Europe’s Hidden Gem on the Italian Coast
I feel it would be a sin for me to keep this destination a secret from you. Out of my entire Europe travels in 2015, my favourite place was Cinque Terre. It is tucked away in the northwest coast of Italy between Florence and Milan. It is also a short day trip from Pisa, if you are considering that route, but we felt that Cinque Terre deserves more than a day dedicated to it in order to really appreciate its beauty. I highly recommend anyone who is planning a trip to Europe to add Cinque Terre to their itinerary – you will not be disappointed!
Cinque Terre, as the name suggests, consists of 5 villages: Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, and Monterosso. These villages are relatively close to one another so if you are a hiker, you will fall in love even more. Going from one village to another, you can hike and enjoy some stunning views from up top. For those non-hikers like myself, not to worry as there is a train which will take you to each individual village. Be warned, even after getting off the train at some of the villages, you will still need to climb some steps or take a short hike – nothing too strenuous, of course.
Many people find accommodation in Cinque Terre but it can be quite costly and also slightly inconvenient travelling on the trains with all your luggage just to get to one of those villages. Trust me, those trains can get excessively overcrowded and are not so pleasant which is why most travellers consider staying in the nearby city of La Spezia. If you enjoy an evening stroll in the city, there are a handful of restaurants at your fingertips and more accommodation choices in La Spezia. There is a train which connects you to Cinque Terre’s villages, sometimes even every few minutes, during the day so you can enjoy every minute exploring the five villages. If you don’t catch one of the earlier trains, keep in mind that you might be waiting a while in lines as trains get quite packed during peak season. Apart from hotels, there are many AirBnB rentals in La Spezia. My husband had picked a beautiful apartment on AirBnB with spectacular mountain views. So what’s so special about each of these villages? Well, read on to learn a little about each of them below.
Unlike some of the other villages which are to be enjoyed from a higher vantage point, in this village the beauty is right down below at its feet. You will find plenty of viewing areas to capture a shot like this one. The colours of the buildings are vibrant just as the picture shows. We enjoyed two separate sunsets at Riomaggiore and both were beautiful. In the afternoon, after strolling through the village, collecting our souvenirs and finding our wine to drink during sunset, I would jump into the water off the nearby rocks and cool off from the scorching heat.
Out of all the villages, Manarola was hands down my favourite. I believe we spent at least 2 full days and 3 different sunsets at this place. Manarola is surrounded by grape vines and a heavy current from the ocean. Its probably the most colourful and pleasing to stare at for hours. My husband time-lapsed from day to night from this spot and never did I get bored with the views. While he was busy with his time-lapse, I’d stroll in the garden, check out out the local village, and even do a short hike. You might be able to tell from this photo, the current was so rough that boats were grounded for the day yet there were a few brave who were diving off the cliffs into the rough waters.
First off, this is the one village where after getting off the train, you’ll need to hike some stairs and a pathway for sometime until you reach it. It is a gorgeous stroll through the village however. My husband and I found our favourite gelato place here and tried as many flavours as possible. The beauty of Corniglia is it is surrounded by gorgeous vinery all around. This is where we got into trouble. We decided to actually wander into the vineyard, get some nice pictures of it growing and then, out popped a lizard and we ran… ran for our lives. Truth be told, both my husband and I are extremely afraid of lizards and we ran as if our tails were on fire. It was quite hilarious actually. I’m sure when I blog about my Asia travels, you’ll read some more lizard stories at that time.
Vernazza was also one of my favourite villages to explore. It has its own beauty below at the water and from up top. My husband and I did hike this one to get this gorgeous view as shown in the picture. I’m not sure if you can see from this picture, but there is a tower which also gives a beautiful view point, much closer to the village itself. Unfortunately during our visit, this was closed but I’m sure if you make it to this place, you’ll get a chance to climb up this tower and experience a different viewpoint than us.
If you’re up for the challenge, complete a full-day hike from Riomaggiore all the way to the very last village, Monterosso, and then enjoy a relaxing time at the beach and dip into the crystal clear blue water to end your day. This is what hikers enjoy the most but I’m not going to lie, I was not up for the challenge but still enjoyed a beautiful day at the beach. While my husband took pictures, as he normally does, I soaked up a day’s worth of sun, went for a swim, and enjoyed on my iPad. It was the perfect way to end our Cinque Terre trip!
As I said earlier, I highly recommend visiting Cinque Terre on your next Europe trip and if you have any questions about this place, please feel free to message me at any point and I’d be more than happy to share my experiences and suggestions. I do hope you’ll make it here at some point. I know my husband and I definitely will be making our second trip there soon enough!