I am a planner. I am not a last minute kind of person.
After spending the last week and a half traveling, I had fully intended to spend a few days back in Milan to catch up on sleep, laundry, blogging, etc. before setting off again for the last week of Spring Break. However, I got persuaded to tag along on a two day trip to Cinque Terre. This meant that I had only one full day of relaxation in Milan before having to hop on a train the next morning. Also, because I had decided to jump on this trip so late, the train my other friends were taking had sold out so I had to take an earlier 6:10 train by myself. The train ride to Cinque Terre is only about 3 hours since you just need to get to Genova at the coast and continue a little ways south to get to the Italian Riviera. This gave me a nice chance to get some more sleep.
Cinque Terre is Italian for “Five Lands” and is a perfect name since Cinque Terre is made up of five villages: Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore. These five villages are built into the coastline and are only accessible by train, boat, or hiking path. The train dropped me off right near the beach in Monterosso al Mare, and I headed into town to grab a cappuccino and wait for the rest of my friends to arrive.
Once they arrived, our first order of business was to find a place to sleep that night. Because Cinque Terre is so small and relatively remote, there are no major hotels or hostels and we were in the unique position of showing up without having reserved accommodations. Even though Monterroso al Mare is the “largest” of the five villages, we decided to look for a place in Vernazza, the next town over, since it’s known as the prettiest of the villages. We hopped on the local train to Vernazza and then proceeded to wander around and ask restaurant owners if they knew anyone renting rooms. We finally found a guy who could rent us a room for the night that would fit all four of us.
The Liguria region is known for pesto, so of course I had foccacia with pesto for lunch. After we were all fueled up we started out on our first hike – Vernazza to Monterosso. Even though we had already been to Monterosso, this hike is known for having the best views of Vernazza and let me tell you the guide books weren’t lying.
At some point we lost sight of Vernazza and continued to wind our way along the coast. The hike is about 2 hours and has a lot of elevation changes so were pretty tired by the time we got to Monterosso. We grabbed a lemon granita and relaxed on the beach for a while before catching the train back to Vernazza.
There were some rock formations just off of Vernazza’s harbor so we sat up there and watched the sun set over the ocean. Afterwards we found a restaurant to have a dinner, which ended up turning into a seafood feast.
We woke up early the next morning to continue hiking. This time we headed south to Corniglia, the only one of the five that is elevated off of the coast.
The hike only took a little over an hour, so we decided to continue hiking to the next village, Manarola. The trails are supposed to get easier the further south you go. Unfortunately for us, this was not the case. Up to this point we had been staying on the coast trails since they were faster, easier, had better views, etc. However, the coast trail between Corniglia and Manarola was still closed due to rock slides from a couple of years ago and we had no choice but to take the mountain trail. While I’m very happy we kept hiking and Manarola was certainly worth the trip, the hike was really freaking hard. We literally had to climb the mountain.
By the time we got to Manarola we were starving, so we grabbed some pizza and then took the train back to Vernazza. We grabbed our bags and since we were still hungry, decided to try some fried anchovies, a Cinque Terre specialty. Then we took the train back to Monterosso, where we had time to grab some gelato (yes, we were that hungry) before getting on our train back to Milan.
We all know that I had a lot of reservations before going on this trip. Now looking back, I realize that this was really my only chance to get to Cinque Terre this semester and I am so incredibly glad that I didn’t miss this opportunity. We go to so many large cities over the course of the semester it was a wonderful change of pace to settle into the Italian village life. This ended up being one of my favorite trips all semester, and I can’t thank my friends enough for convincing me to go 🙂