Cinque Terre, Italy: Five Lands

Vintage photo of Riomaggiore in the train station

At the eleventh hour we decided to go to Cinque Terre and thank goodness we did! It is definitely one of the most beautiful places we’ve seen on this trip. This is the Italian landscape you dream about. If you’re unfamiliar, Cinque Terre is a string of five little sea side towns that are connected with a range of hiking trails (some easy, some more difficult) as well as trains. It’s a typical visit to hike or train between each of the five towns, either in one day or over a few days. They’re all quite small so it’s easy to see them fairly completely over that time.

This is the view when you disembark from the train at Riomaggiore. Yes it is.

Looking down into the water from the train station at Riomaggiore

This is the water you see from the train station. Isn't it perfect? I just wanted to dive in.

Since it was the eleventh hour I was surprised that we found such an amazing place with Rio Rooms.

Our bedroom in Riomaggiore

Our kitchen, next to the bedroom

Living Room/Dining Room, view standing in the kitchen

We were right in the downtown (aka smack dab in the center of the one main street) in Riomaggiore, the first of the 5 towns.

The view from our living room, Riomaggiore

As we had arrived in afternoon, we still had our energy to walk around the town and explore. We hiked to the tip top of the town, all the way back to the sea cliffs.

View looking down at Riomaggiore from the upper part of town

Overlooking Riomaggiore and the ocean

All of Cinque Terre has that perfectly aged appeal

The terraced hills of Riomaggiore, Italy

Up at the old castle, views down into Riomaggiore

Fishing boats all lined up in Riomaggiore

At the sea cliffs in Riomaggiore, after our walk through town

I love the way these rocks look like they've just toppled over sideways into the sea

The next day we tackled the next two towns. The first trail between our town, Riomaggiore and the next town, Manarola is the easiest. A twenty minute walk on a cement path along the sea. It is called, Via del’Amore or Lovers Lane.

Eric and I starting our day at Via dell'Amore, the path between Riomaggiore and Manarola

Via dell'Amore, between Riomaggiore and Manarola

Cliffs between Riomaggiore and Manarola! Gorgeous!

View of Manarola and its train station from Via dell'Amore

We walked all the way to the top of Manarola, passing through their cemetery and walking through the Cliffside vineyards. We noted that the cemetery was next to the preschool and both had prime real estate perched on top of a beautiful outcropping of cliff, overlooking the beautiful ocean. The departed and babies get top priority for beauty in this town.

Overlooking the cemetery and pre-school in Manarola

View from the top of Manarola. Look at the color of that water!

Manarola, Cinque Terre

One of the beautiful altars to the Virgin Mary that are everywhere, everywhere in Italy. This one was along a vineyards terrace wall in Manarola.

We ate lunch and talked about how to get to the next town. When we had arrived they told us that the regular path between Manarola and the third town, Corniglia was closed due to landslides. The alternatives were to take the train or a longer, more strenuous path. After we waited on the train platform for about 20 minutes, and they announced our train was to be 40 minutes late (typical…) we decided to try the hike. From what I could glean from our map, which gave no specific times from our town to the next, it would be about 1 ½ hour hike.

Orange buildings and terrace vineyards, Manarola, Italy

Eric at the beginning of our hike from Manarola to Corniglia

2 ½ hours later we’re merrily hiking through the Italian cliffs and vineyards.

YAY HIKING! Poor Eric doesn't know we're only 1/3 way there.

It was a bit more of a hike than we had intended but it still wasn’t so tough, as hikes go. It didn’t much matter because about every five minutes we stopped to gape at the view.

These were the views all along the hike. Not too shabby, as Eric says! Walking through the vineyards was amazing. You can see Corniglia in the distance. That's where we're going

We came across these rails every so often. They must use them to cart grapes up or down the steep, steep slopes. Manarola is in the upper left corner, that's where we came from.

It was actually great that we ended up doing this hike because we got to see parts of the area we would never have normally. Also, no matter what Rick Steve’s says, Cinque Terre is not a cluster of unknown hamlets, filled with Italian charm and beautiful views. Yes, it’s beautiful but since Rick Steve’s talked about it, it’s not so secret anymore. We heard more American spoken (not English, American) in Cinque Terre than the rest of our entire trip. So, hiking on this path we encountered no one but some French hikers and we loved the brief respite from the other tourists.

This is what most of our hike looked like! Beautiful!

Fun in the sun, between Manarola and Corniglia

Coming down from the cliffs into Corniglia

Corniglia was instantly different from the other two towns. It was more medieval feeling with tall, winding alleyways-the type that make you feel like you can discover something around every bend. The best part was it had a panoramic outlook at the Cliffside of town.

Views from Corniglia, Cinque Terre

This is how you know you're in Corniglia....

We took the train back (about 4 minutes) to Riomaggiore to eat dinner. Seems the climb up from the Corniglia train station to Corniglia proper is a bit of a hike as well, 328 steps!

The stairs up to Corniglia from the train station! Phew!

The next day we took the train directly to the fourth town, Vernazza. We had brought lunch so we picnicked on the pier.

San Franciscans: Meet the Italian version of Arizmendi's "Chocolate Thing"

Vernazza, Cinque Terre

We decided to spend the afternoon there drawing and watercoloring.

Vernazza by Chelsea

Vernazza by Eric

When we were done, it wasn’t too long until sunset. We decided to skip the fifth town, Monterosso, as it had the reputation for being the biggest and busiest (two terms we try to stay away from).

Don't worry though! I got in the water!

We ate potentially the most delicious thing we’ve ever eaten in our lives for dinner while looking out over the water, watching the sun go down.

This unassuming photos is presenting you with food nirvana.

Simply fresh baked focaccia, tomato paste, fresh, garlicky pesto and a slice of mozzarella di Buffalo. This is something I’m going to happily try over and over again to recreate. Perhaps this isn’t the most appetizing picture to some of you, but believe me when I say it was one of the best meals of my life (up there with Grotto di Azzuro!)

When we were walking around Vernazza we came across the vestiges of an afternoon party...

The old fortress in Vernazza at sunset

The next day we left Cinque Terre for Rome. We were sad to leave such natural beauty. The hike had shown us an Italy that could be explored forever. Craggy cliffs, azure sea, bright green grape leaves atop yellow, straw grass. Simple food and fresh sea air. Does it get any better?

<3 Chelsea

Vernazza at twilight


3 responses to “Cinque Terre, Italy: Five Lands

  1. Amazing as usual! I am soooo wanting to be there with you right now!! It looks amazing! Hope you two are having the time of your lives… looks like it!!!



  2. LOVE IT! Mom and I wanna hop on a plane and spend the rest of the year there! I’m so jealous of you guys and so happy you get to have this adventure. Love you two. Enjoy the food (even though I know you are in France now)! Bisous!

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