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Wait, where? Cinque Terre, was our second stop on our trip...and our favorite. It is becoming a more and more popular destination, but it is still relatively unknown.
Cinque Terre means five lands. It is comprised of five villages on the northwest coast of Italy. The towns were carved out of the hillside and are linked by train and a foot path. Cars are not allowed in most of the towns, and if they are, they have very limited access. This limited access has allowed the Cinque Terre region to maintain a lot of its old world charm. And we celebrated our 5th anniversary here, so it's extra special in our hearts.
A few of our favorite things about Cinque Terre:
1. The food: It was the best we had in Italy. It was made with fresher ingredients, and was delicious! We didn't have a single bad meal while there. Pat had some lemon gelato in Vernazza that tasted like the lemons had been squeezed fresh that morning... which they could have since there are lemon orchards everywhere.
2. The atmosphere: Because it's still relatively unknown compared to other destinations in Italy, it was much less crowded than anywhere else. This created a romantic, rustic atmosphere. You know how in movies, there's a soundtrack that perfectly captures the moment? I've often wished that life had a soundtrack like in the movies. Well, there is one in Cinque Terre. The ocean breaking, the accordion players, the old ladies singing as they hang their laundry. I was so happy there, I found myself nearly giggling for no reason other than I was just so damn happy. It's infectious, and magical.
3. The Cinque Terre Trail. The trail connects all five towns and varies in difficulty. The section from Monterosso to Vernazza is the toughest. We're in pretty good shape, not great, but pretty good. It was a bit tough in sections, very steep. But, let me tell you, totally worth it...even though Pat nearly fell off a cliff (more on that later). Other sections, like Riomaggiore to Manarola are very easy. Just check to see if they are open. That section was closed when we were there due to a rock slide.
A few tips to make your trip here spectacular:
1. Pack your luggage in a backpack. DO NOT bring a rolling suitcase. You will hate life. There are stairs that you have to climb (often lots of them) to get anywhere. I saw lots of people experiencing serious regret trying to lug their bags up all the stairs.
This a good tip for Italy in general. Getting on trains, there's sometimes a fairly steep step, and if you have to hoist a huge piece of luggage onto a crowded train, it's going to make life rough. Pat had to help a whole group of women onto the train, and then hoist their bags up to them. The whole train loved him and I almost had to beat the ladies off with sticks...but there's not always going to be someone there to help you...back off ladies, he's mine! We easily, without exaggeration, climbed 5,000 stairs while in Cinque Terre. It meant I could eat all the gelato I wanted guilt free, but I would have collapsed in tears if I had to do all that with a huge rolling bag.
2. Do a little exercise before you go. This is particular true if you are out of shape. A flight of stairs got you huffing? Start climbing a few extra flights before you go. This will not only be good for you, but also ensure that you spend more time enjoying the amazing view and less time bent over trying to catch your breath. I don't want to make it sound likes it's the Italian version of climbing Everest...it's not. I saw 80 year old Italian ladies carrying bags up these stairs...but they've probably lived there their entire lives. But if you spend 8 hours a day at a desk and then drive home and sit some more (I'm not judging, that's most days for me), then you'll want to get in a few StairMaster workouts before you go.
3. Relax and have a great time. While there is plenty to see here, one of the best parts was how relaxing it was to sit on a terrace and watch the sea crash on the rocks while drinking a glass of locally made limoncello....seriously get some limoncello while you're there!
4. Be careful and courteous on the trail. The trail is very narrow in spots. In fact, it is only wide enough for one person in sections. You may need to hug a stranger as they pass, or step aside if there is a wide enough section. Overall the trail is very safe and no cause for alarm...unless you're Pat. He stepped to the side to let a couple of people pass. It turned out, that it wasn't a wide spot in the trail, but some overgrown bushes disguising a hole that lead to a steep drop off a cliff (a boobie trap set by none other than mother nature herself). One second Pat was there, another second, he was clinging to some thorn bushes off the side. A nice Australian couple and I leaped in, grabbed him, and pulled him to safety. Moral of the story, watch your step!
4. Rent an apartment: We stayed with this Aribnb host. It was phenomenal! You'll have a kitchen so you can sample the exquisite food options at the local grocery store. You'll save some money, which means more money for gelato and champagne, and you'll feel more like a local. After staying in our apartment, I wanted to live there forever!
A good site with some information is the National Park of Cinque Terre.
The video above is painfully short (so sorry), but it'll give you a little taste of what is in store for you on the streets of Cinque Terre.
Hi there! I'm Skeeter. I grew up moving a lot and that makes me a bit restless for travel and exploration. I started this blog with my husband Pat when we decided to backpack New Zealand for a year. We are always looking for the next adventure and are loving life. We're just your average couple with two sassy dogs and a love for travel. We're sharing our travels and the tips we pick up along the way.
Hello! I'm Liz. Blogging is very new to me, but I'm so excited to finally write as much as I talk!
"Don't forget to travel happy"-Skeeter & Liz