Cinque Terre: Some Quick Tips
Cinque Terre seems to be on everyone's travel list - and for good reason. I'll admit, when we first arrived, it was rainy, cold, and our dated little rental did not have wifi (!!!). So, we were wondering if we had booked too much time in the area and were a little down about being there. But, the next morning when we went on our first hike and saw those incredible views and ate some delicious food, we realized we were in the right place - and realized why it was so popular. Here are some quick tips for Cinque Terre, some things we thought would be helpful to know before you go.
Hiking Will Give You the Best Views
This may seem obvious to some but we saw many tourists only travelling between the towns via the easy (albeit, pricey) inter-town train system. It may be time efficient but you’re missing out on the best and most stunning views of each of the towns if you skip the hiking trails.
Bring Good Shoes
Ok, this one sounds like something your mom might tell you but, seriously, bring some decent shoes for hiking. Even just running shoes will do. Some of the trails are really muddy and rocky and you’ll be kicking yourself if you hike these trails in your chucks. Decent shoes for the hike will make it a lot easier, meaning you can fit more into each day.
Prepare for a hard hike between the first towns
Via Dell'Amore, the easy, ocean-side walk between Riomaggiore and Manarola is no longer – at least not until 2019 (trail updates here). The same goes for the ocean-side trail between Manarola and Corniglia. This means it’s a steep, steep hike up countless stairs (and then back down again) between the first three towns. The climb is without a doubt worth it, but keep in mind it can take up to two and a half hours depending on your pace rather than the casual 10 minute stroll it would have been on the Via Dell’Amore.
don't miss the hike from Vernazza to Corniglia (or vice versa)
This trail is the easiest among the open trails right now and also among the most beautiful. It feels like you’re walking through a secret garden at times and for at least half of the hike you have a gorgeous view of the sparkling Italian Riviera. We weren’t so in love with Corniglia itself, but the views of the town, and those of Vernazza, are really something to behold on this hike.
stay in Vernazza
We stayed in Vernazza and we were lucky enough to find this to be our favorite. It has beautiful views from all over and it was just the right size. To be fair, we only spent about an hour or two in each of the other towns, so we are likely missing some of the experiences, but our other two favorite towns were Manarola and Riomaggiore, in that order. Monterosso al Mare looks like it would be great in the summer with its big beach, but it felt like any other European resort town. Corniglia felt a little too small. Also, with the Via Dell'Amore closed right now, staying in Riomaggiore or Manarola means you will need to either take the train or hike the tougher high trails to get out of town.
Lastly, if you’re on a budget, here are a few tips to make the pricey Cinque Terre area a bit more affordable:
- Drink your coffee at the bar - Most cafes in Italian cities charge an additional fee to sit down at the table, or for a “to go” cup. If you're in the mood for a quick morning cappuccino or cafe, do as the Italians do and drink at the counter for a lower price.
- Grab a panino from an alimentari - Local grocers, called alimentari, stock delicious local and regional cold cuts, olives, breads and cheeses. For a cheap and delicious lunch, you can ask them to make you a panino, and they will let you pick your bread, meat and cheese. Italians typically don’t put mustard or mayo on their sandwiches, but you can ask for oglio (oil) for a little extra moisture.
- Send the bread back - Lots of sit-down restaurants provide bread, but it typically comes with a fee. If you don’t want it, feel free to send it back to save yourself a few euros.
Btw, if you're travelling around Italy and headed to Rome, here's our guide on Where to Eat in Rome.