Posted by: Kristie | December 10, 2009

Cinque Terre Snapshot

Traveled Oct. 10–14, 2009

Click on the photo to view all Cinque Terre photos

Our Observations/Info

If you’re not familiar with Cinque Terre, this area is a string of five towns (Monterosso Al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, Riomaggiore) located on Italy’s Mediterranean Coast. The coastline, the five towns, and the surrounding hillsides are all part of the Cinque Terre National Park and are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This is no French Riviera, there is very little modern development, barely any cars and it’s not known for its beaches. What it is known for is its stunning beauty. These colorful and quaint villages are tucked into hillsides with winding alleys and terraced ridges. Transportation between each village is by train, ferry or trail.


View of Manarola from the water ferry

View of Vernazza from the hiking trail

This was definitely one of my favorite places of the trip. It was so beautiful, more so than any other coastal area I’ve been, the people were friendly and the food was yummy. But the best part is the remote and undeveloped feeling the villages have, especially the smaller ones.

Mid-October was great time to go because it was the beginning of off-season so there were fewer tourists, only larger groups in the morning that were hiking from town to town.  Plus, it was still warm (70s), not really warm enough to go swimming for these Texans, but warm enough to wear tank tops. If we had gone in the summer, I’m not sure if it could retain the intimate feel because I bet it’s jam-packed with tourists.

Julie and Shannon joined us for this portion of the trip and it was so great to have them. It was a nice break from just the two of us and fun to share the experience together.

Julie, Shannon and I

This is the place where our roller bags were least practical. Nearly all of the streets are cobblestone and you may have to walk up steep, narrow staircases. That being said, Julie had a backpack and she didn’t seem much better, so not sure if it really makes a difference. Best advice: pack light.

Compared to what we paid in Germany, Internet access was really expensive (€.10/min) and none of our accommodations had wi-fi. Good if you want to get away from technology, bad if you’re trying to keep a blog updated.

Overall people were really friendly, which was so refreshing since we just came from Provence. Most people spoke English and were more than willing to help.

This is the perfect place to come to get away. There’s not a whole lot to do but enjoy the weather and the scenery, do a little hiking and sunbathe on rocks.

How We Got Around

Train from Marseille to Nice to Genova to Cinque Terre. Long and a bit of a pain because of all the changes and the trains weren’t that great, but it followed the coast so we got some good views.

Once there, traveled to the different villages via train, ferry, private water taxi and the trails.

Where We Slept

We ended up staying in two different places in two different towns, Manarola and Riomaggiore. Although it was kind of a pain to move after two nights, it was nice to be able to experience different towns. They both were smaller with less to do, which also equates to a smaller amount of tourists and cheaper accommodation prices. I think we all preferred these towns to the larger Monterosso and Vernazza. One of the days, a thunderstorm blew in and we were thankful we had an apartment with a kitchen table to kill time by playing cards. There’s not much to do in this area if it rains, so it was nice to have the inside space.

Riomaggiore Harbor. Photo by Julie Plunkett

Frederica 1 via A Casa — Riomaggiore

Contact: Claudio
€120/night for 4 people
Stayed Oct. 10–12
Recommend

+/-

Excellent price – only €40/person/night.

Nice balcony with a view of the sea. Also had a view of the village’s main drag which could be loud but was also fun for people watching.

The biggest negative was there was no living or common room for us to hang out. It was two levels, the first level had one bedroom and the second level included the second bedroom, kitchen and balcony. The balcony was the closest thing to a common area. In all, the place was pretty cramped.

Once again, there were communication issues upon arrival even though our original contact spoke English.

Awesome balcony of Maria. Great place for drinks, chats and star watching. Photo by Julie Plunkett

Maria 2 and Maria 3 via A Casa
Contact: Claudio
€75/night per apartment for two people
Highly Recommend
For the second two nights we decided to get two one-bedroom apartments that were located near each other. Maria 3 was situated on top of Maria 2 so they were close to each other but we had our own space. I think this place was everyone’s favorite, specifically the Maria 3 apartment.

+/-

Still a great price – especially considering it’s a tourist area.

Both had balconies with amazing views, but Maria 3 had a huge balcony that was high and unobstructed.

Maria 3 had great, unobstructed views from both the bedroom and the kitchen.

The décor was a little outdated (which wasn’t that big of a deal) and they offered very few amenities, there wasn’t even soap in the bathrooms.

The bedroom of Maria 2 felt a little like a convent. Stark white walls, minimal decoration and only one transom-style window that let in air, but no light.

Where We NomNom’d

CT is known for their pesto, which originated from this area, seafood and white wine. So we tried to indulge in the local specialties. Unfortunately I took barely any photos of the food, not sure what I was thinking.

Ristorante La Lampara (Riomaggiore) – this was a quaint little restaurant with wonderful staff and a very friendly owner that loved flirting with Julie and Shannon. I tried the specialty, spaghetti al cartoccio or oven-cooked spaghetti with seafood, and although I could tell the food was quality, it was a bit fishy for my tastes. We all agreed this place had the best pesto dish of all of the places we tried. Overall, good food, hospitable staff and affordable.

Bar Centrale (Riomaggiore) – We didn’t eat here, but we came here for drinks after eating at La Lampara. This place was recommended by Rick Steves as a good place to hang out with other travelers. After one drink, we planned to head back to the apartment, but we were accosted by a drunk, Canadian girl that invited us to join this mish-mosh group of English-speaking backpackers. It ended up being pretty fun expect for when it came up that we were 30 and the 20-year-old drunk girl yelled “Oh, we met some other 30 years olds tonight… wait they’re right over there. Hey come over here, they’re 30 too!” I thought Julie was going to punch the girl out. Needless to say, it was a good place to have some drinks and meet some people — we ended up closing the place down.

Te La Do Io La Merenda (Riomaggiore) — We ate breakfast here both days in Riomaggiore. The service was slow but you could actually get breakfast, which seemed pretty rare in CT and Italy in general. Both days we had had the omelet and granola/yogurt. Neither were amazing, but it sure did hit the spot. And like the rest of Italy, the cappuccino was life changing.

Trattoria Il Porticciolo (Manarola) — Located on the main drag, this place had a comfy, homey atmosphere. The food was good, the prices even better and you get a free glass of dessert wine with the Rick Steves book, although I couldn’t make myself pull out the book to take advantage.

Fresh pasta with lobster

Ristorante Incadase da Piva (Vernazza) — We chose this place for our final meal in CT. Located off the main harbor and up a little alley, it didn’t have a view, but it also didn’t have the extra costs associated with that view. Brett and I shared the Risotto con Frutti di Mare or seafood risotto, which was incredible.

Pizzerias – All over CT there are little pizzerias where you can stop in and get a slice of a variety of different types of pizzas. This is mainly what we had for lunch every day because it was cheap and easy. Their pizza was more like foccaccia with various types of toppings including concoctions like green & black olives, potato & rosemary and fresh tomato.

What We Did

Hiking – Each town is linked by hiking trails, some difficult, some easy. We did all of them except for the hike from Corniglia to Manarola. The hardest but most rewarding is the stretch from Monterossa to Corniglia. The hikes offer a way to see the area at a whole different level, plus they help work off all that pasta. There are numerous other hikes other than the main trails for people that are really into hiking.

Brett, me and Shannon on the trail. Photo by Julie Plunkett

Amazing view from the trail

Other than that, we just took the various types of transportation to check out the different towns, ate a lot and enjoyed the views.

What We Bought

Postcards

Chestnut-flavored pasta

Check out our other posts related to Cinque Terre.

For all photos, check out our Cinque Terre Gallery.

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