Cinque Terre

After Rome, we made our way north to Riomaggiore, the southernmost village of the Cinque Terre. We only stayed 2 nights here, but managed to stretch out our time by taking the early train from Rome to get there early and then staying late our last day.

If we had it do to over again, we would have stayed longer. Not because the other places weren't amazing, but instead because the Cinque Terre was the most beautiful, enchanting place I've ever been in my life. Check out some of our photos to see for yourself.

Without a doubt, we could have spent our entire time there, eating well, soaking in the sun, and swimming in the clear, cool water.

Where We Stayed

We stayed at Locanda della Compagnia, a boutique hotel run by a lovely, helpful lady whose name we never caught. (She spoke just enough English to get by.) Lodging options are pretty sparse in Cinque Terre and, consequently, the prices are a little inflated. At 100 Euros per night, Locanda was the cheapest we could find that seemed inhabitable.

Upon arrival, we were actually surprised to find the hotel to be bright and charming. Our room was fairly large and comfortable. The reception area had several tables with chairs, arm chairs, and an aquarium. Breakfast - which was included in the price - was the best we had in Italy. Typically, breakfast is a non-event in Italy and usually entails an espresso and a pastry. The Locanda breakfast offered espresso, cappuccino, fresh bread with butter and jam, yogurt, and fruit. Again, a pleasant surprise.

Location was the hotel's only downside. The village is essentially one main road - Via Cristoforo Colombo - that goes straight up the hill. Locanda perches atop said hill in a tiny courtyard beside an old church. The hike wasn't a problem in the cool evening, but was a pain in the midday heat, especially when lugging suitcases.

Where We Ate

Similar to lodging, there weren't many dining options in Riomaggiore. Luckily, they were all superb - though I can't recall any of the names. I had a huge swordfish steak with marinara one evening and pasta tossed with olive oil, basil, and anchovies the next.

My favorite eating activities in Cinque Terre were the snacks at sundown.  Both nights we were there, we bought a cheap bottle of wine, fresh cheese, and crackers and found a place to sit and watch the sunset - one especially lazy evening from the marina in Riomaggiore, the other from the village's hilltop castle.

What We Did

There really isn't much to do in Cinque Terre - which is precisely what makes the place so great.  When we weren't eating at meal or eating/sleeping while enjoying a sunset, we were hiking/swimming/sleeping along the numerous trails that creep through the villages and the surrounding hillsides.

Our first day there, we hiked up the hill from Riomaggiore.  Such a steep climb!  The sites along the way were breathtaking.  Orchards with lemons, limes, cherries, grapes, and olives, backyard gardens, a cemetery, and an endless sea of wildflowers lined our trail.  After stopping for a few breaks - both to drink water and to soak in the scenery - we made it to the road at the (almost) top of the hill for a great view of the village.  We wimped out and took the bus back down to the village.

The next day we hiked from Riomaggiore to Vernazza, city number quattro of the cinque.  Looking back, this was probably my favorite day of the entire trip.

The trail from Riomaggiore to Manorola - also known as Via Dell Amore - was quick and easy, but a little crowded because it is the only trail in the area that is paved and kid/elderly/disabled friendly.  For the short hike and easy terrain, there were some amazing views.  I think we stopped in Manorola just long enough to take a photo of the main drag.

The party started between Manorola and Corniglia.  The people thinned out significantly, thus making it easier for us to take our time and enjoy the sites.  We made a stop to swim in one of the small grottoes along the way.  You can't really see it in this photo, but there was a lovely spot about 50 yards to the right of Kelly.  Basically, we shuffled down a series steps cut into the mountainside and came out on a small "beach" comprised of stones large and small and clear, blue, COLD water.

We stopped in Corniglia for lunch and for more swimming.  The village streets were lined with fresh cut flowers, making for a remarkable stroll through town.  We eventually found a small sign pointing the way to the beach and walked down the ~334 steps (Kelly counted) to the waterfront.  While the long steps were a pain, they also were a deterrent.  Kelly and I shared the area with only a handful of locals, one of which was a young lady that was topless and...ahem...gorgeous.  (Yes - I looked.  Repeatedly.)

After a couple hours of swimming and sleeping, we climbed the steps back up to Corniglia and headed towards Vernazza, where we ended our day with lemon gelato and a 5 minute train ride back to Riomaggiore.