What we Saw
Our first full day in the Italian Rivera was sunny and 75 so we decided to make use of the good weather and head to the beach. Monterosso, the largest of the “five lands” making up the Cinque Terre, is best known for its beaches so we packed our bags to take the 3 mile hike into town. The beach is the front yard for the whole city so it is not difficult to find a spot. However, before you even slip off your sandals there are salesmen running at you with turkish towels and elderly women scurrying over to offer a foot massage. It is all part of the experience so partake as you choose, but don’t let it make you feel uncomfortable. Take this beach opportunity as a reminder that you are on vacation and relax with your toes in the sand and a cocktail in hand.
Our last day on the coast was spent touring all five lands of the Cinque Terre. The easiest way to do this is by train. You can purchase an all day passes for 16 euros or individual tickets for 4 euros each. We chose to start with the southernmost town, Riomaggiore, and work our way north.
The journey commenced by sipping cappucinos at the picturesque marina capping the town of Riomaggiore. This spot has a perfect view of the colorful buildings and boats that make up the town. We then grabbed some pastries and headed north to Manerola, the oldest of the towns. We did some shopping and finally grabbed our first souvenirs 11 days into the trip. Next we visited Vernazza, this is the town you often see featured in photographs representing the Cinque Terre. Long colorful buildings stack together like leggos to create a triangle, directing onlookers to the port. After snapping some photos and enjoying lunch we concluded the day by heading up to Corniglia for dinner. However, Vernazza is the town best known for food so I would recommend planning your tour of the towns so that you land in Vernazza for dinner.
What we Ate
If you are coming to Italy for the food the Cinque Terre would not be my first recommendation. As with Amalfi, the restaurants seemed to pander to the tourist crowds sacrificing quality and authenticity in the process. That being said, we visited the Cinque Terre from Sunday to Tuesday and in Italy restaurants are often closed these days. So, many of the restaurants we had hoped to dine at were not available. Obviously this snafu did not slow us down at all and we still made an effort to sample as much as possible.
Whenever I travel I make it a priority to experiment with the regional specialties. In the Cinque Terre, these include Pesto and Foccacia. You will see both ingredients featured in countless dishes throughout the towns. Focaccia is used as the base for pizza, bread for sandwiches, and as a pastry for coffee dipping. I would highly recommend visiting “Il Massimo Della Focaccia” in Monterosso to sample an exceptional focaccia pizza. Do yourself a favor and order whatever variety you see coming fresh out of the oven or try two specialties in one by ordering focaccia topped with pesto.
Pesto is most commonly seen blanketing fresh trofie or lasagna noodles but is also used on pizzas, sandwiches, and bruschetta. Regretfully Cody and I were unable to take one of the many pesto making classes offered by the local restaurants, but we heard positive reviews via other travelers and therefore would recommend it if you get the chance!
Where we Stayed
Let’s start with a lesson that Cody and I have very well learned by this point: DO NOT pick an Airbnb that requires extensive hiking to get in and out of town. When booking our accommodations prior to the trip we thought it might be best to choose places in between towns so that we would have two options “close by”. However, now, with a little more experience under our belt, we can firmly say that choosing the option closer to town should reign priority to the stunning views we haveencountered with extra distance.
In both Amalfi and the Cinque Terre we had roughly a 30 minute hike to the closest town, which in theory, doesn’t sound bad… until you’ve polished off a couple of bottles of wine, lasagna, gelato, and are wearing heals. In addition to the hike being exhausting, it eats up a big chunk of your day. Considerer that if you need to go back to your apartment during the day and then return into town that is two hours lost. In the Cinque Terre we stayed at the direct center point in between Corniglia and Vernazza. The view was Incredible, but the hike home was unlit and unpaved, meaning that we had to light the path with our iPhones as we stumbled up dark uneven stairs at 11pm.
Lessons we Learned
1) Try and stay in one of the towns, not on the outskirts. If you are staying in Corniglia there are quite a few stairs to get from the train station into town, but many hotels offer a service to transport your luggage from the station. All of the other towns have centrally located train stations so transporations should not be an issue. If you would like to know more about why this lesson is so important read my rant in the where we stayed section above.
2) Do not be afraid of the trains. They run very frequently and tickets can be purchased just before leaving at a machine out front of the station. Our tickets were not checked once during our 8 train rides between the towns so if you are gambling man/women you may be able to get away without going through the purchasing process. However, you do get a hefty fine if you are caught.
3) Look ahead to ensure the restaurant you want to visit is open. In the more religious towns it is common for restaurants to be closed on Sunday for sabbath. In tourist focused towns restaurants commonly close Monday or Tuesday as those days are slower for business.