Cinque Terre and beyond

Cinque Terre and beyond

Cinque Terre.

Italy. I have been in love with Italy ever since I first stepped out of the plane that took me to Venice.

Since that first visit I can safely say I visited Italy quite a lot.

From Venice to Rome, from Milan to Bologna or from Puglia to Sicily these last years have been amazing for me and my travels to Italy.

On a hot July, sometime ago, my steps took me to Cinque Terre and since that day this little area remained in my heart.

What I want to do in this post is to tell you about my itinerary (since I traveled a bit even outside Cinque Terre) and let you enjoy some pictures that are dear to me.

I already posted an article about my accommodation in that area and if you read it you know by now that I chose Moneglia as a base for my travels.

The reason is simple. During summer months Cinque Terre can get pretty crowded and therefore prices will get high. Little villages next to this area will be cheaper and places like Levanto, Bonassola, Moneglia, Deiva Marina or even Sestri Levante are beautiful on their own.

While La Spezia is another option I wouldn’t sit there for one reason: bigger town. And bigger town, even if it’s beautiful, means more cars, more noise, more people.

When sitting in little villages like Moneglia you can count the cars in a day and you wouldn’t reach a high number and even if there are places in which traffic cannot be restricted (think of London, New York, Istanbul) places like these are even more charming in a quiet setting.

Before I start getting into details I will admit that, yes, it is possible to visit all 5 villages in a day. Rush yourself since morning till night and visit them but I will tell you from the start this is a bad move.

Italy is not about rushing from one place to another just to check out things. It is about soaking in the whole feeling of the country, it is about enjoying your time there, tasting a glass of wine, hearing the locals laugh and talk and enjoying a great meal.

Yes, if there are budget restraints you can take a day pass train ticket and visit the little towns fast, one after the other and you’ll see them all in a day.

But if you have a few free days here is how I split my itinerary when I visited Cinque Terre:

  • Day 1- Riomaggiore and Manarola
  • Day 2-Vernazza, Corniglia and Monterosso al mare
  • Day 3-Lerici and Portovenere(Golfo dei Poeti)
  • Day 4-Portofino and Camogli
  • Day 5-Moneglia. Just enjoying the beach and getting a tan.

Since the train from Moneglia to Cinque Terre took about 30 minutes I split my days as it follows:

  • Breakfast and getting a tan for 1:30-2:00 hours
  • Visiting starting with 12:00 until evening

This is what I was telling you about relaxing and taking your time. There are certain places where you need to rush from site to site, to change means of transportations, to stand in long queues to be able to enter a certain site or monument. Cinque Terre is not like this. Cinque Terre is about unwinding, about watching the sunset in peace, about taking a swim in the morning then moving on slowly and enjoying the area.

What is beautiful in Cinque Terre is that you are not exploring, searching for something specific but rather enjoying what this place has to offer.

There is no such thing as a must see but rather you can relax and walk around, feel the place.

So that being said let us start:

  • Day 1: landed in Milan Bergamo, took the bus to Centrale, train to Genoa, train to Moneglia. Yes, it is pretty difficult but when I went back to Milan there was a straight train so no problem there.

After leaving my bags at the hotel and grabbing a bite to eat (I will review this place in a later post) I walked for 500 meters to Moneglia train station and boarded the first train towards Riomaggiore. I noticed that many travelers, regardless if they come from Genoa or La Spezia stop at Monterosso first. I did the opposite and chose Riomaggiore as my first stop.

Riomaggiore is my second favorite village from the five and I loved it from the start. I think the most common picture when people think of this place is the little pier with boats on it, the little incline letting the boats rest in the sun.

Now, you may expect a big description for each village but that is out of the point.  Some places are only understood when seen.

For example when you think of Burj Khalifa you don’t need to see it to understand it is tall. But trying to explain small colored fishing villages in Italy is a bit more difficult.

I think Riomaggiore is better for seing first than Monterosso because of its size. Monterosso is the biggest of the five villages and the most crowded. From what I remember there are also cars in some parts of it so in a way it is different from Vernazza or Riomaggiore for example.

The second village that day was Manarola. Manarola is a bit larger when compared to Riomaggiore but beautiful nonetheless. Many travelers think of Manarola as the most beautiful place in Cinque Terre so you could give it a bit of extra time when visiting.

  • Day 2: this day started with my favorite village: Vernazza. I just love this place. From the moment I stepped down from the train I felt so good and I enjoyed it so much that it was already my favorite even before reaching the pier.

Vernazza’s bay is the most photographed image from Cinque Terre and I think this says a lot about how beautiful this place is. To top things off I had an incredible dish of pasta in a restaurant near the water which I already reviewed on the blog and that dish had stayed in my mind for a long time.

Next stop was Corniglia and I must warn you that this is the only village that doesn’t have direct access to the beach. From the train station you can climb the stairs (a lot of them) to reach the village or you can take a small white van (little bus) that takes people up. I chose the stairs due to the fact that I did not wanted to wait for the van to come back and my physical condition was ok at that time.

For me Corniglia was OK but nothing special. Maybe due to the fact that it has no beach, no boats, I don’t know. There are some nice views from up there but I’m more of a sea type of guy so for me Manarola, Vernazza, Riomaggiore were better options.

Last sop of the day brought me to Monterosso and here I have mixed feelings. First the village is much larger than the rest, its streets are wider, more people present, more room for souvenir shops. While I found it pretty I wouldn’t put this place in my top three villages of Cinque Terre.

  • Day 3: After a quick tan I boarded the train and headed towards Lerici and Portovenere. Golfo dei Poeti as this area is known, close to Cinque Terre but not part of it.

From La Spezia I took a bus directly to Lerici and I think the trip lasted around 30 minutes(only for the bus).

I won’t write much about Lerici since I wasn’t too impressed by the place. It is ok, just ok but not my thing.

I bought a ticket on the boat to Portovenere from there and waited for the time to pass while I was walking the city slowly.

Now, Portovenere is a totally different story. I loved it. From the moment the boat started coming close and I started to see the shapes of the buildings I knew I was going to like this place.

Very, very crowded, tens of locals sitting on the rocks tanning and on the Castle a wedding. Yes, I was lucky and saw that as I walked up to the steps of the castle.

Portovenere is beautiful. The buildings, the narrow street, the flowers. It feels and looks superb. If I were to give you a piece of advice is to visit this place. Maybe you cand skip on Lerici but you will be sorry for missing this place.

From Portovenere I took the boat back to Monterosso stopping at each little village (from what I remember) with the exception of Corniglia.

I think that a boat trip is worth it. You get to explore the area by train, by foot (as it was possible then to walk on a path connecting the five villages) but you can also try seeing them from the sea.

  • Day 4: Portofino and Camogli.

This has been one of the most beautiful days of my trip by far. I started by taking the train to Santa Margherita Ligure then just as you step out of the train station to the right in 10-20 meters you can board the bus for Portofino. The journey takes 20-30 minutes and it is on a small winded road and if you’re lucky enough to catch a seat you can admire the entire road up to Portofino.

Portofino is small, maybe smaller than Riomaggiore but it is totally worth the trip. The small harbor, sometimes filled with boats is a picturesque sight, maybe one of Italy’s most recognized trademarks. If you have time climb to Castello Brown and admire the small town from there. Even if it is a small place, it is a famous one so don’t be surprised to find some designer shops there and the prices to be a bit on the upper side.

Since on that day the sea was agitated I couldn’t board a boat to reach Camogli by water so I had to go back to St Margherita Ligure and from there take another bus (city center not the train station). The road between the two towns is exactly what you’d expect from an Italian road: small, twisted but amazingly fun to drive. If you’re driving. If not you just have to prey the bus is not hurrying somewhere.

When I reached Camogli I have to be honest, I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t take much time studying this place before my trip so it was a novelty for me.

As my luck turned out I loved this place. The buildings, the streets, the colored houses and the harbor bigger than everything I saw in Cinque Terre, it was all just magic.

Not only the inside of Camogli is beautiful but on the outside, on the shore there is much to be seen and admired.

Upon return I took the train straight from Camogli to Moneglia and ended the day with the best pizza I ever ate in my life (will review this also on the blog).

I took the last day as an opportunity to rest and enjoy the sun. I was satisfied with what I have seen, what I ate and how this place made me feel.

Small places like Vernazza, Camogli, Portovenere can bring a lot of memories for someone over the years. These are beautiful places, places that deserve a visit and places that you will never forget in your lifetime.

Maybe as the years pass I will someday return to Cinque Terre for a glass of wine and the amazing view of Vernazza in the evening.