The Cinque Terre, meaning the five hamlets (or lands) on the Ligurian coast in Italy, has to be one of the most stunning spots I have visited. Before coming here I had drooled over photos of others hiking the hills between the towns and swimming in the clear mediterranean water. Before coming here I lost count of the number of people who had never heard of this area and often questioned whether I had this paradise confused with the Amalfi Coast! No, not confused at all.
Recommendations prior to my parents planning their grand trip (that I am tagging along for two weeks of) had us begin in Vernazza. The smallest of the five towns and home to only 300 locals. I have to say, the open waterfront makes it the most beautiful, of the five.
The five towns are connected by a number of different hiking trails, some coastal and some further inland. All of which are included in the national park. Day one exploring consisted of heading north to the largest and most well known town, Monterosso. A steep, hot climb up with many steps proved the best way to view the coastline from above.
The trails require tickets all year round that can be purchased as a day pass or multiple day passes. Also this summer, it has been reported they are trying to cap the numbers accessing the towns via the trails. Understandable as it is only May and the foot-traffic on the trails is already high.
However, the vineyards built into the hills, stunning views up and down the coast, as well as locals selling fresh limonata is a quenching reward during and on arrival to the next town.
After a refreshing swim in the Mediterranean it was time to check out the remaining 3 towns. We took the train to Riomaggiore which is the town furthest south. Also just as beautiful, Riomaggiore is built into the hillside with a steep street down to the water, a little swimming spot, plenty of rocks for jumping off near their small harbour and an excellent gelati selection.
The next town north is Manarola, only 20 minutes or so via the coastal trail if it is open, but unfortunately it wasn’t! Certain trails are currently closed due to perculoso (dangerous) tracks from slips. Inland trails are mostly open, or else you hop back on the train, like we did!
The final town north before reaching Vernazza again is Corniglia. This spot can be missed by some as it sits on the hill-top and cannot be accessed by the ferry. Instead, there are a couple of hundred steps up to the town from the train station.
Winding narrow alleys lead up, down and around Corniglia. Leading to endless views over the ocean. Whether it was the time of morning, or the general size of the town, Corniglia was not over crowded and has some beautiful spots to browse and eat. Make sure you don’t skip Corniglia.