I’d been thinking about it for so long, years in fact. A return trip to Cinque Terre. Having visited around 13 years ago, I always had that itch to experience this stunning coastal area of Italy again, to walk the trails between the villages and swim in the turquoise water.
So I made it happen. I researched, booked flights, planned train journeys and chose our Airbnb. For those that haven’t heard of the Cinque Terre, the Italian to English translation is ‘Five Lands’, and this is made up of five small villages of Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso located on the west coast of Italy. They are also listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. In a nutshell, it’s definitely one for the travel bucket list.
Having stayed in Monterosso on my first visit to Cinque Terre, I decided to try somewhere new, and settled on an Airbnb in Vernazza. It was perfect. Vernazza is such a beautiful little village, full of life and colour. Our accommodation was located on the ‘main street’ – think busy walking path between the train station and the sea, not a road with cars. It was a lovely place to stay and I highly recommend it, find the listing here. We booked for two nights, flying into Pisa, then taking a train to Vernazza via La Spezia. It’s all very straight forward, and train tickets don’t need to be bought ahead of time.
Arriving late on a Friday evening, due to high winds in Pisa and therefore three hour delays leaving the UK, we still managed to drag ourselves out of bed on Saturday morning, wake up with coffee and start our journey on the walking trail towards Corniglia. The walking trails vary from flat and easy, to uphill stairs that you’ll curse at and swear you’ll never reach the end of. It’s about taking things at your own pace, so if you’re about easy and breezy, I suggest never coming on a walking trail with us two psycho’s, who walk at the speed of a slow jog. I think it’s the Londoner in us! The views you’ll witness are breathtaking, and worth those stair climbs I promise!
The walking trails from Corniglia to Manarola, and then on to Riomaggiore were closed when we visited, so after exploring Corniglia, we jumped on the train to Manarola for a wander around, followed by another train all the way back to Monterosso, the most northern of the five villages. Monterosso is also the largest village, and the beach is literally packed with sun umbrellas and people. It’s a beautiful place though, and there’s plenty of restaurants and shops to explore too.
We had one more walking trail to complete, the biggest of all, from Monterosso back to Vernazza. Gelato was consumed, all in the name of energy (and morale) boosting, and then we set off. The walking time said around 2.5 hrs, but we managed it in a little over an hour, like I said, we don’t do leisurely strolling! This walk starts out with a cruel amount of stairs that you must ascend to get on to the trail up high in the mountains. It is a little brutal, but you’ll have a laugh with other tourists as you’re bent over trying to catch your breath every couple of minutes.
Once you’re up high in the mountains, the brutal parts are few and far between, and it’s a really enjoyable walk, particularly when you finally catch a glimpse of Vernazza from way up high. It’s a beautiful, colourful sight to see, and the best part of all that hard work walking? You’re in Italy, so you can reward yourself with pizza and an Aperol Spritz that evening!
On the Sunday morning, we woke very early, and walked back up the hill to the view point over Vernazza. We may have climbed over a fence that had been built to keep tourists away from the very thing we were there to do, snap some photos of Vernazza from a birds eye view. Hence the getting up early, before anyone could tell us off. I take no responsibility for anyone reading this and doing the same thing, the risk is yours! (It was totally worth it though hah!).
Packing our bags and dropping them off at the train station storage facility, we took a train to Riomaggiore, to explore some more. We ate our daily store bought lunch of prosciutto, cheese, crackers and tomatoes, and then returned to Vernazza to collect our bags. As I sat down in my Pisa bound train seat, and the train chugged along the coastline, I felt so pleased I’d returned to this magical place. It’s a must-see, so do yourself a favour and go!