Cinque Terre, pronounced ‘Chink-qwe Ter-rray’ is a string of five fishing villages in the Liguria region on the rugged Italian coastline. Monterosso Al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore- named after these 5 stunning towns, Cinque Terre is nothing short of postcard perfection. Pastel hued houses, lush green hills, pristine waters, breathtaking panoramic views, a dream hike trail, excellent seafood, terraced vineyards in addition to Italian coastal charm, Cinque Terre really has it all. Honestly, this was the most awaited leg of my two week trip to Italy.
Planning a trip to Cinque Terre is pretty simple. Choose a base town and book yourself a room there for a couple of nights. It doesn’t really have to be too thoughtful as all the villages are well connected by train and are just a few minutes away from each other. I’d suggest that you look up all the pictures on the internet or go by this piece of blog(if that helps), and decide on the one that looks the best. Well, might sound a little impractical, but trust me, that’s what I did. I picked Monterosso as it is the only one with a proper beach, and the whole place has a feel of one nice big resort.
Stick to airbnb and find yourself a decent room or apartment rented out by locals. Don’t expect your stay in Cinque Terre to be luxurious or fancy. Anyway the whole deal about this place is its old world charm that you’d find outside your hotel rooms.
To all the road trippers, there is some bad news for you. The whole of Cinque Terre is essentially a no car zone. I am not very sure if cars are actually restricted or it is so because it’s practically impossible to manoeuvre a car through its extremely narrow and steep lanes. But if you are on a road trip to Italy and have no option but to get there by your car, I’d suggest that you park at either of the two ends- Monterosso in the north or Riomaggiorre in the South and hike the villages in between. Surely the best way to explore Cinque Terre is on foot(best best best). Also note that parking anywhere in Cinque Terre can be an expensive affair and can be full in the peak season. A cheaper and more convenient option is to park your car at La Spezia Station and get on a train from there. And to people who plan to travel by train, you are already doing the right thing. No tips for you except booking a ticket in advance. A last minute train ticket @Euro 60 from Rome got me to Monterosso in about 3 hours. There are no direct trains to Monterosso. I changed twice, once at Florence, once at Pisa. But the trains were on time and I was travelling light. So changing trains wasn’t a hassle at all.
2 GLORIOUS DAYS IN CINQUE TERRE
Walking my way out of the station, I could barely hold my excitement. Because I had read and seen so much about this place already, I knew exactly what to expect. But I was more than delighted to breathe that freshness for real, to actually see the cool blue Mediterranean waters and sight that stunning trail of mountains with perfectly nestled pastel houses.
I reached Monterosso at noon, which allowed me time for a short nap at my apartment before I headed out to explore this pretty little town. The first thing on my list was obvious- going straight to the beach. I spent the entire afternoon soaking up the sun and I couldn’t have been happier.
Things to do in Monterosso
Travelling southward, Monterosso is the first village. It is split into two halves- the old town and the new town connected by a short road tunnel. Highlight of the new town has to be this beautiful beach and something you should never forget being a tourist in Europe, the railway station. You’d find the fancier lot of apartments and hotels in the new town. I stayed at Apartment Riri, a 5 minute walk from the station. Highly recommend it to anyone who is travelling to Cinque Terre for it is perfectly located just a few steps away from the beach. Our host David was extremely warm and helpful with tips on getting around. He also got us lunch the day we arrived, stocked up the refrigerator with essentials and provided us with beach towels and a mini bath kit as well. Much more than what was expected out of an apartment rented on airbnb. I’d rate it a full 5 stars.
Later in the evening, I took a walk along the seaside promenade with a mango and chocolate gelato in my hand. Just ideal!
The old town (only 5-10 mins from the station, FYI) on the other hand is more touristy. It has the town hall, the cathedral and the main square called Garibaldi square. Also, more restaurants, cafes, boutiques and shops. Basically everyone spends their afternoon at the beach in the new town and moves to the old town to spend their evenings. But where you choose to stay out of the two is absolutely personal. Like I’d never trade the beach for the charm of the old town but someone else would. Oh! And I almost forgot to mention the castle from medieval times at the junction of the old and new halves. Don’t miss it!
After a nice hearty meal in the old town, while walking back to the apartment, I witnessed a magical sight. I cannot put into words how incredible the moon looked. For the first time in life, I actually got to see the moonlight dancing on water. Ah! What a spectacular night that was.
Back in my apartment, setting the alarm for the next morning, it was one of those nights when you just can’t put yourself to sleep out of excitement of what lies ahead. Next day was the hiking day at Cinque Terre National Park. And I couldn’t wait to wake up early on a vacation, couldn’t wait for the sun to rise again, so I could explore the rest of this enchanting place.
Part 2 to follow soon!
-The Journey Of Mastani, Italy 2016