The word “Cinque Terre” is the name given to the five lands or villages along the Eastern Ligurian Coast on the Italian Riviera. The villages from north to south are known as Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore, which each has a unique and picturesque landscape. It is named as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO and also protected as a National Park and National Marine Sanctuary. The best way to experience the beauty of Cinque Terre is simply by walking on the breathtaking trails from one village to another.
For our Cinque Terre vacation, we picked to stay at the sublimely romantic Vernazza for its remarkable beauty. Since most places to stay in Vernazza are located up on the hills, we therefore have to climb hundreds of stairs to get to our bed and breakfast (B&B), and some of the stairs are very steep. Some rooms are on higher floors and accessible only by small spiral stairs. As seen in many forums, a lot of tourists are complaining about quickly getting tired going up so many stairs especially when carrying heavy backpacks. I ended up taking a rest for a while before reaching our B&B. It’s a very good exercise. The view from the top of the hill near our B&B was incredibly stunning. We could see different parts of the Vernazza village with an amazing view of the blue Mediterranean sea. The gorgeous scenery instantly refreshed our minds and we couldn’t wait to explore the villages. Right after dropping our backpacks at our B&B room, we went for a walk and stopped at a small gelateria to get my first gelato at Cinque Terre. The gelato was probably not best but still considered okay to satisfy my craving.
Next, we headed to Manarola by train to have a lunch at Tratoria dal Billy. Thanks to V, a friend of mine whom we met a couple days before at Basel, Switzerland, and who recommended this superb restaurant. Perched high on the southern cliff, this small restaurant has a spectacular terrace that grants a magnificent view of the ocean surrounded by vineyards and pastel-color buildings of the Manarola village. We ordered their homemade squid-ink pasta with local seafood (which was their special dish of the day), and their grilled fish served with potatoes and local white wine. The homemade pasta was very fresh and flavorful. We could savor the blended rich taste between the pasta and the mixed fresh seafood. Billy serves simple homemade dishes made from fresh high-quality ingredients. It is definitely a must-visit restaurant in case we revisit Cinque Terre in the future.
After the delightful lunch, we spent some time checking the nearby ancient San Lorenzo Church, which has a traditional Basilica design and is embellished with a rose window, a bell tower and a wall overlooking the Mediterranean ocean. Then we continued walking down the road and, after twenty yards, we followed a wooden railing leading towards the seafront. An impressive sight along the path was a finely crafted vineyard and lemon groves. The scenery was so marvelous. We never imagined that it could be that beautiful.
There exists a famous easy hiking trail along the coast line that connects all five villages. The trail is twelve kilometers in length, with spectacular seaside views. Hiking the entire trail takes about five hours. Via dell’ Amore (The Lover’s Way) between Manarola and Riomaggiore is the easiest hiking trail in the Cinque Terre. So, without a doubt, I chose to walk this easiest trail. Hehehe… The trail has a wide path and is nicely paved, which makes it easy for almost everyone to do this hike. Walking along the path, we enjoyed great views of the ocean and the steep rocky cliff. We stopped several times admiring the view and capturing some pictures.
Arriving at the Riomaggiore village, we first checked out the church of San Giovanni Battista whose design is a typical local style (similar to the San Lorenzo Church in Manarola) with a white stone rose window on the front wall. We then continued walking towards Marina just to sightsee, take pictures and relax.
After leisurely walking for a half day, I started to crave for another scoop of gelato again. So, at Riomaggiore I grabbed one cup of lemone and fragola gelato, which tasted much better than the one I had previously in Vernazza. Being in Italy with the ubiquity of gelaterias enabled me to eat gelato every single day during my entire stay in Italy. Ahhh… I was extremely happy! I would ensure to have at least two scoops of gelato everyday! Yay…
Time flew by so fast, and it showed 5pm already. We planned to enjoy the sunset from a ferry going straight to Monterosso. Boarding the ferry along the Cinque Terre coast line is the best way to get an amazing panorama of the colorful houses and vineyards perched against on hill. We then hurriedly moved to Riomaggiore ‘s Marina to wait for the ferry to come ashore. At that time, many people were sunbathing on the rocky beach and some were even swimming in the cold sea water. Brrr…