Cinque Terre is a dream come true. Five stunning villages (Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso al Mare), hillsides around are a part of Cinque Terre National Park and UNESCO World Heritage Site. With my best friend Trix we were looking for some ‘girls wanna have fun’ holiday destination. Somewhere new, somewhere with some vitamin SEA. We chose Cinque Terre and it was the best choice ever. Later that year me and my boyfriend – Sam, decided to take a road trip and we finished in Cinque Terre as well. It is a place that you should consider putting on your bucket list. Well, actually, do it now before you forget.
TOP 5 things to do in Cinque Terre
It is a must do when in Cinque Terre. Since Via dell’Amore in Riomaggiore was closed when we where there (due to a rockfall few year ago) we took a bus to Volastra where we started our half-day hike. Bus ride is already quite an adventure. You know the funny klaxon that sounds like a childs toy? That’s how our bus honked on every turn. Since the road is quite a ‘curvy’ one and not so wide, the lady that was driving it was honking all the time.
Volastra is a little and pretty village up on the hillside. The hike is not demanding. Takes you through vineyards, beautiful olive gardens and offers a stunning sea view. Some places are like the ones from American romantic comedies filmed in Italy. Breathtaking. We descended to Corniglia which is the only village that is not directly by the seaside. Walked a bit around the village and started our hike to Vernazza (4 km). It starts really easy, there’s some steps of course and then when you see Vernazza there’s quite a long way down. I’ve read somewhere that it is demanding but if you’re used to walking then don’t expect any special effort. The only thing that can make you tired is the sun and temperature. Take sunscreen and a hat and some water and you will be fine.
We finished our hike in Vernazza since it was getting too hot. If you’re there and motivated to hike more there’s tons of possibilities. Just ask in Tourist Office for a map.
Note: you have to pay for hiking. Yes, it’s weird, but that’s the way they do it. It costs 4 Euros to enter the hiking path and officially they close at 5 p.m. ‘Officially’.
When I went to Cinque Terre with my boyfriend we took a kayak with us. After hiking, kayaking gives you another amazing opportunity to have a look at the coast and villages from a different point. We were lucky with the weather, it wasn’t too windy so the sea was quite calm. We started our kayak adventure in Monterosso and stopped in Vernazza for lunch and drinks and then headed back to Monterosso (where we left our car).
I adored it. After this kayaking experience I am motivated to take kayak with us wherever we go. You can enjoy the views, calmness with not million people around you. Perfect.
If you didn’t take a kayak with you – don’t worry! There’s places that rent out kayaks and offer tours as well.
3. VISIT ALL THE VILLAGES
It’s nothing new – I know. Walk around all the villages. Each of them has its charm. Take a drink, enjoy the seaside view, don’t take a map with you and look at it all the time, get lost in all the tiny streets. All the villages are not that big and if you’re in Cinque Terre just on a short trip then buy a daily ticket for the train and hop on and off and let yourself explore a bit.
4. EAT AND DRINK
Italy – pizza, pasta! Well…Like everywhere in the world you might find yourself in a tourist trap. There’s quite few of those in Cinque Terre. No, sometimes pizza in Italy isn’t the best, sometimes it’s worse than the one you just had in Switzerland. Fingers crossed it won’t be the case for you. Underneath some places that are worth visiting and the ones that you do not want to try (seriously, don’t, even if you’re curious. It’s like flushing your money down the toilet).
- Vertical Bar – you will find it on the top of the main street on the left hand side. Little bar that is most of the times packed! Cocktails are a must try! Bit expensive but totally worth it.
- Take Away Riomaggiore Primo Piatto – just above the Vertical Bar. One evening we weren’t that hungry so we checked for some cheap take away. Tripadvisor recommended that place and … well. Don’t trust anyone! If that’s the best pasta people ate in their life than I feel very sorry for them. We took pasta with seafood and one just with tomato sauce. Pasta was overcooked and the one that was supposed to be with seafood, never even touched a little shrimp. Sad. Don’t go, spend 5 Euros on something else. Seriously.
- Mamma Mia Take Away – Mamma Mia…how can I resist you. I couldn’t, we couldn’t. First day in Riomaggiore, main street, we saw a big sign : calamari mix! Jackpot! Loved it so much that I ate too much the whole trip and my ulcer didn’t enjoy it later on. We took calamari mix to watch the sunset. One time we took a pizza (better take calamari mix, pizza is seriously nothing special) and hit the beach. We were there on daily basis. We are quite disgusting.
- A Pié de Ma – we didn’t eat there, which I do regret, since I saw the plates coming out of the kitchen and they looked delicious. We just were always already too full when we got there, but surely it’s a place worth visiting. Nice drink spot with a perfect sea view.
- Ristorante dau Cila – oh my God! Best seafood ever. The restaurant is in Riomaggiore port. Sitting outside is a must. I went there on the second trip with my boyfriend. We ordered an appetizer – different types of seafood for 2 people (was a bit pricey but totally worth it!) and I just couldn’t get enough. Later I ordered pasta with seafood and it was delicious and it was the same price as in other restaurants that we ate (and it wasn’t good at all). A must gastrostop when in Riomaggiore. Don’t miss it.
- Trattoria La Lampara – also on the main street. Nice restaurant, not overpriced and just good.
- Burgus Bar and Wine Bar- tiny bar on the main square in Vernazza. Nice cocktails and choice of beer. If you’re a melon and ginger fan they’ll have a drink for you (I tried, not my thing, but myabe someone will love it).
- Pizzeria Baia Saracena – TOURIST TRAP ALERT – big time! You pay the same as in a good restaurant but the food you get isn’t worth a penny. Overcooked pasta with pesto that doesn’t taste of anything – just has a colour of pesto and pizza …well migt be the worst pizza in your life. Funny, but sad to eat the worst pizza in your life in Italy. You might stop for a drink there if you want though. Nice terrace with a stunning view. Just don’t eat…
- Bar Pan e Vin – when walking around the small streets in Corniglia you will for sure notive 2 tables outside a little bar/ bistro. It is tiny, you can buy everything there and it’s a nice place for a little break. We ordered Aperol Spritz and got some appetizers as a welcome. Thank you!
- Foccaceria – unfortunately I couldn’t find the name and I did forget. Just before bar Pan e Vin there’s a little foccaceria place which is a perfect snack when you’re walking around.
- Sorbetteria Gelateria 5 Terre – when in Italy I’m an ice-cream monster and this one was just delicious. Variety of sorbets and ice cream – yum. Hot weather – logic, you need some ice cream goodness. Enjoy! Eat fast, it melts quickly…
- Pizzeria La Pia – you will find it by the main square. Good pizza and not overpriced.
5. TAKE A DAY TRIP
Not far from the villages there’s a bigger city – La Spezia. If you’re up for some shopping that’s where you wanna go. Nice walk by the seaside is also possible there. Levanto is another town you might want to visit. Touristic as well but with a different vibe than the 5 villages. In both – La Spezia and Levanto there’s markets every week worth visiting.
How to get there: one time I took a train to Milan and from there on you buy a ticket to La Spezia. From La Spezia the easiest way is also to take a train to the first village – Riomaggiore. Later on there’s special daily tickets that you can buy to travel between the villages and that also includes the hiking fee. The ticket costs 16 Euros. Or just pop in your car and drive. Although if you’re not a good driver (like me) the roads are quite tiny there with lots of turns, so it is your choice. Very picturesque drive though!
Tips: if you’re planning longer holiday in Cinque Terre get yourself out there, hike, rent a kayak. It seriously changes the perspective.
Text: Agnieszka Wajs
Photos: Agnieszka Wajs and Trix Gempeler