The third stop on our European adventure was to a little town situated on the Tyrrhenian Sea called Manarola. This magical little place is one of the five villages that make up what is called Cinque Terre, or “the five lands”. The towns are close together, perched on the hills overlooking the sea, and connected by both hiking trails and a regional train that makes a few stops at each town per day. To give context, here is a map:
This place was beyond what I could describe. It was perhaps the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen. We sat by the water and ate (ungodly amounts of) seafood and sipped wine that came from the vineyards on the hills surrounding us. There was nothing like looking into the impossibly deep blue color of that water and pinching yourself wondering if it is reality.
Josh and I spent 3 nights in Manarola in a charming room from AirB&B. I had no idea which town to pick when I was booking this part of the trip, but we are both so happy that we chose Manarola. It was the perfect home base. Quaint, gorgeous, great food…What else could we want?
There isn’t too terribly much to do in Cinque Terre, which is exactly why we wanted to include it on our itenerary. We napped and hiked and sucked sweet clean air into our lungs and loved every minute. Only one of the 4 main hiking trails between the villages were open due to a bad storm a few years ago. We hiked the trail from Vernazza to Monterossa one of the afternoons, though, and the views were INSANE. These towns are not for the faint of heart. They are all built on VERY steep hills, and if you plan to visit and especially hike, be prepared for stairs. Lots and lots of stairs. I swear my butt has never been worked so hard. It was all worth it when you caught your first glimpse of where your hike started…
Most of our last day in Cinque Terre was spent in the town of Corniglia. It was completely precious. It is definitely the least visited, more rugged of the 5. We fell in love with the views and quiet escape from the bustling tourists. The best gelato of our trip was found here, too. Corniglia, you were awesome.
All 5 of the towns offered us something unique and memorable. It was so hard to say goodbye.
If you’re thinking about making a trip, here are some helpful tidbits.
1) Beware of the totally erratic train schedule. Be flexible. Rely only on the schedules displayed at train stations, not the ones listed online.
2) The public restroom situation was…eh…not good. Bring toilet paper/soap with you everywhere. Or better yet…hold it until you get to your hotel. Just trust me.
3) There are probably more tourists per square foot here than anywhere else we went in Europe. It isn’t exactly your secluded, off-the-beaten-path destination. Expect crowds and make reservations for restaurants you plan to eat. Its a beautiful place, and apparently everybody knows it.
4) The food here compared to other parts of Italy was, in general, overpriced and crappy. Each town had one or two very nice restaurants that offered amazing seafood or pasta for a pretty penny. For us, it was worth the splurge. Grab and go pizzas places and cafes were just not good at all. One of our take-away meals at a restaurant was an actual freezer meal that had been microwaved. Gross. We spent a lot of money on food in Cinque Terre to avoid more marked up tourist traps serving junk.
The best thing about our time in Cinque Terre was the news we received on our fist day there. Our best friends Julianne and Daniel delivered their first baby. Judah Baily. I’ll never forget where I was or what it felt like to see a photo in the first moments of Judah’s life. Between seeing him and smelling the ocean, I could have keeled over from happiness right then and there. I’m so proud of them and how wonderful of parents they are already.
Welcome sweet baby Judah. You were so loved from the moment I set eyes on you.
Goodbye Cinque Terre! I miss you already.