The Cinque Terre, or the Five Terraces, are five villages on the West coast of Italy. Looking like they have been glued on to the cliff face and connected by paths through the hills this Would Heritage Site is a must if you are visiting this part of Italy.
In the past the villages made their living from the special type of desert wine they all produced on their terraces. These terraces are amazing to see. Each village is surrounded by it’s own and are still farmed and looked after by the villages. It is said that the number of bricks used to build the terraces is the same number in the great wall of China!
We didn’t spend anytime here. It felt too big, too commercial (umbrellas for hire on the beach) and too many cars. However that said we didn’t explore the Old Town so maybe we missed out.
This is one of the bigger villages (population of 1000) but still feels very local. Get up early, sit in the main square with a coffee and you will see the locals all going about their normal business. It is a great place to chill out, after just a couple of hours you will find yourself falling in to their way of life.
One thing to be aware of (and this going for all the villages) there are stairs everywhere, all different gradients, materials, and quality. It’s not uncommon to find two sets of stairs leading into one set and then branch off into three!
Down by the breakwater is a tourist trap but give great views back up the village and is the only real place where it’s possible to sit around all day not doing a lot. There are a couple of coffee shops, restaurants, a small beach and some tourist shops. Walk up the road to towards the station (there’s only one road) and you will find more shops and a few restaurants. If you carry on after a few minutes you will get to a pastry shop. Go in and eat a couple, they are amazing!
The locals are friendly but not over eager to include you into their world. But this is understandable as there are soo many tourists there every year.
This is the most quiet of all the five. Small, beautiful and second only to Vernazza. There is no access to the sea but a great place to eat some sea food. I would recommend ‘A Cantina de Mananan’ (Via Fieschi, 117 – Tel 0187 821166). It is only open from noon until about 2 or 3 and then again in the evening from 8 till half 10ish (closed Tuesdays), bookings are essential for the evening. There is only one sitting so get there early. The staff are really nice and will only speak to you in Italian but go with the flow they make it really easy and the sea food is fantastic, it was one of the best meals we had our whole trip.
We didn’t like it here. There are loads of tourists, and the staff are not that nice although we didn’t go everywhere so maybe we werejust unlucky). However there was a really nice walk though the terraces. To do the same go up the main road until you can see a church. To your left is a path with a wooden hand rail, you can’t miss it. Go up that path and just follow it along. After about 20 minutes it will take you back to the seafront. Don’t be put off by the start, it’s a very gentle walk, a great place to escape the crowds, and great views.
This places feels like the end of the line. From the path leading to the village you have to go through a set of tunnels to get to the front. To be honest by the time we got here all we wanted to do was chill out and drink beer so we didn’t explore the village. But it’s a great place to take photos of the village bathed in the evening light.
All the villages are within walking distance of each other and there is a path that is clearly labeled that takes you through all five. It is about 9km to do the whole route. It is possible to do it in flipflops (we did) just go slow in the tricky places, and ignore the Germans kitted out to scale Everest! Take lots of water. It’s a long climb in places and when the sun comes up it’s very hot so you’ll need it. I would also say to take a couple of spare t-shirts. Almost everyone (male and female) who comes off one of the walks are soaked in sweat (great for the local t-shirt sellers) so to make sure you can sit in comfort when having a coffee at your destination take a spare!
I would advise starting at Monterosso and then head south to Vernazza. This is the hardest stint and so better to get it over with early when you’re still full of beans. Also set off early otherwise the path is just too busy to enjoy the walk and the stunning views.
During the day the villages can seem very touristy (which they are) but by the evening time all the tourist boats have left and place feels very chilled out.
Almost unbelievably there is a train line that runs from one village to another. Trains are regular and each stop is about 5 minutes apart. Get your tickets from the ticket office and then make sure you ‘validate’ them in the little machines before you travel. Not doing so results in a fine. No exceptions.
Book early to get the place you wan, there are lots of rooms but they fill up fast. There are no real hotels, everything is guesthouses, B&Bs or just rooms. Expect to pay between 70 and 90 Euros a night and to have a climb to your room. We stayed in a couple of really nice rooms; Maria Capellini Rooms (the Cosy Studio) and Anna Maria (No. 25, if people watching is your thing then get this room!)
The locals are not fans of loud tourists; and spend one night in the village and you can understand why. The houses are so close together that any and all noise travels right through the open windows. In our room we could sit on the bed and hear two separate conversations from two houses and smell the cooking of a third!
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