You better strap yourself in when visiting Cinque Terre, folks!
Cinque Terre (a.k.a. the "Five Lands" and also expressed as "5Terre") has a magnetic charm that is wheels off! I've requested my ashes be spread there "if" I die, so trust me when I say this place stole my heart... without even flexing.
Suggested Stay: At least 5 days! Preferably, a lifetime.
The villages comprising 5Terre are Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore. Exploring each village was a blast and despite their close proximity to each other, they were all unique. The most charming of the five villages for us was (drum roll, please)... Vernazza! Be prepared to pick your own favorite!
Love taking photos? Views along The Walk Of Love (Via dell' amore) connecting Riomaggiore and Manarola are incredible. Picture a trail clung to a steep cliff with a full-on view of the Mediterranean. You won't want to miss the views of the blue water! During the walk, take a brief stop to ingest the views and some Bierre Moretti and bruschetta at the Bar dell' Amore. The only thing challenging about the walk isn't the incline (it's relatively flat), it's when it comes time to leave The Walk Of Love for your next adventure!
Like to Hike? There are trails in the national park that connects all five of the area villages (The Walk Of Love is one of them).
For a challenging hike sporting views to a thrill, try and walk from Monterosso to Vernazza. You'll encounter lots of steps, so no flip flops!
There is a small fee to enter the trails and you can purchase your tickets from small booths located right on the trail's path.
Why not pack some wine and cheese and take advantage of the views from nooks and crannies by holding your own picnic. The hard part will be picking your favorite spot, as there are hundreds to choose from!
A few words about terraced gardening. During your hikes, you'll be transported into the heart of Italian gardening. You'll notice vistas of vineyards and olive and lemon orchards everywhere you look! Over hundreds of years, the Italians have found a way to take the vertically-challenged, seemingly useless, landscape and transform it into terraced lands, suitable for growing regional delicacies.
A seafood lover? Swim on over to Ristorante Miki (Monterosso) for fresh catches of the day and a charming view of the sea from the outside dining area. Another awesome restaurant in Vernazza we thoroughly enjoyed was Ristorante Al Castello. Located near the base of the tower perched over Vernazza, this beautiful restaurant has incredible views of the Mediterranean. And if you call ahead for a reservation, you can request a table that's perfectly poised above the restaurant's sheer cliffs. Note: Dining near sheer cliffs not recommended for those with vertigo.
What About The Wine? You'll find it everywhere. We stumbled upon a charming wine bar I'd suggest. Terre Rossa (Corniglia) was a nice retreat from the sun's rays. At first, we were insulted when we realized there was a 2 Euro "upcharge" if we stayed and had the wine there (vs. taking a bottle to go). But we quickly realized why; we were seated at a small garden table that featured a memorable view of Corniglia's "Deep V" view, as I coined it, of the Mediterranean. We were also treated to some salty snacks including wonderful Italian olives. The 2 Euro? Well worth it. Our vino? We enjoyed a bottle of Cinque Terre wine made by Polenza. The color? "Bianco" (Italian for "white"). The grapes of Cinque Terre are all-white so don't be expecting red wine unless it's an import. And while we've searched high and low locally for the namesake wine, we haven't found it. The search continues.
Need a place to stay? La Poesia is a B&B we'd suggest hands down. Owner and operator Nicoletta was very outgoing and prepared Italian breakfasts and treats, which she served from her rooftop terrace. Stunning views of the adjoining terraced gardens, lemon and olive trees. So beautiful this place, when visiting the terrace for the first time I actually needed a tissue. See more here. Her great great grandpappy (or probably someone older) built the "palace," as she called it. It was totally renovated recently and offers four unique rooms for rent. We stayed in the Clizia Room and the larger Giglio Rosso Suite, which you'll prefer, if it's available.
If you require a hotel on the beach, Hotel Pasquale will be your best option. My friends Rhonda and Michael stayed there on their honeymoon and spoke highly of it. As luck would have it, though, Pasquale was booked the days were were there and this led us into our great stay at La Poesia.
Italian Shopaholic? The villages offer charming shops that will make it hard for you to hold on to your Euros. Or your credit card. Storie in Italy (Vernazza) showcases paintings, prints and clothing from a local artist who married Michele - a Californian filmmaker turned fabulous Italian. Michele was really friendly and spent great care packing the three prints on canvas we purchased. Check out the online Storie in Italy. U Pusso (Monterosso) is a great place to sample wines and tapenades. Tell owner "Carla" hello from us and don't let her energetic sales skills talk you out of all your savings.
Getting Around? In addition to the trails connecting the villages, you can take a train ride that is super fast; about a 1-2 minute ride between each village. And cheap, too. Train Tip: remember to validate your train ticket at the station before boarding. We failed to validate because the tickets were "stubs" smaller than the TrenItalia tickets plus we had just purchased the 1km tickets before boarding. And then? We were prompted busted Johnny-on-the-Spot on the train just after take off! Apparently we were tourists impersonating dumb tourists and therefore fined 20 Euro! Prefer water transportation? There are boats that connect the villages and you'll want to get a schedule that shows the daily departure times. The boats are the best way to enjoy the drive-up (or float-up) appeal of the villages.
Want a closer view of 5Terre?
Why not download a .PDF of the hardback book I had made of our experiences of the five villages. Incredible shots. Some say I should sell it. But for you? It's free, if you love Italy.
5Terre Thumbs Down:
Dinner in Monterosso at Nuovo "Eden" Bar was one of the worst I experienced in all of three trips to Italy. Great view, but bad food. I mean really bad! I was convinced my lasagna had been made from start-to-finish in a microwave. Even the bread was bad. But the wine made up for the bad food and after a bottle, I forgot about eating all together!
Regardless of the one poor dining experience, Cinque Terre made our hearts skip more than a few. We'd be thrilled to return.
If you're lucky enough to travel to 5Terre, make sure and wear a belt or you'll have your pants charmed off!for the love of :