Although this region of Italy is becoming more and more “touristy” everyday, this place is a requisite to any travel itinerary to Italy or Southern France. I had a friend recently ask me for advice on where to go should he travel to Italy (he’s planning a trip to Europe now). Here’s a bit of what I had to say about the area in Northern Italy.
…next would be Cinque Terre, this is the place I talk about all the time. Its five villages on the side of a mountain connected by one long trail overlooking the sea. It is impossible not to love it here. I suggest staying in Monte Rosso, the first town. Its also the biggest and has a really great hotel/hostel in the back end of the city, nice and secluded with a perfect view of EVERYTHING. (Seriously, olive groves, the beach, small (real) vineyards, the town’s awesome architecture… everything.) From here you can hike to the next town, Vernazza, which has some decent places to eat and has some great photo opportunities down the back alleys and such. Worth the 1.5 hour hike. Also, let me mention here that it takes about an hour or two to hike between the towns and it is 110% worth it, it takes about 8 hours total, but you can catch a train back from the last (5th) town to Monte Rosso in about 25 minutes. The views alone are ridiculous and its a bit of an adventure, to say the least. When you get back from the hike, I suggest eating at Ciak. From what I’ve read its become a bit tourist-y, but when I was there it was awesome. Fresh seafood and pasta and the chef/owner, an old Sailor, still comes out to talk to his customers and explain the dishes, etc. A little knowledge of Italian wouldn’t hurt here. Liguria/cinque Terre is also where pesto was invented and they have this pasta called Trofie that was, literally, created to make pesto even better. You have to try it.
So, bare in mind that this was intended for a private email correspondence with a friend, so I recognize fully that I gush like a tourist, but, come on! How can you not? If you’ve been there, you know what I’m talking about. Also, its pronounced chinquay terray, not cinqueh terreh.
*I fully advocate smoking when traveling through most parts of Europe, whether you’re a regular smoker or not. Trust me on this one.
I first discovered Cinque Terre from a calendar I had when I was little. I would stare at the same photo of Vernazza for hours imagining what it would be like to visit, to walk the small alleys, to sit at the restaurants drinking table wine and talking to friends. It was quite realization of a dream when I finally approached Vernazza, from the trail leading from Monte Rosso, walking high above the town and getting the same view I had studied for years. It is well worth its own trip, exclusive from a visit to Rome or Florence.
Cinque Terre is completely accessible by train, which is how I like to travel anywhere I go (besides the Americas). I believe I took a train from Rome to Milan and then to Monte Rosso (don’t quote me, its been almost 6 years). Once off the train you are almost immediately exposed to the Tyrrhenian Sea. You can inquire about a hostel here, but I suggest checking the Internet beforehand and making a list of a few places to inquire for a room. Vernazza has quite a few apartments to rent, called Affitti Camere, and are decently priced, especially considering their location.
The five villages of Cinque Terre, Monte Rosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore, all have something to offer and are all worth checking out, I just happened to stick to the first three for the bulk of my visit to the area. Words really can’t do it justice.
Photos by me, circa ’05… I could almost grow a full beard back then…