The Cinque Terre is an area famed for the beauty of its coastline, its five picturesque villages (Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore), and its ancient footpaths that, before the advent of the railway, were the towns’ only link to the outside world. This coastal region is one of the most amazing locations I’ve ever experienced with its dramatically terraced hills and sparkling blue seas. There’s no better way to experience Cinque Terre than on the invigorating hike from town to town. The famous coastal path of the Cinque Terre winds through olive trees and vineyards and offers breathtaking panoramas of the coast and of the colorfully painted villas that make up the ‘five lands.’ This is an unusual and evocative hike which combines beautiful scenery with the opportunity to delve more deeply into the history of the area.
After a harrowing drive in from the north, which included driving on twisty cliff-side one lane roads with 2-way traffic, we arrived in Vernazza. We parked in a parking lot at the edge of town and walked down the hill into the village and started our search for a hotel in Vernazza. After walking around a bit, we settled on a nice little room at Elisabetta Town House which is located right in the center of Vernazza. There was a 3 night minimum which was just fine with us. After receiving the key, we unloaded our bags and felt like we had our own simple little spot to call home in Italy.
When we awoke the next morning, we decided to hike south towards Riomaggiore. Right off the bat, we encountered seemingly endless steps heading up the cliffs and my lungs quickly kicked into high gear. The challenging climb up the dramatic steps was well worth it as we thoroughly enjoyed our hike through the steeply terraced vineyards and olive groves that characterize the Cinque Terre. We also rewarded ourselves along the way by enjoying a break and a gelato (love it!) in each village. The thing that amazed me the most was the number of elderly locals who were just humming along these trails…some even had canes. The following day we hiked north to Monterosso. Each day we hiked and then took the ferry service back to Vernazza to enjoy a lazy swim in the harbor.
Besides its beauty, the area is adored for its scrumptious fresh produce, including fish and seafood from the Mediterranean and exquisite wines, olives and basil from the hillsides. Be sure to try the local specialty, pesto, for a true flavor sensation. After enjoying an incredible Cinque Terre sunset right over the harbor at the “yellow umbrella” (as we referred to it), we walked over to Gambero Rosso which also has an excellent location right on the harborfront. We spent hours here one evening. While it might sound clichė, eating at this wonderful outdoor spot is a truly magical dining experience. The house wine, the food, and the limoncello are all fantastic.