A Frecciarossa express train carried us from Rome to Pisa where we spent about two hours taking in the small town and the leaning tower. However, the mid-day heat caught up to us and we went back to the train station to catch a regional train to La Spezia and onwards to Cinque Terre. On the way, we glimpsed the famous marble quarries that provided the marble for Michelangelo’s David.
Cinque Terre is a collection of five coastal villages that are simply made up of terraces on cliffs that run straight into the Ligurian Sea. The villages are connected by train as well as breathtaking coastal hiking paths. The first two villages of Riomaggiore and Manarola are small port towns where one can rent a boat or go cliff diving.
The third and highest village of Corniglia is small and contains a couple hostels, some cafes, and a grocery store. We stayed in a hostel here and while it was quiet and peaceful at night, the roosters started up at 4 am and continued crowing until 7 or 8, which got quite unbearable by the second morning. While this small town is nice and serene, I would not recommend spending any more time here than a quick stop for a snack on your coastal hike.
The big port town of Vernazza is next up the coast and is full of tourists looking to take a dip in its beautiful harbor. The main square contains a bunch of fancy restaurants selling bottled water for exorbitant prices and the streets branching off are littered with stalls displaying various kinds of fresh fruit, vegetables, and seafood.
The harbor lacked a beach, so when I went for my first swim in the Mediterranean here, my feet got all scratched up by the various kinds of sea life clinging to the rocky surface of the cliffs. Other than not being able to walk properly for a day, the swim was actually pretty great!
The coastal hikes from Riomaggiore to Corniglia were closed due to landslides, so the next morning I hiked from Corniglia to Vernazza. The hike itself was relatively easy, smooth, and paved. It’s the view that is worth mentioning: absolutely magnificent! The lush green cliffs running into the endless pure blue water were a true sight to behold. The hike did not take long so I went up to an ancient castle tower in Vernazza which provided more gorgeous panoramic views of the coast and the town.
After lunch, we took another train to Monterosso, the northernmost of the five towns which had a full fledged beach along with old World War Two bunkers refurbished as modern restaurants. The rest of the day was spent reading, napping, and just chilling on the beach. Unless you plan to trawl every nook and cranny of each village, I would recommend just two to three days to enjoy the Cinque Terre, but you MUST hike at least one coastal path if you don’t want to miss out on the beautiful views. We said goodbye to this amazing place the next day and headed toward…