Where do I begin? This place is too beautiful for words really. Cinque Terre, ‘the five lands’ is a group of fishing villages situated in the Cinque Terre National Park on the rugged coastline of the Italian Riviera. There’s Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso al Mare, and they’re all what dreams are made of (you’ll believe me once you’ve flicked through the photographs below). I can almost safely say that it’s one of the most picturesque places i’ve ever been to.
We spent 5 days here, just relaxing and enjoying our time after being in crazy Rome the previous week. The weather was kind to us most days, with only one of the days being really windy and unpleasant to swim. We’d left our options open and hadn’t booked our accommodation because we really had no idea which village to base ourselves in. It was the end of the tourist season, so we weren’t too stressed about finding somewhere within our price range. We chose to stay in Riomaggiore for the first night, then loved it so much we decided to just stay put. We had a little apartment right up in the hills, a long way from the noise and pedestrian filled lanes below. It was so lovely with it’s little garden out the back where we could see the villagers working the vineyards in the early morning sun. We really didn’t spend too much time there though, the action was down below.
Most mornings we just gather our things and head down into town. We’d walk along, trying to make the terribly hard decision of which beach or which village we’d visit that day and then arrive at the station. From there you had a three options, train, boat or hike (there’s no road transport). It was simple enough to get around with a train running between the five villages regularly, the boats could pull into marinas (but were expensive), or if we felt like it there were hiking trails through olive groves along the cliff tops. All options joined each of charming fishing villages with ease, and you could mix and match depending on how much effort you wanted to put in each day. Exploring the towns was really enjoyable, the narrow lanes would wind there way up and down the hillsides and it only took a minute of wandering to get lost and be alone and in silence amongst the colourful aged buildings. Once we’d arrived in the only main street of each village, we’d pick up lunch from one of the little shop fronts. It would normally be freshly baked focaccia bread with local pesto or a slice of pizza, some fresh fruit and the occasional refreshing Peroni or cheap and tasty local wine. Afternoons were mostly spent swimming and lying on the beach until the sun melted over the horizon. This was the life. We’d just do that each day, then repeat.
One of the most pleasant things about the time of year we visited Cinque Terre is that it wasn’t completely over-run by tourism like in Rome, at least not in September. There were busy times at the stations and marina when the package tour groups would come by, but they’d generally leave in the afternoon and the streets would be fairly quiet in the evening. Coming home in the late afternoon we’d pass by groups of men playing bocce ball, kids playing soccer, and sweet little old ladies gathering for a chat with their neighbours as the sun was coming down. It certainly hasn’t lost its charm regardless of the amount of visitors it receives each year.