Fifty Shades Of Cinque Terre
Cinque Terre was part of my 2014 Italy trip towards the end of summer. This route included the popular cities such as Rome, Florence and Venice; but I wanted to add a very special destination to my route: Cinque Terre. Even though it was a bit off the track compared to the major cities I planned to visit, I had to take time to see the colorful houses I saw on postcards in real life.
Me and my friend Idil took the plane from Istanbul to Milano and took a train through Geneva. Our intention was to arrive early in the morning, but we ended up missing the anticipated train ride and had to wait for the next one.
Cinque Terre consists of five small towns connected through railway, roads and trekking paths. The names of the villages are as follows: Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore.
The most common method of transportation between the towns was the railway. I purchased a daily Cinque Terre Card which allowed me to use the trains unlimited times throughout the day. Considering I wanted to move back and forth between towns regularly, this seemed like a feasible option.
One thing that confused me quite often was the type of train that I took. There are two types, regional and fast regional. The regional trains stop at all of the five towns where as the fast regional train will stop only at Riomaggiore and Monterosso and skip the ones in between. So you should be careful while taking the train if you want to switch to one of the intermediary towns.
I felt like it was the wisest decision to stay in the town in the middle called Corniglia. Corniglia is the only one of the five towns that doesn't actually have a flat coast line. It instead elevates immediately, therefore is full of cliffs along the coast.
We stayed at Ostello Corniglia, where an ensuite with a double bed was 28 euros per night.
What to do
It was a very warm day when we arrived, so my main purpose was to swim. The best spot for that was Monterosso, because it had the longest beach out of the five towns.
There is a section on the beach that you have to pay for sunbeds and umbrella, but there is also a smaller section with free entry.
The sea was crystal clear and much colder than I expected even in late summer- early autumn. Even though it wasn't too salty, it certainly had a strong salty odor.
There is not much to see in Monterosso otherwise, except for this Neptune sculpture, which was used as a dancefloor in the Roman Empire era.
Taking a fast regional train, we ended up in Riomaggiore, which was much more vibrant and colorful compared to Monterosso. The main activity to do here is to basically roam around and appreciate the harmony of the colorful houses and boats along with wall painting and street performers.
There is actually a very beautiful trekking path starting from Riomaggiore through the towns. The first part from Riomaggiore to Vernazza is relatively easy and short and is called Lovers' Hike. However, the bridge was under maintenance due to a collapse at the time of our visit, so we couldn't do it. Instead, we explored the narrow streets which led us to a castle on the top, providing stunning views of the town.
We went to Manarola to have dinner. There was a higly recommended restaurant that I heard from many people and it was called Trattoria dal Billy. The menu is mainly focused on sea-food. The place was much more crowded than we expected, we were in fact given the last pair of seats left unattended at one corner. Even though we were a bit wet due to the drizzling rain, it didn't really bother us but it rather felt romantic. We ordered pasta with seafood. The pasta was made of black vermicelli (noodle) and had all types of seafood in it. I hadn't been so full in my entire life up to that point! The owner was extremely friendly and he offered use some alcoholic beverage called Limoncello. My friend was drunk after two sips.
This was our spot but I bet the view would be magical during the day.
The next day was spent in Manarola and Vernazza. We decided to hike a little bit of the path connecting Vernazza and Corniglia to take panoramic photos of the towns. We ran into street artists and performers on every corner even along the trail.
After coming back down, we decided to take a dip at the small beach of Vernazza and it was very refreshing.
Afterwards, we went back to our hotel to pack our stuff and headed towards the La Spezia train station just to the south of Riomaggiore.
Overall, Cinque Terre - regardless of how touristic it has become and how overrated it seems - is still a nice getaway destination for wanderers who want to explore the combination of crystal clear Mediterranean Sea and colorful architecture. It was definitely a bucket list item for me.