Cinque Terre, the land of five villages, is hands down my absolute favorite part of the Italian coast, with gorgeous harbors, colorful villages, and the Ligurian Sea at your feet. You get off the train from Levanto or La Spezia (depending on where in Italy you’re coming from) and the spectacular coastline with its rugged hiking trails hits you like a cannon ball. If you’re coming from anywhere in Europe, THIS is your ultimate easy long-weekend beach getaway!
Here are my five must-do things to see / places to eat in this beautiful little oasis:
1. Hike the Inter-Village Trails
Cinque Terre is known for its hiking trails, as its one of the only two ways to get from one village to another (you could always be lazy and take the train on the way back like we did!). If you’re short on time and can only do a few, my recommendation would be not to miss the Vernazza-Corniglia trail – easily the most spectacular and a moderate trail for anyone dreading a hike.
2. Eat Focaccia
Notice how the second thing on my list is food? Yes, it’s that important here. The delightful Italian bread we all adore actually comes from this part of the country, so really it’d be impolite to NOT have it. My favorite place for some of this was in Manarola, in a tiny shop called La Cambusa, just on the main street when you’re walking down to the water from the station.
3. Eat Gelato
Obviously. This is one that’s going to be on pretty much every list for Italy, but the gelato we had in Vernazza was too good to not mention, albeit risking a stereotypical suggestion. Gelateria Vernazza is on the main street, and I promise you’ll be stunned. Fig and cheesecake is yes, an actual flavor, along with the traditional pistachio and mango. If there’s one place you want to binge with 3 scoops or even more, this is it.
4. Sunbathe in Riomaggiore
Riomaggiore is the quaintest of the lot, and quite possibly, the tiniest. The fishing boats lay scattered in the harbor like toys, and the steep oval entrance to the village makes it feel like the houses are almost on the water. Take a break here after a long hike and sunbathe on the rocks, or even dive into the water to relax and unwind.
5. Eat Seafood on a Cliff
For dinner, look no further. Vernazza and Manarola have some of the best restaurants amongst the villages, and the best views. Dinner at Trattoria dal Billy in Manarola was a celebratory last night meal for us, and the squid ink pasta was delicious. To top it off, the sun started setting halfway through our meal, and, perched on a cliff, we had an incredibly instagrammable view of the village against the pinkish-purple sky.