A Planning Guide To The Cinque Terre

The Cinque Terre has been an obsession of mine for years. Seriously, if you don’t believe me, go look at my Pinterest board, or my camera roll on my iPhone. All you’ll find are screenshots, and saved images of the tiny, picture perfect, jewel colored towns that line the sea in Italy. I have a love affair with Italy that started three years ago, after my first trip to Rome, and this recent trip to The Cinque Terre has fanned the flame even hotter. The Cinque Terre is five coastal villages, connected by hiking trails, on the Mediterranean Sea, that will steal your heart away, and never give it back. They were relatively undiscovered by tourists until recent years, and still have the feeling of being unspoiled and off the grid. I suspect the fact that they’re a bit hard to get to, and too small to put a resort in, help preserve their magic and lack of tourism feel. I can promise you this – every minute you spend in The Cinque Terre will feel like it’s enchanted. Like time has slowed down just for you, and, if you’re anything like me, you might get the feeling that the world has sprinkled gold glitter everywhere and made everything just a little more sparkly. But that’s just me.

There aren’t any major, 5 star resorts in The Cinque Terre. If you need a Hilton, a hot stone massage, and room service, you should probably head down to Amalfi. In The Cinque Terre, part of the experience is renting a room, (or if you’re high maintenance like us, a whole house), in a village, and living like the locals. Your room, or house, will be cramped but charming. We found the place of our Cinque Terre dreams on VRBO – a four story doll house come to life in Riomaggiore. Each room was only about 10 X 10, and up some of the steepest steps you’ll ever climb, but the rooms all had ocean views, and terraces for sipping morning espresso, and windows for listening to the waves crash at night. We loved making Riomaggiore our home base as a city, and highly recommend it to you as well.

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You’re going to eat some of the best pesto and seafood of your life while in The Cinque Terre. Just accept that now. We loved so many places while here. A few that stuck out to us where Rio Bistrot, and Dau Cila. We also loved all the take-away places we experienced. Sometimes the best pasta we had, were from tiny takeaway shops, and the best calamari, was from the lady cooking it on the street.

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While you’re in The Cinque Terre, you will want to visit several, if not all of the villages, as they all offer something different. While David and I were there, we visited four out of five villages, and found each one to be charming and wonderful. You have options for how to travel between them. Most people take the train, as it’s the most inexpensive way to travel to and from the villages. There are hiking trails that connect them, but this is the longest way to travel, and sometimes the trails are closed. Our favorite way to travel the villages is by ferry. You get to enjoy incredible views of the villages on the ocean, and the sea, while approaching the harbors. We suggest buying a day pass, and exploring several villages with it.

People have asked me since coming back, ‘What’s the best thing to do in The Cinque Terre?”, and honestly, my answer is ‘Be’. Just be there. Wander the streets. Take back alleyways. Get a little lost. I love to have a packed itinerary, but that’s not what The Cinque Terre is for. The Cinque Terre is for walking past vineyards, rows of lemon trees, and houses painted in so many colors that you think you’ll burst just from the beauty of it all. Spend some time down by the Mediterranean. If you want a proper beach day, head to Monterosso al Mare, the only town with a sandy beach, where you can rent umbrellas and lounge chairs.

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If you want to hike between the villages, you’ll need a trail pass. They sell trail passes at the beginning of the trails, and you can buy them for one day, or multiple days. We encourage you to take at least one of the hikes during your time in The Cinque Terre, as the views are breathtaking – and really, isn’t that why you’re here? We hiked from Vernazza to Monterosso al Mare, which took about an hour and a half, was very steep part of the way (STAIRS ON STAIRS), but worth every minute. My only note about hiking in The Cinque Terre – the trails are VERY NARROW, and near a VERY STEEP drop off. So in the words of Ludacris, MOVE, GET OUT THE WAY. Let’s all practice trail courtesy and make hiking a safe and fun experience for everyone.

DSC_3959DSC_3955DSC_3950DSC_3940DSC_3939DSC_3937The Cinque Terre is a place you need to see before you die. It’s other worldly, and I’m going to treasure my time there forever. You won’t regret going there, and you will probably fall in love with it as much as we did.