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I did it. I went to the Cinque Terre. Ever since I saw a photo of one village on Pinterest, I decided that I had to do it. After a quick search on Google Maps, Bingo ! The first village is only a 5-hour drive from my home. It’s the perfect destination for a roadtrip. And while we’re here, we decided to expand our stay and visit the beautiful region of Tuscany and its famous wine route: the Chianti.
The Cinque Terre (five lands) are located in the Liguria region (between Genova and Pisa). We also call it the Italian Riviera. It consists of five fishermen’s villages that were built on the edge of cliffs years ago. Today, the Cinque Terre are registered as a UNESCO Wolrd Heritage site and are part of the Cinque Terre National Park. The villages are: Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, Monterosso Al Mare.
OK that sounds nice but what is there to do in those small fishermen villages ? Here are four kinds of activities.
1. OBSERVE and ADMIRE
You are here on holiday or at least you came here for a change of scene. It’s quite easy to find it here. You can just observe this particular architecture and gaze at the beautiful small houses rich in mediteranean colors. Wander along the streets and smell the perfume of lemon trees in the houses’ gardens.
Marvel at the landscape that lies in front of you and check out the sharp rocks that emerge in the turquoise-blue water below the cliffs. Walk along the shore and observe fishermen at work in the Marina. Time seems to have stopped here. Even though, everything moves so fast here and there are so many people, it’s still another era and another way of life.
Be struck by the sunset reflecting on the sea and observe the changing colors on the houses’ facades while the sun is setting.
Do I need to remind you that you are in Italy ? A country which offers so many local specialties that everyone loves. You are also on the seaside in fishermen villages. Obviously, you will have a lot of fish and seafood on offer. In the Cinque Terre, we could often order a cone of fried seafood to take away, especially in Riomaggiore (source photo). So we didn’t that much liked it because we don’t eat seafood but I know a lot of people who will be delighted there.
For dessert, have a real Italian gelato, home-made off-course. We are never disappointed. In Italy, two flavors will cost you 2€, whether it be in a cup or a cone.
To finish the meal according to the tradition, have the local liqueur: Limoncello (source photo). There are two sides to the story. Some say Limoncello was invented on the Amalfi Coast while others say it was in Liguria. You probably noticed all those big lemons with a thick peel that invade all the gardens. So grab this opportunity and try it.
The best way to visit the Cinque Terre is on foot. Did you know that all five villages are linked to each other via a hiking trail ? When they are not closed for works off course. The Sentiero Azzurro is the shortest trail and runs along the coast. There’s also a network of secondary trails inland the National Park. You can even do Mountain Bike there. We loved walking along trail n°6 from Manarola to Volastra. You can even reach Corniglia from there but it takes more time than the Sentiero Azzurro.
It’s a wonderful experience to link two villages by hiking. You benefit from amazing views on the sea, the National Park and its protected area but also views on the villages which we can see entirely from above. To be honest, it’s the postcard view.
The sentiero Azzurro is rather narrow and you should not underestimate it. The hike is more difficult than what you can expect. It’s a short distance (the longest hike is 3.6km) but the effort is intense. The ascent is very steep and full of traps: tree roots that come out of the ground, high steps, slippery or sharp rocks… You will encounter several difficulties on your hike but the view will make you forget all about it.
4. CHILL, SWIM
Only Corniglia doesn’t have a direct access to the sea. It is located much higher on the cliff.
Otherwise, the Cinque Terre villages are located on the seaside. Therefore, you will get many opportunities to go for a swim during your stay at the Cinque Terre. Monterosso Al Mare and Vernazza are the only villages offering a real sand beach. It’s not too crowded yet in April. But you can also swim in other villages: Vernazza offers a medium-size beach with rocks. You have to walk accross a mini cave in a side street. I’ll let you find it by yourself. You will also see some people sun bathing on the big rocks in the Marina or cliff-diving from high rocks.
We stayed two nights at camping Albero d’Oro in Levanto (28€/night, very few clients in April). The train station was only 800m from the camping. It was the perfect solution to reach the National Park by train and not to pay the expensive parking during the day. Levanto or La Spezia are the two towns located at the North and South of the National Park.
Cinque Terre Card : 12€/person for one day. Gives you unlimited access to the trains for 24 hours as well as access to the hiking trails. You also get a personal code for the WiFi in the villages. But honestly, I have tried to connect in several villages and it never worked.
Trains run from 4 am to way past midnight.
Ever since the 2011 dangerous floods, hiking trails are very regularly closed. Don’t forget to check the official website of the National Park here.
Have you ever visited the Cinque Terre ? What is your best memory of it ? If not, do you dream of visiting this picturesque region of Italy ?
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