This is quite possibly one of the most unique places I have ever visited in the world. Honestly, I don’t think there is anything quite like it and I certainly cannot imagine living there for a few reasons, but still this is an amazing place.
On our trip this was a place where I would have never thought about going, but thanks to Pinstagram (which is what I call Instagram and Pintrest) and my wife this one certainly was put on the list. It really did not take much convincing when I saw the pictures as they were spectacular and some of the most piscturesque photos in the world. Literally when you think of the Mediterranean the images of this place pop in my head, also when you Google Mediterranean you will get some extremely beautiful pictures from Cinque Terre.
So what is Cinque Terre. It is a series of five towns (Manarola, Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Riomaggiore) along the North West coast of Italy. Until recently it was mostly a secret place that no one outside Italy really knew about. I think Rick Steve’s and a book he wrote really put it on the map and opened it up to the world, for better or worse. I say worse, because it is also a popular cruise destination, if you are on a Mediterranean cruise. Well La Spezia is and many tourist that get dropped off there travel to these towns. The problem is that the influx of people is somewhat destroying the trails that have been cut through the mountains. When we were there there were quite a few that were closed some for construction and others because it looked like it was going to rain. They do not want hundreds of people on wet and muddy trails.
At one time it seemed to be a secluded place where only the locals knew about and a hand full of outsiders, but now it has turned into a tourist destination and I am not sure how Italians feel about it. No one was rude or mean to us but I have to wonder if there is some hard feelings toward Rick and book for showing the world this hidden gem.
What is also interesting about this place is that it is a national park and is a UNSECO World Heritage Site. So when you visit Cinque Terre you are basically entering a national park and you have to buy a pass to walk on the trails. Which when I got there I was like “are you kidding me!” It seemed that Italy was going to nickel and dime me to death one way or the other. But honestly it was not that bad and I see that the money is used to keep the tails usable also if you buy a certain pass you can use the train unlimited. There are other passes that you can only use the train a few times or just one way or to one town. I would recommend spending the extra money and ride the train as much as you want. It will make your stay more enjoyable especially if you are going to say there a few days. We were there, I think, 3 days and the unlimited train pass was totally worth it.
We stayed in Manarola, which was very nice and I would highly recommend staying there. It was beautiful and very cool. I would also recommend taking the train to the last city which is, Monterosso and hike back to Manarola. (Actually La Spezia is the last town but technically is not part of Cinue Terre. We did not visit La Spezia.) It is a breathtaking hike and some of the best views I have ever seen. As I said above when you Google Cinque Terre the image that comes up you will see it perfectly if you do this hike and there will be tons of photographers taking pictures of these buildings. The best is as sunset and the light is hitting the brightly colored buildings, it makes for a great photo.
Other than hiking there really is not much to do here other than relax. There is a beach and you can go swimming but the water is freezing! The beach is at Monterosso, and when I say beach I mean a 30 yard wide 50 yard long “beach” filled with tourist. So it is not the most relaxing beach I have ever been to. Still though it is neat to just sit there and enjoy the sun and think about being in such a unique place. We also swam at Manarola but there is no beach you basically have to jump off a rock. It was cool but I still cannot get over how cold the water was. Also the beaches are not covered with white sand as they are in Florida, they are covered with tiny pebbles which makes it almost impossible to walk on.
My one complaint with this place was the hassle to get there and once you are there the hassle it was to get anywhere else, like going to eat or grab a drink. It did take some planning to get here from Florence, but honestly was not overly difficult. However once you arrive in whichever town you are staying at that is when the real fun begins. More than likely you are going to have to hike to your room which is probably 500 ft straight up. What makes it worse is carrying all your luggage, that was not a fun walk, BUT totally worth it when you get there as the view is spectacular. Still though I could not get over the inconvenience of doing anything as it was either straight up or straight down. So be prepared for a lot of sweating and being out of breath to do anything. Just a small price to pay for the views though and the superb scenery. So I would say that if you are out of shape or have trouble getting around I would say that you will not enjoy Cinque Terre to its fullest. Again literally everything is either upstairs or down stairs.
This is certainly one of the most remarkable places I have ever been, but I am not sure if I will go back. Mainly because there is so much else to see, but still it is a pretty cool place. Next stop Rome, stay tuned.
Check out my other posts on Italy