Tucked into the side of a mountain, Cinque Terre, Italy, was an amazing little vacation within a vacation on our European tour. Totally off of my radar, I had no idea how beautiful and relaxing this little stop would be. Nestled into a mountain along the Mediterranean sea, this region is full of vineyards, olive groves and lemon trees, which makes for an unbelievably gorgeous (and delicious), uniquely Italian retreat.
Literally translated, Cinque Terre means “five lands.” It is made up of five little villages: Monterosso, Vernazza, Corneglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore, each of which offers its own unique charm.
You can spend a full day hiking through all five, but be warned that this is not a gentle, rolling hike. It is full of long uphills, followed by long downhill stretches, that will test
not only your stamina, but also your balance, as many of the steps can be slippery, and there is little to catch your potential fall in most places.
But if you can make it up and down basically 60+ flights of stairs (according to our step devices, that is), you will be well-rewarded with unmatched views of the azure-blue Mediterranean, and unbelievable greenery all around you.
When we were there, two of the four paths between the villages were closed, but we found that hiking just half of the Cinque Terre was plenty of exercise for us! We stayed in Monterosso, and hiked through Vernazza to Corneglia, and then took a short train ride back to Monterosso.
But the best part of this hike was our lunch in Corneglia. We walked all the way to the point so that we could make sure to sit somewhere with an ocean view. We had cheap, delicious glasses of wine (hey, we earned those drinks after a 3-hour hike!!!), and I had a local caprese salad, which had the softest fresh mozzarella, as well as local olives thrown on top! Bri had a fabulous panini and an Aperol Spritz, a drink he has been trying to recreate, but so far we have not had one as good as we did in Corneglia!
Our hotel, the Hotel Porto Roco, was a beautiful little resort at the top of a major hill, pretty much stuck into the side of the mountain! The hotel boasts an amazing view, an infinity pool (decidedly NOT heated, though), and really friendly staff!
Breakfast was included in our room cost, and the dining room overlooked the village and the water, which was amazing! There was also quite a spread, complete with all the caffe lattes we could want!
The trip from Bern, Switzerland, to Cinque Terre, Italy, was by far our longest journey. We had taken the train early that morning (leaving a place where we had to bundle up in all of our warmest clothing, and headed to a place where I wish I had packed shorts and tank tops!) and traveled most of the day to get to our destination.
So, of course when we arrived (after having basically nothing but trail mix since our dark-thirty breakfast), we were hungry and ready for a glass or two of wine.
I will say that Italy is definitely different from France and Switzerland! Aside from the climate (which obviously is much warmer and a bit more humid), the people seem to operate on their very own time table – which is more like no time table at all! But the locals are so warm and friendly and, at least where we visited, very unpretentious.
Also in Italy, the wine flows pretty liberally, as you can get a really good bottle whose grapes were grown like right next door for about 10 euro! Plus, in Italy wine is never served alone. We ordered 2 glasses of wine at our hotel upon arrival, and out it came with marinated olives (also grown pretty much next door), potato chips, and some kind of fabulous cheesy, doughy goodness.
Also, because Cinque Terre is along the water, there is seafood in abundance. So, of course my goal was to have some sort of seafood (and wine) as often as possible. I believe I succeeded…
ColaTownTourist’s Travel Tips:
- Cinque Terre is definitely worth a stop off the beaten path of the major Italian cities. Mostly a summer retreat, it is nice pretty much anytime the weather is warm (which is a good portion of the year).
- Eat (and drink) local! One thing I’ve learned in my travels (and it’s really just good common sense) is that if something is made or grown locally, it is probably going to be the best item offered in the restaurants. Because Cinque Terre is full of vineyards and olive groves, not to mention the fact that it is located right along the Mediterranean Sea, fresh olives, seafood and local wine are fabulous – and CHEAP!!! We stopped for gelato in Corneglia, and I made some hasty decisions (which were still delicious), but Bri took the time to ask what was the most popular. As a result, he ended up with locally grown lemon infused and fresh honey flavored gelato, which was much better (and more special) than mine.
- Don’t be in a hurry. Italians are on their own time, and if you can just go with it, it will be fabulous. You will end up much more relaxed and have a much better experience than if you’re constantly hoping they’ll hurry up (because they won’t). Italians are wonderfully warm and friendly people, so just do as the Italians do and relax!
Check out the other parts of my Adventures in Europe:
- Part 1 – Paris, France
- Part 2 – Bern, Switzerland
- Part 4 – Florence, Italy, plus a quick stop in Pisa
- Part 5 – Rome, Italy