the Almafi Coast have been near the top of our travel bucket list. We started the trip off with 3 nights in Cinque Terre. Known for their picturesque views, the five colorful towns are situated on cliffs overlooking the Mediterranean Sea.
The flights from Paris were cheap at just 93€ round trip via Transavia. We flew into Pisa, took a train to La Spezia, and then transferred to Riomaggiore. If you plan to also visit the Almafi Coast, book your return flight from Naples.
Among the five towns, you can purchase the Cinque Terre Card at any of the stations. The pass is 16€ per day and gives you unlimited access to the hiking trails, transportation, and wifi.
I would highly recommend visiting Cinque Terre outside the peak tourist season from July-August, where the trains and trails are packed, the heat is unbearable (for me at least), and the prices are high. The Airbnb we booked in June was 85€ a night, but when we looked a month later, the price had doubled.
I did a lot of research to select which village to stay in. Out of the five, I adored Manarola (for that view of course!) and Riomaggiore, where we ended up staying. Tyler’s favorite was Monterosso since it’s the only town with a fair-sized beach and “has more elbow room.” I found Riomaggiore to be less expensive than Manarola and it turned out to be really nice for scenic walks at sunset. Riomaggiore also has a nice cliff bar, A Pie’ de Ma’, overlooking the beautiful sea.
In terms of the other towns, Vernazza is also a good option. I wouldn’t recommend Corniglia due to its steep staircases from the station to the town’s center though.
A cheaper option is to stay in La Spezia, a 10-minute train ride from Cinque Terre. It’s a much larger city with a big farmers’ market and the most amazing pizza, La Pia Centenaria (thanks for the tip, Pau-Lynn!) La Spezia isn’t quite as charming though, so if you want the best experience, stay in Cinque Terre.
While the 5-minute train rides between towns are easy to figure out, they can be veryyy spread out. One night, we had to wait 45 minutes for the next train (a blasphemy in Paris!) You can find a timetable here or pick up a print-out at any of the stations.
Now, more about the food. The focaccia was delicious. This flatbread originates in Liguria, not too far from Cinque Terre, and is baked with olive oil, salt, and toppings of the baker’s choice. Our breakfasts typically consisted of greasy focaccia slices, fruit from the local grocer, and a beautiful seaside view.
A trip to Italy wouldn’t be complete without gelato. Following my friend Emily’s advice, we tried Alberto Gelateria in Corniglia. A scoop of their honey flavor was heaven in a cup and their famous Lemon Granita (a slushie-like drink) was also refreshing. It was the perfect reward between hikes.
We trekked 7 miles from Corniglia to Vernazza to Monterosso. Make sure to bring plenty of water since there aren’t any fountains on the trails themselves. Tyler and I lived off our shared 1.5-liter bottle. We jokingly nicknamed Cinque Terre “Cinque STAIRS!!” because of all the climbing we had to do. Those with bad knees, beware. The trails are neatly groomed though and even have Italian men serenading you with accordions sometimes… no joke.
Unfortunately, the famous “Lover’s Lane” between Riomaggiore and Manarola is closed until 2019 due to landslide damage. Normally you can hike between all of the villages. We enjoyed the views between Vernazza and Monterosso the best since you can look behind you and see the other towns in the distance.
Now, for the “Instagram money shot”, grab a seaside table at Nessun Dorma in Manarola. No reservations required, just get in line a little before they open at noon. Nessun Dorma, which translates to “nobody sleeps”, has a great selection of fruity cocktails, salads with local produce, and best of all, bruschetta. For such a beautiful view, this spot is very affordable- just 8€ for six giant slices of toast topped with your favorite Italian ingredients. Tomatoes, basil, and olive oil, please!
No table with a cliff view available? Tyler, being the hungry guy he usually is, was fine with a weeds-only view, but the blogger in me insisted we wait ten extra minutes for a better table. #NoShame… the waiters are totally used to this request!
On the topic of breath-taking views, my friend JoYo told us that other great photo ops are from the cemeteries, which actually have the best views overlooking each city. That’s where the below picture was taken.
I absolutely loved our stay in Cinque Terre and would highly recommend it. Three to four days is just the right amont of time for this area; you can even to it in two since the villages are so tiny.
Stay tuned for my next posts from the rest of the trip: Capri and Almafi Coast 🙂