Thursday, April 19, 2012

Italy: Cinque Terre

Cinque Terre means Five Lands and is made up of the five small coastal villages of Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia,Vernazza and Monterosso. 

What an experience! We had such a blast visiting the much-anticipated Cinque Terre, but few curveballs made for some pretty great stories :) There were a few times when I quite literally felt like we starring in Just Married.  (Maybe a C+ list movie, but one of my favorites...if you knew me in college, you know this very well) 

First things first, I had vaguely heard about the flooding and landslides, but nowhere in my research on where to stay, what to do, etc. did it mention the natural disaster that struck in October- weird right? I suppose they were trying not to deter tourists... Anywhoo we took a GPS route to drive there and as we got closer we noticed we were on some pretty shady looking roads and something about the fallen trees and unpaved roads had us concerned, but we kept on.  Pretty soon we passed the below sign (Corniglia 12 km) and could see our tiny town in the distance when all of a sudden, one of those huge concrete things was in the middle of the road.  We looked further and it seems the road had been washed away in the flood- yes for about 20 yards, there was missing was a cliff. NOWHERE on our route had it said "Do not Enter" or "Dead End" so this was quite inconvenient.  Plus, the road could barely fit 2 cars b/c it was so narrow, so turning around was quite the feat. We made sure to warn the cars behind us! AN HOUR AND A HALF LATER... we reached our tiny town! Yes it was that big of a detour- we had to get to the town going the other way around the mountain through a town called La Spezia. Thus began our day in Corniglia haha :) 
It was so worth it once we hiked up to our town... 
Look at that view! Corniglia is the only town of the 5 that is on top of the cliffs rather than on the shore so the flooding didn't affect much of the town. (The road is clearly a different story) 
Our little B&B was up those stairs! We felt like locals. 
Exploring our town... the tiniest of the 5 with only a handful of shops and restaurants, but we LOVED it! The only "hard" part was the hike to and from our train station at the bottom of the cliff... lots of stairs! 
Our Town Square
The viewpoint from the top of our town. In the distance is Manarola. 
Hi Manarola! 
I loved the bright colored homes. 
After settling in, we rode the train to Monterosso Al Mare. This is the "happening" town full of tourists and lots of study abroad kids.  It is divided into Old and New Town and we had a blast exploring both.  
We had our most favorite gelato from the whole TRIP in this tiny town. It was yum! 
After exploring the local shops and doing a few wine tastings, we had a seafood dinner overlooking the coast that our good friends Ali & Blake recommended. The view did NOT disappoint.  (Random Sidenote: Right after this dinner we met a freshly engaged Irish couple and had celebratory drinks with them - so random and fun!) 
The next morning, we headed over to Vernazza, the "Golden Child" of the Cinque Terre.  Unfortunately, it was hit the hardest (by FAR) from the flooding.  You can see the remnants of the devastation below.  When it happened in October, the city was covered in 12-13 feet of mud, boulders, and water and 3 people died. They have clearly made a LOT of progress, but there is still a ton of work to do seeing as most of the restaurants and shops are having to completely start from scratch. 
It was heartbreaking to see how much it affected the town.  Locals painted doors as support and to give hope to the Vernazza community. 
Despite the devastation, it will still a cute town.  There were only 3 restaurants open at the time, but we were told they are hoping to have more up and running in time for high tourist season in June. 
The view from our lunch table- loved all the umbrellas! 
Exploring the town... if you look hard you can see a white cat perched on that ledge on the right. It was so picturesque.
The next town we visited was Riomaggiore.  This town had a TON of boats and easy access to the Mediterranean. 
See? Easy access! Had it been warmer, I would have for sure laid out on of of those boulders!
Talk about a bar with a view... we waited here for our train. 
Our last town to explore was Manarola.  Not our favorite of the 5, but my favorite "photo opp" from the trip.  
We ended our time in CT with an authentic seafood spaghetti dinner in our little town of Corniglia.  It was SCARY...apart from sushi and popcorn shrimp, I don't really do seafood, BUT when in Rome, right? So we adopted the theory of "EAT NOW. THINK LATER." Our spaghetti was full of clams, mussels, shrimp, calamari, sea snails, and yes... OCTOPUS!!! I had a tentacle. It was nasty and still had the little suction things on it... I spit it out. But I tried, right? 

***HELPFUL ADVICE: I have heard of a few people who are headed here in the next few months. My advice would be to stay in Monterosso if you are looking for lots of "action" and Corniglia if you want a quaint, sleepy town. Right now Monterosso has the most restaurants and shops open. Also: Only 2 of the MANY hiking trails are even open. The others are closed down and being restored.  I think it is still worthwhile to see the Cinque Terre, but I would be lying if I didn't say I wish we had saved it and gone back once everything was restored, open and warmer so we could have actually enjoyed the beach and hiked through the 5 towns. Just my opinion! We still had an absolute blast :) 


  1. how cool! thanks for sharing!

  2. Looks like you had a great time! And you had much BETTER weather than my cousin and I did a week before. The sun barely came out at all for us. Isn't the food just to die for in Italy?!?!

  3. Your photos are all so pretty but the photo of Manarola is BEAUTIFUL!!!
    So what flavor gelato did you get? :)

  4. This is such a wonderful happy post, it's like all the fun you had is just oozing from it! So happy for you :)
    road trip france



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