TBT - Italy | Cinque Terre
Ever since our vacation to Italy, I’ve been hard-pressed to find a location more beautiful than Cinque Terre. It’s just absolutely phenomenal how picturesque it is with its perfectly clear turquoise waters, colourful houses that appear to be carved right out of the mountains, and gorgeous (yet challenging) hiking trails leading from village to village.
I would go back in a heart beat if I could. Cinque Terre ended up being my absolute favourite destination in Italy, so I suppose it’s fitting that the best, in my opinion, was saved for last.
We actually had a fairly uneventful drive into the small town of Ameglia where we stayed at a campground called Camping River. We drove through, and consequently got lost in, the city of Carrara, which is known for it’s famous marble. Just a side note, we’re not idiots for getting lost all the time, I swear! The directions on Google were always horrible once we got close to our destination, and the street signs in Italy tend to be hidden on the sides of buildings, or non-existent, so it was very easy to get turned around.
It was a nice campground that actually had free wifi, so I was pretty happy. I had been dying to get my gorgeous photos on Instagram for ages! The staff also tried to be very helpful when giving us directions on how to get to Cinque Terre the next day.
We woke up bright and early with our instructions, walked out of the campground onto the main road, and attempted to find the bus stop. Long story short, we ended up waiting for the wrong bus, so we had to walk along the unpaved side of the main road until we got closer into a town and were able to get on a bus that would take us to Lerici. Lerici is a port along the coast where you can hop on a boat that acts as a shuttle to each of the villages that make up Cinque Terre.
I was pretty frustrated about the whole transportation situation, but once we got on the boat and were headed for Cinque Terre, my frustrations melted away, only to be replaced by giddy anticipation.
There are two options for getting to the villages - one is by boat, and the other is to drive in by car (once you’re there you can take the train in between the villages). We chose to go by boat, mainly because we didn’t have a car, and I would strongly suggest coming in this way!
Approaching the villages from the water is a sight to behold, and we were absolutely stunned when we first saw Riomaggiore. The waters approaching the beach were so blue, yet so clear, that you could see a good distance into their depths. I’ve never seen water so beautiful and sparkling before in my life - I just wanted to dive right in. It was the PERFECT colour turquoise, fading to a lighter shade as it approached the shore.
We got off the boat and took a brief look around before the boat headed out again. Unfortunately, the hiking trail was closed from Riomaggiore to Manarola, so we decided to get back on the boat and head to the 4th village of Vernazza and hike the trail there back to Corniglia.
I was never anything less than awed every time we pulled up to the shore of a new village. Seeing it from the water is SO beautiful, and really neat to see how all of these colourful homes just seem to be nestled in right beside and on top of one another.
Now, I was really excited to hike the trails, as I love hiking here at home. In the brochure, they tell you that the hiking trails are suitable for both young children and older people. This. Is. A. LIE. (Dolores Umbridge voice)
First of all, since I didn’t think the trails would be that challenging, I decided to try and look cute and summery, as opposed to wearing appropriate hiking apparel. My outfit consisted of a high/low skirt, a backless shirt and studded loafers. YES, loafers.
As a result of my poor outfit choices, my skirt got caught on various types of foliage and branches and got filthy from the dust, my shoes got dusty and a bit torn from walking over rocks and trying to grip at them when going down steep hills and my shirt, well the shirt was OK, actually. No complaints there. I ended up turning it into a tank top because it was too hot for even my backless t-shirt.
Second of all, I don’t claim to be super fit, but I’m also not unhealthy, and have pretty good cardio endurance. With that being said, I still found these hiking trails CHALLENGING. They are gorgeous and SO SO worth the effort, but a lot of effort is exactly what you have to put in when hiking them. They were super interesting and engaging trails that often required you to go single file along a very thin trail that just hugs the mountain, take huge steps up rocks that have been carved out of the cliff, or cling to whatever plants are nearby when trying to make your way down a rocky path without falling on your ass.
Please, please do not let me dismay you from wanting to climb these trails. I am merely just a cautionary tale trying to tell you to choose your footwear appropriately when you do so 😉
Anyways, the day that we chose to go to Cinque Terre was HOT, so we lathered on the sunscreen and made sure to bring water with us. Because it was so hot, we went through our water fairly quickly, and were relieved to find a small house about half way through the trail that actually offered fresh water to hikers for a small, pay-whatever-you-can kind of fee. We were able to refresh ourselves while enjoying the beautiful lookout from the small patio. While we were standing there, it hit me that this is someones home! They live in this absolutely picture perfect village and they probably make a killing from tourists just by offering fresh water. If you ask me, they’ve got it all figured out.
As we kept going, we were occasionally hit with a nice breeze, which my dad happily announced, many times, as his entire shirt was drenched with sweat. This occurred several times that day, much to my own annoyance. He now says it occasionally when I’m at home just to bother me. My mom and I were also very hot too, and very out of breath, which is why I attempted to turn my shirt into a halter/tank top.
For all the heat, and all the climbing, it was totally worth it to see views like this:
Once we concluded our hike and arrived back on flat ground in Corniglia, we came upon an adorable little shop that sold different produce, foods and condiments. I ended up picking up some pesto for my friends Ben and Tash here because this region is suppose to produce the best pesto. They actually hold a basil festival every year, that we had unfortunately just missed, but we could still see some small planters of basil hanging along a stone wall from the festivities.
We also walked through this town a lot more, going up narrow stone stair cases and finding panoramic lookouts to the sea below. It still baffled me that people actually live here in these tall, narrow, oh so beautifully coloured homes. It was literally like a postcard come to life, and I couldn’t have been more in love with it!
I also found it surprisingly that everywhere you went in Italy, particularly in Cinque Terre, EVERYONE has a very similar shade of deep teal for their window shutters. It varies a little bit, but for the most part is essentially the same. It’s like the entire country got together to choose a shade that they would collectively paint their window shutters, which is pretty cool.
After our tour around the town, we headed for the train station to head to the last village of Monterosso Al Mare. When we got there, we headed for the beach and were somewhat surprised by how packed it was. We took a walk along the shore and soaked our feet in the beautiful crystal clear waters. I, of course, grabbed some rocks from the beach for my collection. It was a more rocky/pebbly beach, similar to the shores in Fano, but that didn’t stop me from walking right in, given how hot it was that day.
At that point, it was getting a bit late, so we headed back into the center of town to wait for the last ferry back to Lerici. We wandered around a bit and found this gorgeous Church and then stopped at a small cafe for some gelato and real food for my dad.
When it was time to get back on the boat I was surprised to find that I was exhausted! I think I fell asleep on the boat ride back. We had a bit of a hard time getting back to our campsite because I don’t think the buses were running anymore, and there was literally ONE cab in the entire city. So if you’re in this position and you see that empty cab, TAKE IT.
If you’re planning a trip to Italy soon, you MUST (this is not optional) visit Cinque Terre! It’s truly one of the most gorgeous places on earth, and by far some of the best photos I took on our trip. It’s both an experience and a view that I will never forget.
Sadly, Cinque Terre marks the last post in my Italy series, but not the last location from our trip! After this, we make a quick stop in Switzerland and then head to France before finishing our trip in England.
Let me know if you’ve been to Cinque Terre, or are planning to go soon! How much did you love it? I’d love to see any photos from your trips 🙂