Cinque Terre which means Five Lands, comprise the 5 small villages of Romaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso located in the Italian region of Liguria. They are listed on the UNESCO World Heritage site.
All the towns slope down to sea-level except for Corniglia, which is perched on top of a tall cliff. Four of the towns possess an old-world charm (from north to south: Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, Riomaggiore). The northern-most town, Monterosso, is completely different. It is very beachy-resorty, with not much to see beyond the boardwalk apart from modern apartment blocks and hotels—nothing like the narrow, crooked streets of the other towns, lined with colourful old houses stacked haphazardly on top of each other.
We decided to stay in Manarola. Our hotel (more like a B&B), La Toretta, were booked 4 months in advance. We had a superb stay at La Toretta. The service was impeccable, our room was very cozy and the view was breathe-taking. La Toretta is located further up the slope so please do call the front desk when you arrive at Manarola station so they will pick you up with a buggy. We were glad there was such service because we left Florence with 3 luggages. It was really no joke travelling with 3 sardines packed luggages. The train station had no lift and we had to carry the luggages down and up long flight of stairs. Poor hubby, he carried the 2 heavier luggages.
There are WiFi at the lobby but if you need connection from the room you can purchase the WiFi card from the front desk. We were very lucky to get the room directly above the front desk. Our WiFi connections were strong throughout our stay. The room had free minibar, it was stocked with a good selections of soft drinks for our consumption. We were also given a bottle of champagne in the room.
We settled down before heading for our hike. In Cinque Terre, it’s all about walking. Hiking to Romaggiore only takes 20min and the path was the easiest as it was paved and wide. It is also called Lover’s walk as along the way, passers-by have the opportunity to write their names on the walls of a gallery. Visitors should not scratch their names on trees or cactuses as this is damaging to the plants. Mid-way down the path, you will come across ‘The Lover’s Lock’ which is a place to seal your eternal love. This custom follows the italian fad that was started by the film Tre Metri Sopra il Cielo. At this point there is a ‘love seat’ in the shape of a male and female locked in a kiss, where many couples pose.
You will only take about 20min to hike from Manarola to Romaggiore but we decided to leave the other villages for the next day as we wanted to keep Day 1 exploring the village we were staying in. You do need comfortable walking shoes. I went with a pair of slippers and tried to hike. It was hard as the grip of my footwear was not good and I had to put in more effort to walk up and down the slope. The sun was also not in my favour. 🙁 It was easily 34 degree Celsius. Piercing sun burning my skin.. We reached the middle part of the hill and I requested not to continue vertically but horizontally.
Along the hike, the terrain were full of small vineyards and villagers planting their herbs and vegetables.
We only conquered the Manarola portion as we do not want to miss the sunset at Nessun Dorma. We had been told that Nessun Dorma has the nicest view of Manarola and we wanted to go there as our 2nd night had been booked for Billy’s. (The highly raved restaurant in Manarola)
Coming down the hill was harder than going up as my slippers was very slippery. After a scary walk down hill, we arrived at the main arena of Manarola.
Manarola was charming, I fell in love with the place even though I am the cosmopolitan girl. I felt that I was in some filming location as the place felt so surreal. Too beautiful to be true. We tried to find our way to Nessun Dorma, it was not that hard as Manarola was a small village. Along the way, we saw quite a few nice restaurants and we were debating which one we would try that night.
You will passed the bay along the way to Nessun Dorma. As it was summer, we saw many people jumping into the bay for a swim. Honestly both of us were tempted to jump it. We were like “if you want to swim then I will do it with you”… Obviously we gave up on the idea and continued to Nessun.
The view at Nessun Dorma was truly stunning. We were greeted with unblocked view of the Mediterranean Sea and the best view of Manarola. We spent a good 3 hours there chatting and laughing over silly jokes. We even discussed why we were each other’s best travelmate.
We watched sunset at Nessun before taking a slow walk down for dinner.
We had dinner at Il Porticciolo. Seafood was their main highlight but we were disappointed with the freshness of the seafood. Taste wise was decent just that our shrimps were not very fresh.
We walked back to our hotel and brought our bottle of welcome champagne down and sat at the terrace. We drank and chatted again. This place brought both of us even closer.
We woke up later than we needed to. Must be due to the champagne the previous night. The breakfast spread at the hotel was pretty decent. I had a hearty breakfast to make sure I had the energy to conquer the remaining 4 villages.
We booked the ferry service as we read that although taking ferry was not the fastest way but it was probably the most scenic way. The ferry ticket cost €20 per person and we could take unlimited no of times through the villages. The ferry only took us to Romaggiore, Vernazza, Monterosso and back to Manarola. It runs all villages except Coniglia which you need to reach there via train or by foot.
We saw a 1 star Michelin restaurant near the pier, Marina Picola, and we had an early lunch before boarding the ferry. It was the most decent priced Michelin restaurant.
We waited at the pier after lunch for the ferry.
The ferry ride to Vernazza took only 20min. Vernazza was very much like Manarola except that it was much more crowded and a little rundown. Vernazza had 2 clock towers and a small beach where many holiday goers were seen sun tanning. If you do not plan to hike, you can easily conquer Vernazza in less than 1 hour.
We took a train from Vernazza to Monterosso as the timing for the next ferry was too long. The fastest way to get between the villages is by train. You can get a unlimited pass for €12 at the information centre at any of the 5 villages but since already bought the ferry ride, we just got the single ride ticket to Monterosso for €5.
Monterosso is built to accommodate many tourists in large, modern apartments and hotels. It doesn’t have quite the same charm as the other towns, but it does have a quite a large sandy beach with lots of colourful umbrellas, and of course, beach-side restaurants and cafes. The backstreets of Monterosso are not as interesting as in the other towns. Not to be missed at the end of the beach is a big statue holding a terrace. We spent the least time at Monterosso as we wanted to catch the 2nd last ferry to Romaggiore.
Romaggiore is the southern most of the 5- Terre. Most of the action in Riomaggiore is on the main street, Via Colombo, where there is an assortment of cafes, bars, restaurants, and of course, gelaterie. There are also alimentari shops selling the typical yummy Italian fare: fresh fruit (strawberries, cherries, and nespole), an assortment of salumi (salami, mortadella and the like), cheeses, olives, etc. We walked around the main street and headed back to Manarola.
Dinner reservation was made at Da Billy. We had probably the best seats in the restaurant. Food was very good and coupled with the extraordinary sunset view. It was a romantic night for us.
I told Kel that Cinque Terre made our bonding stronger. It brought back the “pak tor” feeling for us.