Leaving Venice was bitter sweet. It’s such a beautiful place with room for more exploration. But it was time to continue the adventure and head to the coast.
We boarded a fast train to Florence, transferred to a regional train, and spent another couple of hours heading to La Spezia. It may have been a 5 hour plus transit day, but I love taking the trains through Europe. As we zipped through the Tuscan countryside and sped past the mountainous Parco alpi Apuane, it dawned on me that two weeks in Italy wouldn’t be nearly enough to uncover even a fraction of its many jewels.
But alas. We would try. And one of those jewels is Cinque Terre, the five quaint, picturesque fishing villages lining the Italian Riviera. I can’t remember when I had first heard about Cinque Terre, but I’ve wanted to visit this section of Italy for a very long time. We would start in Riomaggiore, then head up the coast to Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, and Monterosso.
The plan was to hike between some of the villages via the sentiero azzurro, or the blue coastal trail. The trail is quite easy with varying hiking times between the towns. We weren’t planning on anything too long. At the very least, the short 20 minute Via dell’Amore path between Riomaggiore and Manarola would have been awesome. However, that section was closed, and with a high chance of rain predicted for the day, we opted to ditch the hiking plans, get the 12 euro Cinque Terre Card and take the train between La Spezia and all five towns. This plan turned out to be perfect. Even though it didn’t rain, the amount of walking we did just to explore each of the 5 towns was definitely enough for one day.
Cinque Terre is gorgeous, and each of the towns offer a different feel. Narrow streets, colourful houses, lovely churches, the seaside air… what’s there not to love? In February, the crowds are minimal, but most of the cafes and restaurants are closed, so I don’t have any great first-hand restaurant recommendations. I could only imagine how busy it is in the summer when the streets are bustling, the boats are out, the cruise ships are docked, the people overflow the cafe-lined squares, and the hiking trails are congested. Actually, it gets so busy during the summer months that there was an article just this month (February 2016) that Cinque Terre, which is a UN World Heritage Site, would limit the number of visitors to 1.5 million a year. This is down from a whopping 2.5 million tourists last year! Two and a half million visitors would certainly overwhelm any community.
For great Cinque Terre travel tips, visit this site. Otherwise, here is the picturesque community via pictures :).