Cinque Terre was a top favorite for our honeymoon (aka TanDrewMoon) because of two main reasons : I love to travel to places I have read books about, and there are talks to limit the number of visitors to Cinque Terre since it’s a UNESCO world heritage site. We wanted to visit there before we had to win a lottery to be allowed to, and so we planned our honeymoon around Cinque Terre.
Cinque Terre is not just one place, but a collection of five very beautiful and colorful villages on the Liguarian coast. Yes, a lot of travel blogs will tell you that they are touristy and to visit some other villages instead – but the thing is that these five villages are favorites with tourists for a reason. They are just effortlessly beautiful and naturally appealing to all five human senses. Sight – the deep blueness of the Liguarian Sea, coupled with the green vineyards on the cliffs and the colorful houses and boats are a delight to the eyes, Smell – the smell of focaccia bread baking fills the air, Sound – the sound of the waves and the occasional train, Taste – the delicious fresh pesto and focaccia, and of course the local white wine, and Touch – the feel of the sea breeze brushing past your face on a warm day.
We arrived in Cinque Terre by train from Florence (with a stop in Pisa for a quick visit to the Leaning Tower). We spent the next two and a half days exploring Cinque Terre and then proceeded on to Portovenere by ferry from Manarola. I highly recommend staying in Cinque Terre if you choose to visit, because that is the only way to feel the village life, and get away from the more touristy side of it. We stayed in Manarola, the second smallest village and fourth village from the north. And so of course, Manarola is our favorite and I would highly recommend you to stay here. We stayed at La Toretta Lodge which is at the very top of the hill, but don’t worry because they are sweet enough to come collect you and your belongings from the train station in their golf cart, and anyway, the slope seems like a baby slope once you tackle the rest of the villages (especially Corniglia).
I came across La Toretta on a blog, and now I am passing on this knowledge, because this is really the cutest little gem. They welcomed us with glasses of very delicious and very welcome Prosecco, and then gave us our own bottle once they saw how much my husband loved it and heard that we were on our honeymoon. They also have a happy hour every afternoon with local wine and cheese and it’s a nice time to relax on their terrace enjoying the views of Manarola with the vineyard cliffs on one side and the sea on the other. You also get to meet other travelers, and as usual we met some Australians who were super nice and gave us tips on the hikes in the region. (I always meet Australians of all ages on my Europe trips – it’s a mystery why Europe is their destination of choice)
Our first evening, we just spent wandering around Manarola, watching a beautiful sunset by the harbor, walking the one street that exists in the town and buying postcards!
Then we climbed the hill again to have aperitivo at this cute little place called Burasca, which served local wines and bruschetta. They also have an online shop! This tided us over till our 9 pm dinner reservation at Trattoria Dal Billy, a well known restaurant just a few mins walk from our hotel. We found Dal Billy a tad overrated (even though or maybe because the Australians raved about it), so I wouldn’t suggest it unless you really want to try their seafood platter. Dal Billy has a cute setting and gorgeous views, but you could find gorgeous views all over Manarola.
The next morning, we woke up early to make sure we get to hike before our enthusiasm wears off. Most of the easy hiking paths were closed, and we wanted a challenge, so we chose the one from Monterosso Al Mare to Vernazza. And it did not let us down. I have never been on a more gorgeous or more rewarding hike, and even though it was hot, most of it was shaded enough that we could accomplish it without a headache. It was so lovely to hike with my husband, because it meant that we could take breaks without being scared of anyone judging us, but luckily, there was an old Chinese grandpa with a walking stick, motivating us to keep up with him.
Hiking the Cinque Terre is amazing because in one shot, you get to explore different villages, feel energized and accomplished, and enjoy unbeatable views. We took the train to Monterosso and saw it to be a seaside town – the moment I saw that cars were allowed, it wore off some of the charm for me. However, we weren’t there very long, we found the start of the trail and were occupied for the next couple of hours in climbing up the steep slopes that would eventually take us to Vernazza. Pictures speak a thousand words, so here are some from the hike.
We were starving when we reached Vernazza, so our first goal was to find a good lunch spot. We chose Ristorante Al Castello (we literally found it, as we did not find the one we had actually intended to eat at!), which you guessed right, was in the castle tower. Where Manarola has slopes, Vernazza has stairs, and we climbed a lot of steps to get to lunch. So we thoroughly deserved to eat all of the calories, and had some delicious lasagne with the local Vernazza white wine to round it off.
That evening in Manarola, my husband was a bit under the weather, so I had to navigate an Italian pharmacy, but also got to eat the most delicious focaccia at Pan&Pumate. It is like pizza but so much better. I think the Italian tomatoes are far superior to American ones, because something that sounds boring just tastes so amazing. I also saw wine on tap for the first time, which really excited me!
On Day Two, the fourth village that we explored was Corniglia – which is set away from the coast on the cliffs, but with the sea as a dramatic backdrop at every turn. It also has way more steps than anyone can handle, even getting to the village from the train station, I counted more than two hundred before I gave up to concentrate on huffing it up (apparently there are 365, one for each day of the year). I complain, but everything is so worth it, that I would climb all those steps twice all over to do it again. Darling little shops and cafes line the streets, the churches are old and the streets are cobbled, and the whole place is so charming that you have to control yourself to stop taking the same pictures over and over.
The last village is Riomaggiore, and unfortunately, we only saw this from the ferry to Portovenere, but it seemed as colorful and effortlessly lovely, as the others. Here is a shot of Riomaggiore from the ferry – and this shot does really capture the essence of Cinque Terre.
I hope this post has inspired you to visit Cinque Terre, write to me if you need any more details or help planning!