If you only take away one tip from today's post let it be this: get yourself to Cinque Terre! It is, without a doubt, one of our favorite places we've ever visited. We added it to our itinerary on recommendation from friends who visited on their honeymoon, and I'm so glad we took their advice because it was paradise! Everyone's travel style is different but we found the small-town, authentic vibe hard to beat. It's easy to get around, gorgeous at every turn, peaceful and yet vibrant. Of all the places we traveled to in Italy (Venice, Cinque Terre, Amalfi Coast/Capri, Rome), this was by far our favorite.
Cinque Terre is located on the west coast of Italy, and is comprised of and translates to "five towns" or "the five lands." Each town is easily accessible by train and only takes a couple of minutes to get between each stop. Some of the towns have walking paths between them, but those take 1-2 hours and are considered "hiking" so the train or the ferry (more on that later) is definitely the way to go. (Note: "Lover's Lane" and several other walking paths are currently closed due to landslides.) You technically only need a couple of days to see all of Cinque Terre, but honestly, stay a week if you can! We stayed four nights and never wanted to leave. Here's an overview of the five towns:
Starting south and working our way up, you'll find Riomaggiore. This town is probably my favorite, for two reasons. It's the most colorful and vibrant, and you can easily climb down into the marina and sit on the rocks or swim, etc. I could stay there and soak it in for days, it's so beautiful!
Next up is Manarola. It may as well be twin towns with Riomaggiore it looks so similar at first glance! (So naturally, it's my second favorite.) If you only have time for one town, go here, because there's a ramp up the next hill that gives you a killer view for photos, see below.
This town is quite different from the others. It's the only one of the five that the train doesn't drop you off right near the center of town and/or waterfront. In fact, it's a hike if you want to see it! Try to hop on the bus if you can (free if you purchase an all-day rail pass) otherwise it's quite the walk. And not nearly as many photo ops in this town because of the way it's situated on the hill.
Vernazza stands out thanks to the wide open marina and little beach area. And unlike the other towns so far, this one is pretty flat and easy to navigate. It's also ridiculously gorgeous with plenty of photo ops.
Monterosso is considerably larger than the other towns. The train station puts you right on the beach, in the "new" section of town. Old Monterosso is a bit of a walk south - the main attraction here is definitely the beach. This is also where we stayed, in an apartment in the new part of town. Partly why we loved Cinque Terre so much, is how fun it was staying off the beaten path in a local area!
Another attraction close by is Portovendere, which is not accessible by train, but is an easy 1.5 hour ferry ride from Monterosso. (See our photos from Portovendere here.) The ferry stops at all 5 towns, as well, so that's another way to get around within this region. If you're sticking with the train, consider buying an all-day pass (it's even better deal if you buy a couple days at a time). With it, you also get free Wifi at stations and free bus rides.
As for food, Cinque Terre is known for it's pesto, anchovies, lemon farms and local wine so there's plenty of delicacies to add your bucket list. Miky’s in Monterosso is the top rated restaurant and everyone raves about it. We ate there one night, but my favorite meal was actually from the focaccia place (a counter you order at and "take away") located immediately next to the train stop. Sounds legit, I know, but unlike the big cities, in Cinque Terre you don't have to worry about getting foiled by less authentic food because absolutely everything is delicious!
At the end of our trip we'll be sharing an "Italy Travel Guide" with general tips for things like etiquette, traveling between cities, etc. These are our Cinque Terre-specific recommendations. Do you have any tips for Cinque Terre that we missed?