cinque terre, italy

Last year Julius and I went spent the Pentecost holiday in Cinque Terre on the western coast of Italy. The Cinque Terre National Park is home to 5 colorful little fishing villages perched upon rocky cliffs and terraced hillsides over the deep-turquoise hued waters of the Ligurian Sea.

The five villages are Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore. We stayed in Corniglia, the village in the center of the five, which is the only one that isn’t directly on the sea. It sits high up on a hill and is only accessible by climbing many, many stairs. We loved staying in Corniglia, because the day-tourist crowds aren’t as heavy there as in the other four villages, it has a great panoramic view of the ocean and the neighboring villages, and it offers good access to the hiking trails.

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Corniglia is called the turtle village. From the sea, you can see how the main part of the village (on the right) looks a bit like a turtle shell on top of the hill.

Pictures speak louder than words, so here’s a collection of photos to show how we spent our days in Cinque Terre. Hover over the pictures for captions.

What’s not pictured in this blog post is the great food we ate! Pesto, white wine, muscles and limoncello are some of the specialties at Cinque Terre. Pesto originates from this region, and it is served in almost every restaurant. It’s delicious!

Getting there: From Munich, we flew to Florence, took a shuttle from the airport to the main train station, then took the train from Florence to La Spezia via Pisa. In La Spezia, we did some grocery shopping, then took the train all the way into Cinque Terre.

Getting around: The villages are well-connected by a train line that shuttles back and forthDSCN6582 between all of the villages. You could buy a day pass for unlimited rides on the train if you’re trying to hit up a lot of the villages in one day. You can also take a ferry or a boat. This is more expensive, but worth doing at least once to get the beautiful view of the villages from the sea. Walking between the villages is also an option, although last year when we were there some of the lower and most-direct coastal trails were closed due to landslides from 2011. Repairs are underway. People interested in hiking in Cinque Terre shouldn’t let the trail-closings deter them from planning a trip! The coastal paths may be the easiest to walk, but the higher routes were all open when we were there, and we had great views looking down on the villages and the sea, plus some nice, shady forested sections and some parts walking through the vineyards. Of course, you have to hike up, up, up to access the higher trails. This web site has detailed information, maps, etc. about the trails.

We took a boat ride and weren’t sorry about it! We wanted to hop on the ferry one evening, but we had just missed the last ride. So we hired a boat taxi to take us on a little ride just off the coast from Vernazza to Manarola. It’s a whole other view from the water! Our boat driver even turned on some romantic music (ha!), and he pointed out a couple of interesting sites.

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Julius on our boat ride

Where we stayed: We stayed at the lovely Affittacamere Sole Terra Mare in Corniglia. This is a house with 3 rental units on 3 separate floors. We stayed in the middle level, “Sole,” a studio apartment for 2 with a small kitchen, bathroom, a sea view, and a garden terrace with tables, chairs and umbrellas— which we had all to ourselves! The bottom level, “Terra,” is a room with bath and patio seating. The top level, “Mare,” is a studio apartment for 4 with a balcony. Sole Terra Mare is outside the center of Corniglia, extremely relaxed, quiet (other than the church bells), and has good access to the walking path that leads to Vernazza. I still go into a happy daze when I think about that place…

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We spent many hours reading and relaxing on the terrace.

About the crowds: Cinque Terre is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and has become enormously popular with tourists in recent years, and millions of visitors come every year. During the high season, the villages fill up around noon with day-tourists, many of whom are brought in on buses from the cruise ships that port in nearby larger ports. Don’t let the crowds deter you from visiting Cinque Terre! We often started our days by staying on the patio to read and relax, cooked lunch in, or packed a picnic for a hike up in the hills, where we could avoid the large tourist crowds during the day in the villages. Then around 4 PM, the crowds thinned out considerably, and we would spend the late afternoons and evenings in the villages.

I would return to Cinque Terre in a heartbeat!

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The moon over Manarola on our last evening

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