The Cinque Terre is a seaside mountainous region in northwest Italy with five (hence the "cinque" in the name) picturesque and colorful little towns that sit on top of cliffs that cascade into the coastline. Until twenty or so years ago, these little towns were cut off from much of Italy (and tourism) due to the region's rugged terrain. Thanks to Pinterest, however, the towns today are well-known internet sensations and tons of tourists flock to this region each year. Unfortunately, the surrounding terrain remains rugged and hostile. In 2011, the Cinque Terre was devastated by mudslides and many of the region's famous hikes remained closed today.
While spending a couples days hiking, eating pesto (this is the region that invented pesto!), and relaxing in these darling towns sounds wonderful, the logistics of actually visiting the Cinque Terre can be a nightmare. Reduced car access, closed hiking trails, and limited and crowded trains make getting around the area challenging, especially with luggage. Because of this, I recommend day-tripping. While you cannot see all five towns in a day, you can see the highlights and experience the charm of the region.
Last weekend my students and I did just that. Thanks to Anna at FlorenceForFun we hopped in a bus and headed north to Manarola (if you take the train you have to switch at least twice, so the bus is actually quicker). We arrived in Manarola and headed straight to the sea to capture the famous shot of the city (first photo). After taking a ton of photos, we had just enough time for a coffee and snack before jumping on the local train bound for Vernazza.
Vernazza is the fourth city of the Cinque Terre and it is where you can still access the National Park and hiking trails. You can either take a ferry boat from Vernazza to the last city Monterosso, or you can do the challenging 90-min hike. In my opinion, if you are going to go to the Cinque Terre, you must hike! It is what the region is famous for and the views are unbelievable. If you want a relaxing day at the beach, I suggest Amalfi over Cinque.
The hike itself is challenging yet not impossible. But it is only from the hiking trails that you can see the colorful towns from above and the crystal blue water. It also gives you a sense of what living in this area was like before the arrival of cars and trains. After an intense but invigorating hike, we arrived in Monterosso. There we rewarded ourselves with a lot of pesto pasta and some serious beach time. I napped under my umbrella and it was glorious.
The best part about day tripping to the Cinque Terre is that you are back in Florence before 9 pm. Plus the tour is offered several days a week during the summer. I suggest going as early in the summer as you can to avoid the crowds and the heat.