There is no doubt Cinque Terre can be an incredibly romantic destination. Why did I venture there alone? It’s been on my bucket list for a while now, and so why not? Despite the hoards of tourists visiting the area, I managed to avoid the craziness and absolutely adored my travels in this rugged Italian coastline. Here’s how I spent my time there:
4 days | August 2015
Day 1: RIOMAGGIORE
Riomaggiore is the quaint village where I based myself – just a handful of little shops, restaurants and a couple of bars on the main street. It’s easy enough to train it between the 5 villages, so for access it doesn’t matter too much where you stay. I liked it because it was quiet and less touristy compared to Monterosso and Vernazza.
A nice way to cool off in the late afternoons is to head to the beach. You’ll find the rocky beach by going down the stairs past the tunnel, walking past the boats, going left around the corner and there you’ll find it tucked away. At night, it’s a bit more of an adventure getting there – in absolute darkness with waves crashing onto your feet at high tide. But it’s a fun gathering if you can get some locals and fellow travellers to join you, and if you’re lucky, enjoy the light of the full moon bouncing off the waves.
Day 2: RIOMAGGIORE – VOLASTRA – CORNIGLIA | MANAROLA
The best way to start the day (after breakfast, of course) is to check out the main attraction in Cinque Terre – one of the many trails. Get some trails recommendations from the best source – some locals! Go when it’s not so hot and not so busy – in the early mornings or in the late afternoons. This is also when the day tourists have not yet arrived or have left for the day. The paths are quite narrow, so it’s much more enjoyable when there aren’t as many people there and you can take your time to soak in the beauty of it all.
VOLASTRA – CORNIGLIA trail | 1.5 hours | Easy difficulty level – Trail 6d
Starting from Riomaggiore, I caught the bus up to Volastra and started walking from there. It’s a mostly flat walk through beautiful vineyards and breathtaking views of the Ligurian coastline. Being early in the morning, this was a lovely peaceful walk. Along the way, if you’re feeling peckish – there are berries and figs you can sample… they looked safe to eat! 😉 At the end of the trail, there were LOTS of steps down towards Corniglia. I felt sorry for the people climbing up from Corniglia – so I’d definitely recommend starting this trail from Volastra, not from Corniglia.
Corniglia is a small and very cute village. My favourite part of Corniglia is it’s marina. It’s a long walk down, down and down again! 300+ steps! There you can watch locals jumping off the pier and join in on the fun, or hang on for your life while sitting on the edge and get splashed by the waves. I spent a lovely couple of hours here to cool off, people watch and read. Follow the signs in the town that say “al mare” (to the sea).
Next train stop: Manarola. I found myself visiting Manarola a few times during my stay, so I can probably say it’s my favourite village. It’s a fantastic spot to watch the sunset and the village looks amazing at this time of day. At the end of the viewing path and at the top of the steps is a cute little park. When I got tired of the crowds during the day, it was my spot to have a siesta or read under the trees.
Walk a little further past the park and there’s a bar called Nessun. It was also my favourite place to have a lovely glass of Cinque Terre wine in the evenings and stare out at the beautiful scenery (uber romantic!). Best thing was… the free antipasto platter that comes with your drink! It sure was a nice surprise that time I found myself hangry after getting completely lost trying to find the popular restaurant I had booked for dinner!
Day 3: LEVANTO – BONASSOLA – FRAMURA | MONTEROSSO – VERNAZZA
When you want to get out of the craziness of Cinque Terre – catch the train out to the next town, Levanto (the next stop after Monterosso going north). I wandered around for a while in Levanto until I found a bike shop and ended up with a dodgy looking bike, but it managed to get the job done. (Apparently there are two bike shops – so maybe do your research unlike me and find the better one).
Facing the water, cycle in the direction towards the right, looking for signs that direct you towards Bonassola/Framura. You’ll eventually find the old train tunnels – and just keep riding, stopping as you please and you’ll end up at Framura. You may think bike riding is the worst thing to do in hot weather, but it was actually really cooling in the tunnels. Best thing to do on a hot day!
I stopped by a couple of beaches for a swim along the way, and at beach resort for lunch – Bagni San Giorgio. Ordering food was bit of a challenge, luckily they had ready-made food at the counter so I could just point. I really enjoyed this day trip and bike ride – highly recommended!
Heading back from my day trip, I decided to squeeze in the ever popular Monterosso-Vernazza Trail, as I knew it wouldn’t be as busy later in the day.
MONTEROSSO – VERNAZZA trail | 1.5 hours | Medium difficulty level
15 minutes into my walk, I realised I forgot to bring water!! My saviour was the lemonade stand that popped out of nowhere. THANK YOU!!! I didn’t enjoy this one as much the first hike I did… but it may have been because I was thirsty the whole way… But it definitely was tougher with more uphill climbs. The reward was waiting for me at the end, I had timed it perfectly to watch the sunset over the very pretty village of Vernazza.
Monterosso and Vernazza are great if you love the buzz of people and shopping. Lots of great boutiques especially in Monterosso.
DAY 4: PORTOFINO | SUNSET CRUISE | VIA DELL’AMORE TRAIL
On my last day, I ventured out to Portofino – a nice way to get there is by ferry. To be honest, I didn’t particularly enjoy Portofino, possibly due to especially hot day and the crowds. I wandered around to have a look at the fortress and the Church of San Giorgio. Other than that, there were a lot of designer shops and touristy restaurants.
I decided to finish off my trip with a sunset cruise – yes very romantic and filled with couples! But I had a ball – the free-flowing wine probably helped! It was nice to see all 5 villages from a different perspective – from the water. And to learn about the history and stories of Cinque Terre. The only thing I’d recommend is doing the cruise at the beginning of your trip rather than at the end to have a better understanding and appreciation of the region during your stay. I definitely recommend doing a sunset cruise.
It was disappointing to find that ever famous Via Dell’Amore Trail (Lover’s Lane) was closed following a rockslide in 2012. It would’ve been a very convenient walk for me to get between my base in Riomaggiore and my favourite village, Manarola. It’s reported that a small part of it is open now, and they hope to have it completely open in 2018.
How I got these photos remain a mystery… 😉
Overall, I had an amazing time in Cinque Terre and it did not disappoint! I hope to visit it again one day
Let me know your thoughts! Have you been to Cinque Terre or are you planning to go there?