This beautiful place on earth is Cinque Terre (Parco Nazionale delle Cinque Terre) on the Italian coast. It’s a cluster of 5 villages (Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso) ) linked by a 9km hiking trail or for those on a tight schedule, a shuttle train provides unlimited access to the villages for only €10 a day. It’s a colourful haven of tourists and Italians basking in the sun, eating copious amounts of gelato and splashing in the pristine water.
From La Spezia the train leaves quite frequently and connects the five villages to each other, making Cinque Terre extremely accessible for tourists despite the rocketing sun and unrelenting crowds in the summer season. There’s heaps of info online and at tourist information counters in every major Italian city, so you’ll be able to find your way to Cinque Terre quicker (and easier) than learning how to pronounce this Italian oasis. I believe it’s either “chinka terry” or “sinka te-air” however that is probably my harsh Australian accent obstructing the true Italian pronunciation.
I only had one full day to explore the villages and although that isn’t ideal (2-3 days is best) we managed to fit as much in as possible and was certainly seduced by Cinque Terre’s inherit charm.
We stopped in at Monterosso first to frolic in the ocean and relax on a beach chair under a colourful umbrella (my god-send!) to escape the unrelenting heat and rising temperature of the European
sand pebbles. The water was chilled, the crowds of international tourists were entertaining rather the invasive and the gelato was the best of the best – generous scoops, devoured in the sun outside of a small, street-side gelato bar. A dose of fried calamari and chips later and we were off to Manarola by train.
Initially, we had the full intention of doing the leisurely 30 minute walk from Manarola to Riomoggiore on the Via Dell’Amore (“Love Walk”), however the trail was closed due to maintenance on our only day in Cinque paradise. So instead we explored the main street, popped our heads in and out of seaside souvenir stores, ate more gelato, marvelled at the spectacular cliff top views and popped down to a rock pool for an afternoon dip. As the sun set, dinner with a view was on the agenda.
Cinque Terre is known for it’s seafood, so a lot of the menus were made up of mouth-watering fare from the sea and a collective of Italian favourites – pesto pasta, gnocchi, bruschetta and pizza. I ate at Marina Piccola in Manarola with an irresistible view of the bay from the outdoor dining area and feasted long into the afternoon.
Both Monterosso and Manarola boast spectacular views of endless ocean, pastel buildings and green flora with restaurants and hidden alleyways in every direction… they’re a tourists heaven and you really get to experience the sea-side Italian culture as you wonder through the village. I’d love to visit the other 3 villages, which I’m sure are just as beautiful to eat, drink and relax and get lost in the side streets for days on end.
If an Italian adventure is on your horizon, you’ll definitely want to make a pit stop on the Italian coast to explore Cinque Terre.