After every trip I am so grateful I took the time to keep a journal. If I have any advice for you, please write down the details of what you are doing! The funny moments, people you meet, places you eat – it’s hard to find the time but even jotting down notes will help you remember the small stuff.
I just spent some time re-reading and reminiscing on my 3-night detour to Cinque Terre. I went after France and before Germany.
Imagine this – 5 coastal villages with piled pastel buildings holding seemingly ancient balconies drying clothes in the hot sun. The smell of fresh focaccia breezing out the open windows of shops, and tourists wandering the streets in a more leisurely pace then you’d find in a major European city. Picture hilly cobblestones and tiny fishing boats bobbing amongst the others in a crowded harbor. The Italian language filling your ears while summer smiles breeze by you on the streets. Even as a slightly overcrowded summer destination, Cinque Terre is still a feast for the eyes and of course taste palate.
I did some hostel research before my trip and found the Hostel 5 Terre in Manarola (one of the 5 towns). The rate was reasonable, reviews were good, and the pictures looked beautiful. I would imagine it’s difficult to find a bad place to stay in a coastal area like this. After an incredibly long train ride from Nice I stumbled into the Hostel 5 Terre at almost 11 pm. Right away I had a great feeling about the place, and I was right. It was in a great location, very safe, and the staff was amazing. The rooms were VERY clean and spacious and the room we stayed in had a glorious view. The only complaint I had at the time were the showers, I’m VERY serious about bathroom cleanliness and the sinks and toilets were fine but I thought the showers could be a little bit cleaner. One of the best parts of the hostel was the restaurant downstairs, they served breakfast and dinner at a very reasonable price compared to many of the places in the village and it was equally as good.
After a long day of traveling, we slept in a little and got up at 9:30. Just being in Italy alone slowed down my pace and made me much more relaxed as a traveler. It’s so socially… correct in a place like this! The first thing we did was wander around Manarola to (of course) begin our eating escapades :X. We sat in a cafe on the water and enjoyed the view while sipping on espresso and enjoying a pastry. I noticed right away the difference between a French croissant and an Italian one! The French make theirs much buttery and flaky, whereas the Italians make theirs much sweeter and doughier. Both are delicious and executed in totally different ways.
After exploring numerous viewpoints around Manarola, we visited the tourism office for some help. We got maps, directions and learned how easy the train system was to use. We decided to purchase a Cinque Terre Card Train this included access to all trekking paths, free wifi and unlimited train access on the Levanto – Cinque Terre – La Spezia line. This is good for 24 hours and costs 12 Euro.
We soon discovered no matter which town you choose to stay in, you can’t go wrong. We first ventured to Monterosso, the largest of the five villages. It was drizzling rain for most of the day, so we scoped out the “Beach of the Giant” which was beautiful even in the rain. We ate lunch at a little cafe right on the water, I highly recommend anything seafood (I really don’t eat fish, just shrimp) and anything with lemon. They grow a lot of lemons in this area so it’s fresh and delicious.
After some drizzle the sun came out and we headed to Vernazza. There were some great little shops here, my favorite was a leather shop with beautiful sterling silver jewelry, we spent over an hour in there chatting with the owner and picking out bracelets. Needless to say this made us hungry so we headed for our first gelato and devoured it while admiring this view:
Afterwards, we hiked up some steep stairs to a little view tower, and got some AMAZING view of the town:
The tower was tiny and full of people, but it was worth the spectacular views. The water is so blue it looks fake! It’s funny how quickly each tiny town creates it’s own personality in your head while visiting.
After our view tower we were ready to do a basic hike from Vernazza to Corniglia, we weren’t equipped for a full on hike, but this was about an hour and a half (leisurely) and flat enough to do it in my TOM’s. We stopped in a foccacia shop and “packed” a few heavily topped slices… aka stuffed our faces as we marched up to the starting point.
In my next post, I’ll go into detail about our hike and our romantic dinner in Corniglia!