Accommodation | Cozy room in the historial caruggi, Vernazza
Must Do | Watch the sunset from Vernazza harbour, hike at least one trail, enjoy Monterosso beach
Worthy to Note | Extremely limited wi-fi, and trails are subject to close if there’s a rockfall or land slide.
After leaving our Tuscan farmhouse, we made our way to Florence (Firenze in Italian) and caught a train headed for Cinque Terre. A lot of people may not have heard of Cinque Terre, but I’m sure you’ll recognise pictures of brightly coloured houses situated on cliff-faces looking out to sea. There are five villages from north to south – Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore – linked to one another by a series of hiking trails and railway lines on the west coast of Italy. We chose Vernazza after much research, and found it to be a good base to explore from.
On our train into Vernazza we caught glimpses of the ocean through the tunnel’s arches. It was like one of those books you flip through really quick and a moving image materialises and then its gone again. Thankfully, we’d be seeing a lot of the ocean over the next few days, starting with sunset that evening at the harbour. It was spectacular and we went back night after night to watch the sun cast colours across the jet streams and then drop into the ocean to the applause of onlookers.
We made the most of the rail system and travelled south to Riomaggiore, exploring it in a big loop before finishing at a cafe overlooking the ocean for breakfast. Cool breezes, iced coffee, and a view like that was beautiful. We had hoped to hike the Lovers Trail from Riomaggiore to Manarola, but unfortunately it was closed due to a recent rockfall, so we took the train instead. Manarola is the oldest of the villages, but seemed to offer more in terms of places to wine and dine. It is small though, so after a short time, we made the most of the sun and headed north to Monterosso and its beach. The water was icy yet refreshing, and there’s a promenade of sorts running parallel to the beach and into Old Town. If we didn’t stay in Vernazza, then Monterosso would be my pick.
The next day brought about a train strike, so it was an opportune time to hike the trail from Vernazza to Corniglia and back. Admittedly I was a little dubious as I had dislocated my kneecap only two weeks prior to our trip, so the thought of uneven pathways and loose rocks made me anxious. However I strapped my knee, wore a pair of skins, and we set off in the morning. The trail lead at a steady incline and the views over Vernazza were just as good as the views over the coastline. A couple of hours later (I was treading cautiously so it took us a little longer) we reached Corniglia and watched as other tourists cliff-jumped into the ocean.
We made our way back to Vernazza a lot quicker this time, and ducked through an opening created by the 2011 floods to a small rocky shore. The water numbed my toes as James swam and a smattering of people lay sun baking on the rocks. We ate our final dinner next to the harbour and had conversation with an older American couple all too eager to share their travel experiences.
Cinque Terre relies heavily on tourism for its livelihood, but its remoteness allows you to feel like you have gotten away from the crowds and into nature. It was a sweet breath of fresh air, and I am glad this place was included on our itinerary.