Have you considered a visit to Italy’s Cinque Terre? These five fishing villages hug the cliffs above the Mediterranean and were somewhat a mystery to me when I first heard of Cinque Terre (pronounced Chink-wa Terra). This is billed as a place to hike. What if I don’t want to hike extensively? Is it easy to travel between the five towns by train? (Yes, super easy!) After visiting this National Park and UNESCO World Heritage site, I can now say Cinque Terre is one of the places I love most in the world. If you’re thinking of going or want to relive your trip, here are five reasons to visit and enjoy yourself in Cinque Terra.
The Marvels of the Architecture
Cinque Terre dates back to the 1200s. The lanes are narrow, and the homes cling to the steep hillside, rising far above the sea. You may wonder how they keep their balance. Clusters of buildings wind around the rocky land in a colorful jumble. Sometimes one home perches alone and you puzzle over how the people climb up to it.
Cinque Terre is built on the Ligurian Sea, which is part of the Mediterranean. Fishing is vital to the survival of these towns. Visitors can ride a ferry between towns, and you can bob in a rowboat, paddle a kayak, or glide around on a standup paddleboard. My one regret from our time here is that, due to stormy weather, I ran out of time and didn’t swim in the sea. If I ever can return, that’s going to be my priority.
We stayed in the town of Manarola and also visited Vernazza and Monterosso. Due to weather (rain, rain) we had to skip the other two towns, Corniglia and Riomaggiore. I was pleased at our choice, because the people on Manarola are so friendly and welcomed us into their lives. We learned that every resident of Manarola cares for a plot of land as well as a house. Some older folks are not able to garden on these steep slopes. This results in a wide variety of crops as well as overgrown places that seem to be abandoned. From a distance, though, the hills are covered with healthy vineyards.
Which brings us to the mouthwatering food made with homegrown produce. This is known as the birthplace of pesto, and a pizza here is unlike any you’ve had before. And the pasta with fresh tomatoes for dinner is delightful. The fish served in the evening is “whatever was caught today.” The food and wine here are heavenly.
The Scenic Hiking
Hiking trails run between the five towns, though paths can be washed out by flooding. We were told not to try to navigate the hills during a rainstorm. Once the skies cleared, we hiked above Manarola. The rugged stone stairs and narrow paths take you quickly up, so in no time you are looking down at the town far below. You can plan for several days of hiking from town to town, but you can happily hike for just an afternoon.
If you want to hike between towns, check to see which trails are open. This site has a list of hiking trails and up-to-date information. One trail is closed until 2019 and another is closed until 2021, but many of the others are open.