Ahhh, Cinque Terre. The photos captured by other tourists travelling to these five towns on the Italian Riviera left me with a severe case of wanderlust. So I knew it would be an essential stop on my Europe itinerary. Yet I didn’t anticipate just how stunning this place would be in real life.
Travelling from Florence, I caught an early train to La Spezia (another little town on the Italian Rivera near the famous five towns of the Cinque Terre) and stored my backpack at the station. I then bought a 2 day Cinque Terre pass for 29 euros and caught the regional train from La Spezia to the furthest town, Monterosso. Once I arrived, I was rewarded with a beautiful view of the Mediterranean Sea. This town is well-known for its sandy/rocky beach. I then began my hike along the steep path from Monterosso to Vernazza. Along the way, I was able to enjoy the view of the beautiful Mediterranean Sea and even plucked a few cherry tomatoes off the vines that I passed.
After about 1.5 hours, Vernazza came into view and the gorgeous marina lined with colourful houses stacked on top of each other was even more beautiful than I had imagined. Coming across a particularly photogenic spot, I asked a girl nearby if she would mind taking my picture and offered to take hers in return. We got chatting and I discovered that she was an Au Pair in Milan on holiday in the Cinque Terre for a day. We continued getting to know each other as we headed down to the town and decided to take a swim in the sea. Jumping in, I felt the buoyancy of the salty water. Swimming out languidly, I couldn’t stop saying how lucky I was and thanking the sea, the sky, the Earth for being so goddamn beautiful.
After I was satisfied with my swim, we went to grab some bruschetta for lunch (always a safe vegan option) and ate it on the rocks overlooking the sea. Then we caught the train to Manarola, a town which had majestic views of a marina berthed with so many colourful houses. We walked up to the viewpoint to capture its beauty on camera before exploring the town. In addition to the colourful houses, washing hung out windows, colourful flowers lined hilly streets, souvenir and jewellery ships were aplenty and the calls of “ciaos”, “grazies” and “prego” filled the air. I loved listening to lilting sing-song voice of the local Italians and the way an “a” was seemingly added to the end of every word.
With it getting later, we caught the train to Riomaggiore. This town had lego-like houses by the marina. After exploring the town and the views, my new friend and I went to collect my bag from the train station and I caught a shuttle back to my hostel in La Spezia. Zooming around the cliff roads with the sun setting in the background felt so surreal.
The next day was one of the best days on my whole European adventure. I started in the town of Vernazza and hiked to Corniglia, a town set high up on the cliffs. For this reason, a lot of tourists tend to skip it and it is therefore less busy and crowded. I stopped at Corniglia to buy the juiciest peach I’d ever had, try a cumquat and eat some minestrone soup. Then I found some steep steps leading down to a quiet swimming spot. After I finally descended the seemingly never-ending stairs, I went for a blissful swim in the sea.
I also had to make my way back up all those steps and down a whole bunch more to get to the station, then headed to Manarola to meet two solo travellers I had met the night before in my hostel to swim in a quiet spot on the other side of the marina and share travel experiences. When dinner time approached, we headed to Riomaggiore to buy a bottle of prosecco and I bought a colourful toma from Britta, the only all-vegan food store in the whole Cinque Terre. I enjoyed eating it in front of the similarly colourful houses. We then cracked open the prosecco as we watched the sun set pink over the blue Mediterranean – pure happiness.
All Vegan Cafe (Riomaggiore)
On my last day in the Cinque Terre, I thought it would be a good idea to hike with all of my stuff from my hostel to Riomaggiore. Yet what I thought would be a 1.5 hour walk turned into a 3 hour walk and the gradual incline over the first half of the walk turned into a very steep descent that, due to my pack, put a lot of strain on my knees and ankles. But once I finally reached the town, I rewarded myself with a green smoothie bowl from Britta with ALL the toppings. I had a lovely chat with the owner, then walked down to the marina to eat it on the rocks. Though it had melted quite considerably by the time I walked down, I still enjoyed it and relished the opportunity to get in some greens and fruit (quite challenging at times as a backpacker). After enjoying the bliss of my last morning in the Cinque Terre, it was time to board my train to Barcelona.
So there you have it, my beautiful stay in the Cinque Terre is one I will cherish forever. It stole my heart, and I know it will steal yours too.