After that, Dustin and I had a really time for lots of different reasons. There was no doubt we desperately needed a vacation. However, we had plans to visit my family in Italy to meet my new niece Giorgia birth and celebrate her baptism. So, like we did last year we decided to take advantage of being in Europe already and take a mini vacation, just the two of us, after family time. Our vision was to travel from my hometown in the north of Italy to Rome while stopping along the way to Cinque Terre, the five picturesque villages along the Italian Riviera coast and, Tuscany with its beautiful landscapes, and rolling hills, all this in a matter of three days. Can you say #roadtrip? Needless to say that this trip helped me find the motivation to blog. I suddenly had an urge to document some of my soon to be memories of one of the road trip of our life time.
Our three days road trip
Day One – Cinque Terre (Chink-weh TAY-reh) which means “five lands”.
Cinque Terre was every bit the dream I expected it to be. In person, it feels as if you are living each day in a postcard. It’s definitely one of the most beautiful, picturesque places on earth. Imagine five ancient villages in coastal northern Italy connected only by footpath or boat landing. Simply beautiful. When we arrived, I was instantly fascinated with the colorful structures nestled into the rocky cliffs rising from the Ligurian Sea. It was magical. It’s like something out of a fairytale. Noted for its beauty, Cinque Terre was declared UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997. Quoting from a guide : “Le Cinque Terre is an enchanted location situated between the sea and the sky where the spirit of man returns to nature.” Powerful.
The five towns that compose the Cinque Terre include Monterosso al Mare (where we stayed and the only one with roads) Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore. The thing with Cinque Terre is that its protected as a national park that requires a 5 Euro entry fee, so there aren’t that many roads and even if there are roads on a map, they are only for residents. With that said, there are no cars or camels in the villages so your best vehicle is your feet! And that is exactly what people and tourists do around here. Walk.
A scenic 13 km hiking trail on the cliff links all the five villages. Hiking from town to town is a great way to experience each area while seeing as much as possible while being active. And the hiking paths here are some of the most spectacular in Italy. As you walk between them, tiered vineyards and olive groves cling to the steep mountains, and every few kilometers you reach a crowded, colorful village. The area is well known for its grapes, olives and pesto, which have unique flavors due to the mild, warm climate and shelter from winds by nearby mountains.
With only one day in the ares we managed to only hike from Monterosso to Vernazza and we absolutely loved it! This is the longest, ( 1.8 miles (3km); 2 hours to walk) most difficult hike in Trail #2, this section has lots of stairs and narrow passages. But with its panorama of all five Cinque Terre towns, I am sure it’s be the most rewarding, too! It was a really hot and humid day but Dustin and I managed to hike the whole trail in 1 and a half hour. It was really hard and we definitely felt it in our quads and calves the day after, but we hiked without resting except for the few stops we took to enjoy the breath taking panorama and take photos.
The beginning of the hike from Monterosso to Vernazza
View of Monterosso
Lots of stairs
Last stretch of the path to get to Vernazza
If you decide to hike Cinque Terre you need to know what to expect! Some of the trails are more difficult than hikers expect, and trails can always close without previous notice. Not to mention that some of Cinque Terre’s most popular paths were devastated by the 2011 floods and are currently closed for restoration. For example, we wanted to hike the Via Dell’Amore – The Path of Love , a suggestive and romantic path where you can find the original “bar dell’amore” (love bar) that has a beautiful balcony that overlooks the sea. But it was closed due to last October severe rainstorm that brought massive flash floods and landslides, to the Cinque Terre.
Via dell’Amore locks
The Path of Love
Each town has its own charm and special touch, but if we had to choose our favorite, it would be Vernazza –Vernazza has a natural pier with a amphitheatre shape making it perhaps the most picturesque village of the Cinque Terre. We walked in the village that is dominated by a watch tower and the “Castello” remains and of course climbed up the cliff to visit this old castle and enjoy the view of the sea and the town below.
Cinque Terre Colors
View from Castle DoriaAfter our hike we took a 10 minute train ride back to our hotel in Monterosso, showered and off we were to see the rest of the villages by ferry boat. It was a wonderful experience to travel along the Cinque Terre coastline by boat. The villages look quite different if you look at them from the sea, and who doesn’t enjoy sitting on a boat on a hot summer day?
Enjoying the ferry rideIt was already 3 pm and didn’t have enough time to stop and explore Corniglia and Manarola and decided to stop in Riomaggiore which is the most eastern village. Here houses are tightly tucked next to each other on the steep hills.
How many Italians do you need to build a tiny boat?
Back to Monterosso by train to search for a nice restaurant. We found this nice place by the sea where we had dinner.
Train back to Monterosso
Spaghetti alla gorgonzola e noci
Spaghetti Ai Frutti di Mare
Cinque Terre white
Ristotante Baia Monterosso
Then we walked more to the center of the village, stopped by the sea front and enjoyed the peaceful and romantic atmosphere that this magical village had to offer.
Monterosso striped church – Church of St John Baptist
I definitely would love to go back and hike to all the villages. Bye bye Monterosso see you next time!
The Giant or Neptune in Monterosso
Ciao ciao Monterosso
To be continued…