Ahhh, Cinque Terre. The photos captured by other tourists travelling to these five towns on the Italian Riviera left me with a severe case of wanderlust. So I knew it would be an essential stop on my European summer itinerary. Yet I didn’t anticipate just how stunning it would be in real life.
Travelling from Florence, I caught an early train to La Spezia (another little town on the Italian Riviera near the famous five towns of the Cinque Terre) and stored my backpack at the station. I then bought a 2 day Cinque Terre pass for 29 euros and caught the regional train from La Spezia to the furthest town, Monterosso. Once I arrived, I was rewarded with a beautiful view of the Mediterranean Sea. This town is well-known for its sandy/rocky beach. I then began my hike along the steep path from Monterosso to Vernazza. Along the way, I was able to enjoy the view of the beautiful Mediterranean Sea and even plucked a few cherry tomatoes off the vines that I passed.
After about 1.5 hours, Vernazza came into view and the gorgeous marina lined with colourful houses stacked on top of each other was even more beautiful than I had imagined. Coming across a particularly photogenic spot, I asked a girl nearby if she would mind taking my picture and offered to take hers in return. We got chatting and I discovered that she was an Au Pair in Milan on holiday in the Cinque Terre for a day. We continued getting to know each other as we headed down to the town and decided to take a swim in the sea. Jumping in, I felt the buoyancy of the salty water. Swimming out languidly, I couldn’t stop saying how lucky I was and thanking the sea, the sky, the Earth for being so goddamn beautiful.
After I was satisfied with my swim, we went to grab some bruschetta for lunch and ate it on the rocks overlooking the sea. Then we caught the train to Manarola, a town which had majestic views of a marina berthed with so many colourful houses. We walked up to the viewpoint to capture its beauty on camera before exploring the town. There was so much beauty in the charming houses; washing draped from the windows; colourful flowers studding the hilly streets; and the calls of “ciao”, “grazie” and “prego” filling the air. I loved listening to lilting sing-song voice of the local Italians and the way an “a” was seemingly added to the end of every word.
With it getting later, we caught the train to Riomaggiore. This town had lego-like houses by the marina. After exploring the town and the views, my new friend and I went to collect my bag from the train station and I caught a shuttle back to my hostel in La Spezia. Zooming around the cliff roads with the sun setting in the background felt so surreal.
The next day was one of the best days on my whole European adventure. I started in the town of Vernazza and hiked to Corniglia, a town set high up on the cliffs. For this reason, a lot of tourists tend to skip it and it is therefore less busy and crowded. After exploring the town and grabbing some lunch, I found some steep steps leading down to a quiet swimming spot. I descended the seemingly never-ending stairs and went for a blissful swim in the sea.
I had to make my way back up all those steps and down a whole bunch more to get to the station to take the train back to Manarola. There I met two solo travellers whom I had met the night before in my hostel and we swam in a quiet spot on the other side of the marina and shared our travel experiences. When dinner time approached, we headed to Riomaggiore to buy a bottle of prosecco and I bought a colourful toma from Britta, the only all-vegan food store in the whole Cinque Terre. I enjoyed eating it in front of the similarly colourful houses. We then cracked open the prosecco as we watched the sun set pink over the blue Mediterranean – pure happiness. I stayed another night at the hostel and spent some time in town the next morning before catching my train around midday.
So there you have it, my beautiful two and half day stay in the Cinque Terre. The place stole my heart, and I know it will steal yours too.