A Day Trip to the Beautiful Cinque TerreSaturday, September 03, 2016
Cinque Terre (translated the five lands) is probably one of the most beautiful places in the world. I remember coming here 10 years ago with my family and I instantly fell in love with it. Filled with cute little pastel-coloured houses and cobbled streets right on the Ligurian coast, Cinque Terre is actually just a name to describe five separate fishing villages: Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso al Mare.
Less than three hours away, we decided to head here for a day to soak up the sunshine and play in the sea so we got up early, hopped on the train to La Spezia and then got the local regional train to the first town: Riomaggiore.
Take a look at that beautiful sea! Riomaggiore is one of the oldest towns, dating back to the 13th Century and is famous for it's wine. It has a rocky beach and you can easily go on diving trips or hire snorkelling equipment for a couple of hours. We really wanted to walk from this town to the next one, Manarola on the Via dell'Amore (lovers trail) which was originally made when they were upgrading the railway lines and needed a storage place for the gunpowder far away from either of the towns. After the railway was finished, they decided to keep the pathway open and according to some it made it easier for the people of Riomaggiore and Manarola to meet up and fall in love, giving it the very romantic name Via dell'Amore. Unfortunately however, there was a landslide a couple of years ago and it is still closed off to the public. So... there are now three ways that you can get from town to town:
1) Walk (not by the sea, but through the towns which I wouldn't recommend because you won't be able to see the sea and it apparently takes a long time)
2) Take a boat (the most scenic but not the fastest or cheapest, and doesn't stop in Corniglia).
3) Take the regional train which comes by at regular intervals. At €4 a journey it's not cheap as it can start to add up very quickly, but at some stations you can buy a Cinque Terre day pass for €16.
We then made our way down to the second town, Manarola which is only a few minutes away from Riomaggiore. Whenever you travel by train make sure to get the window seats by the sea - it's amazing.
Along with Vernazza, the fourth village, Manarola is probably the most famous on pintrest/tumblr/any other social media site because it is absolutely breathtaking. It's an ancient Roman town and is also very famous for it's Sciacchetrà wine, although unfortunately we didn't have time to try any. We were only there for a day and we were on a mission to quickly see a couple of the villages before heading to the beach in the fifth village: Monterosso al Mare.
Unfortunately I don't have any pictures from here (imagine sandy beaches filled with beach umbrellas) as once we got there we had to put our bags away into a locker because I didn't want to leave our belongings on the beach whilst we went kayaking. Please please please be careful when you're travelling in Italy, especially in super touristy places like Cinque Terre. We found a locker service after speaking to a lovely man who worked at the train station (who was very surprised that I could actually speak Italian, just shows how many tourists there are!). It is located just to your left when you come out of the train station, and it was €6 per bag for the whole day until 6.30pm. A lot of the beaches in Monterosso al Mare are private, paid beaches, however with some research you can find the free ones - don't get trapped into paying money! Although if you want to have an umbrella and a sun lounger it might be worth it.
After putting our things away we made our way down to the beach and hired a two person kayak from Samba Kayak Rental and it was 12 for an hour - not too bad! We (note: boyfriend) then kayaked from Monterosso to the closest village, Vernazza. We didn't quite make it because we had to turn back before the hour was over but it was an interesting ride and you could peek into some of the caves along the way. At some points I started freaking out thinking that we would capsize when some stronger waves came along (which he thought was hilarious) but unless it's a very windy/stormy day you'll be absolutely fine.
All in all it was an absolutely beautiful day and I would definitely recommend going. I know that a lot of companies offer packages from Florence (including travel), but as my boyfriend is 100% against all tours (sigh) we decided to do it by ourselves and train tickets were not too expensive (€27 return from Firenze Santa Maria Novella to La Spezia, excluding the travel in between the towns). The towns themselves obviously aren't cheap because everything is aimed at tourists, however you can find some cheaper food options if you venture into the town and keep your eyes peeled. It depends on what you want to do and if you're not too fussed about spending a lot of time in the sea/on the beach you can definitely do all five towns in one day but it may feel a little rushed and it'll be a very long one (we woke up at 6am and only got back around 11pm). However it is definitely worth it! The Italian coast is one of the most beautiful I've seen.