The latest adventure with the girls was to check out Cinque Terre in Italy. For those of you who haven’t heard of it, it’s a cluster of five small villages on the Italian Riviera in the north of Italy. Regular fit tourists can actually hike between the villages, but since it was really hot and I’m super lazy, we got the train.
We landed in Milan early on a Saturday morning, and caught the bus into town to meet up with Annabelle. Italy really is the land of love, and the majority of tourists seemed to consist of couples on their honeymoon – which is lovely, but I still wanted to punch the couple that spent the whole hour of our bus ride noisily making out. No one needs to see/hear that. As the train we wanted was sold out, we had a couple of extra hours to wander around Milan, so we checked out the cathedral and had some lunch. Finally we hopped on the train to our first stop: Monterosso al Mare.
Monterosso is the biggest of the villages, and also the only one with a decent sized beach. It’s your quintessential Italian cliff-side village – lots of tiny alley ways, gelato shops, more restaurants than you can poke a stick at and enough touristy knick knacks to sink a ship. We stayed in a tiny apartment off the main street, directly across from the Wonderland bakery that smelt amazing.
That night we had a simple dinner of bruschetta and wine at the restaurant owned by the same guy who ran our apartments, had several servings of gelato, and listened to an amusing Italian cover band who played long into the night. The following morning I bought a bunch of fresh croissants from the aforementioned bakery (seriously whoever came up with pistachio croissants is a genius), and we headed to our next hotel to drop off our bags.
We returned to Monterosso and chilled out by the beach with a few cocktails for a few hours, then we headed to village no. 2: Vernazza for dinner. There was a little beach here, and after we ate we chilled out, listened to a Beatles cover band and mucked around on a second “secret” beach.
That night we were staying in the third village, Corniglia, which was hands down my favourite place. Unlike the others, it was high on the cliff so you had to get a shuttle bus to the town centre. Our apartment was the top floor of a four storey building and had gorgeous views of the cliffs and houses and church, and we had a good sized balcony as well. Unfortunately by the time we got back to the village the bus wasn’t running, so we had to climb the (400!!) stairs up to our hotel. I nearly died. God I’m unfit.
The best bit about Corniglia was the swimming cove. Despite the ten billion stairs down to it, it was my favourite place of the trip. Plenty of shade, not too busy and absolutely gorgeous. My only regret is not investing in a decent snorkel set/goggles so I could fully explore the water. Though going back up the stairs nearly killed me again.
The village itself was also beautiful, and I preferred it because it wasn’t as dirty/touristy/busy as the other villages. The customer service left a lot to be desired, but to be fair none of us speak Italian so I can understand the locals being a little annoyed about that.
Our next stop was Manarola, which I hated. Seriously, it was gross – I didn’t even take any photos of it. There was a semi-nice looking swimming hole there, but there was hardly anywhere to sit around it, and the water was filthy and full of jellyfish. Lunch was meh and it was too crowded and expensive. I was physically and mentally bored and I couldn’t wait to get out of there. Ironically if you google ‘Cinque Terre’ it is usually a photo of Manarola that you’ll see, which leads me to believe it’s only nice looking from a distance so it might be worth the walk from Corniglia to Manarola just for that view.
Finally we headed to the last village, Riomaggiore. The place we stayed at was a little out of town so I stressed out worrying about getting the bus out there (there are no cabs in Riomaggiore), so we got some traditional takeaway cones of chips and octopus as we waited and didn’t really explore the village much. Finally we got to our hotel, Borgo di Campi, which was on the side of the cliff in the national park. It was ridiculously stunning and I’d love to go there for a fortnight and just chill out.
The next morning I stressed again about getting back to Riomaggiore to catch our train, but since everything runs on “Italian time” (aka island time) nothing is ever punctual so the bus turned up fashionably late, but we made it back to the village on time. We checked out the cove, then we said goodbye to Annabelle, and Lauren and I jumped on the train back to Milan so we could head to Spain.
All in all it was a fun trip, marred only by the fact that both Lauren and I were both sick and so were hating life a bit of the time. Though better to be angry at the world in Italy than back home!
Personally I’d go back when the weather is a bit cooler (and in perfect health), but if you love the heat then you’ll do fine in August/September. I’d also recommend being reasonably fit, as there are A LOT of stairs/hills.
And unless you’re planning on hiking from one village to another, I’d recommend just staying in one place and travelling to the others on the train as needed. The train is cheap and literally takes 20 minutes from one end to the other (although the timetable is a bit random). Also make sure you validate your ticket before you get on the train, otherwise you’ll get yelled at by the transit guards.
Listening to: Biffy Clyro
Watching: nothing, too tired!
Reading: 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami
Current man-crush: Simon Neil