Italy, Travel
Comments 9

Cinque Terre

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.

San Pietro from the water

Heading out of Portovenere in the morning, past the church of San Pietro.

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Colourful bluffs on the way to the Cinque Terre.

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Glimpse of Riomaggiore, hilltops shrouded in clouds.

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.

Riomaggiore from water foggy morning

Approaching Riomaggiore.

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Drifting past Corniglia, nestled in the hills almost like a saddle.

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.

Monterrosso square

Looking up from the piazza in Monterosso.

Monterrosso stairs

I love the empty glass wine jugs lined up on the stairs.

Monterrosso bakery

Wonderland Bakery in Monterosso.

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.

vernazza streets

The main street in Vernazza. Busy or not, how can you not love this place?!

vernazza curved street

vernazza alley

More narrow alleyways, twinkle lights and dark green shutters common in this part of Italy.

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!

Vernazza ubiquitous shot from above

After seeing it in person, we can fully understand the fuss! It is simply beautiful.

Vernazza tunnel

Looking north towards Monterosso in the distance, beyond the train tunnel and the stepped hills.

me+kids vernazza hike

So happy to be here!

vernazza rooftops

Up the hill on the other side of town, looking out over rooftops and houses towards Monterosso.

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.

vernazza from rocks across the water

Looking at Vernazza’s main strip from our perch on the rocks where we ate lunch.

Vernazza rocks

Sunbathers on the rocks, train tunnel on the right just above.

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.

Monterrosso beach approach

The view just after we stepped out of the tunnel from the older part of Monterosso.

Monterrosso beach close

Busy beach! This was the free section of beach in between clubs with rented umbrellas and lounge chairs.

Oli Monterrosso beach

That water though! ❤

Monterrosso umbrella

From under my ombrellone.

Monterrosso beach water

We had a brief sprinkle from those dark clouds before they moved on south to the other 5 lands.

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.

Manarola approach from water

Our approach into Manarola.

kids at Manarola rocks waiting for the boat

The kids playing in a tidepool at the dock while we waited for the last boat to Portovenere.

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.

Corniglia from water, Manarola behind

Corniglia again, catching the sunlight on our way back to Portovenere. Riomaggiore in the distance.

Riomaggiore from water sunny afternoon

Riomaggiore under brilliant blue skies, as we came into the dock for one last pickup.

Palmaria and cliffs/caves from water

The cliffs above Portovenere, Isola Palmaria beyond.

Palmaria from the water

The tip of Isola Palmaria, the top part of the rocks is the highest point where we hiked to on our day on Palmaria.

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!

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9 Comments

  1. Susan says

    You are clearly enjoying organizing and reliving your travels! You must be very satisfied with your decision to take the year and travel!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Susan! I am definitely loving going through our photos, however it does make me wish we were still there… 🙂

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    • Thanks! I love the little alleyways and seeing the shops and houses all built up tall right on the streets. Vernazza was pretty shoulder-to-shoulder but it was nice to wander quiet Monterosso in the morning, before the crowds!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Rachel says

    You saw my post on designmom.
    What is this boatride we take to see the 5 towns? is it like a hop on hop off? We have a 2,5, and 8 year old. should we walk from Vernazza to Monterosso and then take a boat? Where do we park our car? thanks!

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    • Hi Rachel, thanks for coming over to have a look at my blog!
      I have to be honest, I cannot remember the exact company we used for our boat to Cinque Terre, there are so many companies, and the Italian names sort of melded into one another after researching this and several other boat rides in different parts of Italy! We were staying in Portovenere, just south of the 5 towns, and I chose one of the couple boat companies which stopped in Portovenere at that time of year (june). From what I researched, the boat schedules are really variable in the spring because of the weather, so if you are going in April you will find completely different availability from what we did in June. I suggest googling the many boat tour companies in the area to find out which works best.
      Where will you be staying? If you are right in one of the 5 towns, I do believe there are boats in April that would go back and forth between them as a hop-on-off type day pass. There are also boats that come from Lerici, La Spezia, and Portovenere (again, in low and shoulder season, the times are not regular!). Of course it’s not the ocean vantage point, but the trains are really short rides, and you can get a day ticket to hop on/off, and the trains wouldn’t be anywhere near as busy as they are in the summer months.
      When we were there in June, even though the weather was lovely, they had just had a week of solid rain so the easy trail between Vernazza and Monterosso was closed. As such, I am not a good judge of whether it is doable with littler kids, though I suspect you would definitely want a backpack or carrier for your 2-yr-old, as the hike is several hours. We just hiked up above Vernazza to the lookout point which we could still get to with the trail closed, and that was fairly short and simple with a few steeper portions. From talking to a couple different shop owners, I do hear that the direction from Vernazza to Monterosso is easier than the other way around 🙂
      And I’m sorry but we are no help with cars! We sold our car before we left France as Italy was our last stop before coming home to Canada. We used only trains for transportation in Italy! Again, I would say parking your car would fully depend on where you are staying, though I understand it can be quite difficult to navigate the very narrow tiny roads to the Cinque Terre!
      Have a wonderful trip, I would love to be back there right now!
      Lesley

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