I was dreaming to go to Cinque Terre (translated ‘The Five Lands’) for quite some time and have to say - I was not disappointed!
For those who haven’t heard about this place – it is situated on the Italian Riviera coast in Liguria region. Cinque Terre has five towns: Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore. All villages are right on the coast edge and are part of the Cinque Terre National Park which is UNESCO World Heritage site.
The villages are connected by train which also goes to nearby cities of La Spezia and Levanto. No cars are allowed in the historic centers of all of the villages. It is also possible to travel by boat. Cinque Terre is a popular tourist destination and it gets very busy during summer. We were there in the beginning of April and were told by locals that high season begins mid April and ends mid September.
The first historical documents on the Cinque Terre date back to the 11th century. Monterosso and Vernazza are the oldest and Vernazza is biggest of all five.
As we rented a car we decided to book a hotel out of town. It turned to be perfect choice - we found a hotel located right between Corniglia and Vernazza (10 minutes drive to both) it was cheaper than village hotels and had free parking. If you are planning to travel by car I highly recommend not to stay in town, for those planning to use the train it’s not an option.
There was a hiking pass to Vernazza starting right from the hotel door. It took us about an hour to get to the town. We have not met anyone on the path (beautiful views but quite steep if you are a beginner!). As we entered the village we were overwhelmed by the number of tourists.
I’d say Vernazza is the most beautiful of all the villages but since it was the first one we visited we didn't stay there too long. It is famous for it’s many picturesque fishing boats (unfortunately most of them were still under winter covers as the season has not started yet).
I was immediately questioning myself why all the houses are painted in different colors. Explanation was easy - as fishermen were doing their jobs very close to shore they wanted to easily recognize their houses. This way they could make sure their wives were at home and doing their house work. For centuries most of the local families were making their living by catching the fish and selling it in the small village ports.
In the evening we drove to Corniglia, situated on an impressive cliff about 100 meters high. It’s the only town in Cinque Terre that can’t be reached from the sea. Corniglia is characterised by narrow streets and seems to be more quiet than other villages, however it offers nice restaurants.
Next day we parked the car in Corniglia and the plan was to hike to Manarola. Together with other tourists we started walking on the path until discovered that it was closed… so we had to go back and take the train instead. We decided to go with the train to Riomaggiore, planning to walk from there to Manarola.
Each village has it’s own flavor. In Riomaggiore each house has two entrances: one is at the level of one street and the other is at the level of the upper street. The houses had this particular structure since 1500s to allow a fast escape route in case of Saracenic raids.
We planned to take Via dell’Amore, connecting Riomaggiore with Manarola which is famous for it’s beautiful views of the coastline and it has a special place where lovers hang their love locks. Unfortunately it was closed due to the destruction that happened some time ago but we didn’t give up and were able to find another way to reach Manarola on foot. Again it took us about an hour. The path was less picturesque than Via dell’Amore, it went all the way up from Riomaggiore and then all the way down to Manarola.
Manarola looks similar to other towns but still is a bit different. People used to have to cross one of the many little bridges to go to the other side of the village before the Main street was built. I’ve read that Manarola is the best village to watch sunset, the result can be seen in the pictures.