For years I have been hearing about the Cinque Terre, in large part from my parents, who have travelled there a couple times, luckily before they became quite popular (read: busy). As I mentioned in my post about Portovenere, we made the conscious decision not to stay in the 5 lands. However, we knew we would want to make a day trip, which is quite simple by boat. We opted for the unlimited daypass for the boats so that we could travel by sea between the towns, as I’d heard that the trains can get super crowded in high season.
Reaching these beautiful towns by boat gives a whole different visual perspective on how each one is nestled into the countryside. In the early in the morning on our way over, the hilltops were shrouded in heavy mist and cloud. It was completely magical to see the tiny pastel-coloured settlements appear as we sailed towards them.
We decided to go all the way to Monterosso for our first stop, and make our way back to a few other towns throughout the day. Wandering up into the narrow streets, we explored the winding alleyways lined with colourful houses and shops marked by hand-painted signs. We turned down a tiny side street and found a bakery selling amazing fresh focaccia and other tasty treats. After picking out some food for a picnic-style breakfast, we wound up chatting with the owner for a while. I love this part of traveling, learning stuff from locals that you might not ever read in a book or an online city guide. He recommended starting in Vernazza and hiking from there back to Monterosso, as that direction is a little easier for the kids and you can reward yourself with a dip in the ocean at the beautiful beach in Monterosso afterwards.
The bakery owner did warn us that the trails may still be closed, however, due to heavy rains the week before our visit. Sadly, upon checking in at the trailhead, that was indeed the case. All the same, we decided to hop back on the boat to spend the morning in Vernazza, thinking that a to visit the beach in Monterosso would still be better in the afternoon once the sun pushed through the clouds. As we pulled up to the dock in Vernazza it was mid-morning, and the town was starting to fill up with tourists.
We wound our way through the bustling main square and up the street towards the hills. Though the longer trails were closed between towns, we could still hike up above Vernazza to enjoy the views. We were serenaded by a lovely accordion-playing man, singing for hikers along the trail in and out of town. Making it up to the viewpoint, we were treated to what must be the most-photographed scene in the Cinque Terre: the ubiquitous Vernazza lookout!
Wandering back down through town, we found it now teeming with tour-goers. Literally shoulder to shoulder, we almost had to elbow our way through! We went right to a quieter spot to eat lunch on the rocks across from the main piazza. Our favourite Italian picnic of focaccia, olives, and salami, with the perfect background view of town, away from the throngs of people. It was delightful.
After lunch we caught the boat back to Monterosso. The kids were ready for a dip in the ocean, so we decided to make our way to the beach. After walking through the tunnel from the dock at the old part of Monterosso, we gasped at the sight of the beach stretched out before us. It is one of my favourite views from our trip, I just love the colour of the buildings behind the beach, and the double curve of the sand and umbrellas, the turquoise water. Take me back! We have the very first photo from this post printed up really huge hanging in our master bedroom now, and every time I see it I just want to jump right in.
After a couple hours enjoying the beach, we thought we’d try and hit one last town before heading back to Portovenere on the last boat. We chose Manarola, and this time enjoyed pristine blue skies on our short boat ride two towns over. We didn’t have time for much more than a refreshing gelato and a peek into a couple little shops, but Manarola was another beautiful stop. We’ll just have to come back to see more! The kids particularly liked the dock here, which was carved right into the rock cliffs, the path a chiseled curve into town.
The boat ride back was beautiful, bluebird skies and smooth sailing. It was nice to see the 5 magical lands from the water again, this time with a sunny backdrop. As we rounded the bend into the Gulf of Poets, we saw Isola Palmaria on our right and the trail we hiked on our day spent on the island a few days prior. Heading towards the dock in Portovenere, I distinctly remember being struck with the realization of how fortunate we had been on this year abroad. So very grateful to have visited all the beautiful places we did, and also so looking forward to the rest of our travels in Italy.
I realize that I’m way way behind with writing these blog posts. It’s hard to believe, but we’ve now been home for six months! It’s been difficult to find time to write in between settling in, and now we feel like we’re just back on the hamster wheel of life. I have been slowly re-editing through all my trip photos. I’m working on a personal project with my photography, and I also want to finish this blog so that I can print it for my own travel journal. It is time to wrap it up, so stay tuned for the rest of my Italy posts to come, hopefully sooner rather than later!