Tripping around the Amalfi Coast last year made me come to the decision that Italian Summers are my new ritual. It seems to be good for the soul. Self-Care you might say.
So this summer I decided to stick to my commitment by picking out another coastal town to do self-care. The chosen place, well Cinque Terre of course. Based in the Ligurian region of North Italy, it’s another place to find bold pastel coloured buildings sitting along the Italian coast, with the backdrop of the bluest oceans and dense green mountains.
Cinque Terre is translated as five towns and is in fact five fishing villages. Even the smell of the fried fish and lavender infuse the air in Manarola, one of the five towns. It’s an odd but delicious combo.
From north to south the five villages that make up Cinque Terre are Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore. I find them all distinct in their own way.
Cinque Terre is the perfect place to roam and discover, so I wouldn’t want to take the spontaneity out of it. Instead of a comprehensive itinerary of where to go in Cinque Terre, I thought let me share five ways to get all the Italian summer feels when in Cinque Terre.
Grab a Gelato, or five
Italian summers are basically synonymous with ice cold, fresh, sweet gelato, enjoyed dripping down your fingers waiting to be licked off. This is what they call ‘la dolce vita’. To stay true this way of living in Italy a daily stop at a Gelateria to grab a scoop of your fave is essential. I’m obsessed with the Tiramisu flavour, which has chunks of actual tiramisu inside. Drool!!!
In Monterosso I tried the fig and walnut flavour from Gelateria Golosoni in the town centre, which was a perfect accompaniment for a post lunch stroll.
And in Corniglia Alberto Gelateria was where I picked up possibly my third tiramisu gelato as a treat for medium/hard hike up from the beach back to the town centre. It’s definitely one of the tastiest Gelaterias in Cinque Terre, which also comes with friendly English speaking staff, if that even matters.
Find the secluded beaches
The only sandy beach in Cinque Terre is the one in Monterosso, and despite it being busy it’s still glorious. As much as you may be tempted to stay put, I recommend also seeking out the more secluded beach spots. Cinque Terre is abundant in beaches, mostly stoney and some just along boulders that aren’t ‘beaches’ per se. So you have to explore.
I enjoy the serenity of the sea and catching the suns rays, so when it gets too crowded it dilutes the moment. So I seeked out a quieter places to take a dip. My search, which was more like a stumble upon, led me to the beach in Corniglia.
You may struggle to find this on google maps, but from the town centre there are signs leading you to the steep path that takes you down to the beach, which is more like a platform and lots of boulders.
It’s not overcrowded due to there not being a ferry port, like there is in the other towns.
But what is truly special is you can hire paddle boats and paddle boards for 5€ an hour, which is a bargain compared to hire places in the other four towns. Who doesn’t love a bargain!
The tide isn’t rough either so you can make your way somewhat deep into the sea and get an incredible view of this picture perfect village.
Take a hike
If you don’t know already Cinque Terre is hikers haven, with a path almost running straight through Monterosso to Riomaggiore. I say almost because the path between Manarolo and Riomaggiore, which is known as ‘via dell’ amore’ is no longer in use due to a landslide in 2012. And the plans to be reopen? Well they don’t look likely to happen any time soon.
This would have been the shortest and flattest hike, which I would have been perfect for me.
Since that wasn’t possible and because I was recovering from a foot injury, the other paths seemed too much for me to handle.
But speaking to other visitors they highly recommend it, especially the path from Monterosso to Vernazza which was described as a worthwhile experience and not too demanding, and in exchange the views are incredible.
You can purchase the Cinque Terre Pass for €7.50 a day, which gives you access to the hiking trails, as well as the bus and some of the museums.
Focaccia for sure
Focaccia is huge Cinque Terre. Well that and fried seafood like calamari, yum! It’s the what the croissant is to Paris, the chicken shop is to London or the pizza to Naples.
I’m being dead serious, focaccia is serious business in Cinque Terre. It is the staple diet, okay maybe for tourists. Either way it is hard to escape, especially if you want breakfast or a quick lunch. If you are gluten free or wheat free you might want to stick to the fried fish.
I have had focaccia before but nothing that tastes as delicious as the one in Cinque Terre. So when in Monterosso you have to go to Il Massimo Della Focaccia, right outside Monterosso station. It’s simply delicious.
Do it for the gram… and then chill
If you can’t tell by now Cinque Terre is an extremely photogenic place. It’s splashed with colour, from the bluest seas, bright florals dotted around the towns, dense green mountains and the unmissable bold pastel buildings featured in every town.
It’s highly instagrammable and could be the very reason why tourism there is on the up, although it was already popular with Italian visitors pre Instagram. Now, Cinque Terre receives 2.4 million visitors per year, most of these during spring/summer, despite only having 4000 residents, which is a concern for the aurorities as it’s UNESCO site. But there are currently no plans to impose tourist restrictions.
So I would say it’s worth the hype and is definitely important to capture the beauty of it all. You’ll appreciate it when you are having the holiday blues. But it’s also important to really take a minute without the social media and cameras to jump in the ocean, chill out with a book on the beach, take a hike following the street signs and be present to it all. You may find that Cinque Terre is much more exciting than how it is depicted on instagram.