Waking up groggily from the quick naps we took on the train to Cinque Terre, we glanced out the window to be greeted by the most perfect views of the cerulean sea. Cinque Terre is a popular day trip from Florence- only about a two-hour train journey to be transported to a land (or 5) of vibrant houses, fresh seafood, and picturesque waters. We started early on a Saturday morning, ready for a day of hiking, wondrous sights, and good eats.
We began our adventure at Monterosso- the most resort-like of the five islands. Patterned umbrellas lined the rocky beach as visitors tanned on the shore. Unfortunately, we hadn’t brought our swimsuits, so we settled for dipping our toes in the water as the morning sun intensified. Anticipating a long hike ahead, we stopped at a small bakery to pick up breakfast. I ordered an olive and tomato focaccia and nibbled on the buttery square of goodness happily.
On to the next island. Like many other visitors, we chose to hike from Monterosso to Vernazza. The trail includes many stairs and can get steep, but it should not be a problem for beginning hikers. I would highly recommend it- the view of the sea is spectacular and the sense of accomplishment when seeing the beautiful island of Vernazza from afar is unmatched. Also, it gives you a great reason to treat yourself to gelato later in the day!
Vernazza is undoubtedly one of the prettiest, yet most crowded, villages on Cinque Terre. The narrow streets are lined with popping pink houses, and souvenir stores with floppy hats and beach cover-ups flood the area. The smell of seafood swarms the streets, and we couldn’t resist but pick up a cone of fresh calamari from a nearby stand. After relaxing by the water and wandering around, we took the quick 8-minute train to Riomaggiore.
All of us agreed that Riomaggiore was our favorite village. While it’s far less crowded than Vernazza, it is equally as beautiful and possesses a more serene atmosphere. Stores were much less focused on appealing to tourists, but more so comprised of family-owned restaurants and small coffee bars serving Italian espresso. Trying to find the best view of the village, we clambered up even more stairs to a scenic outlook (well worth the climb). To cool off from our mini workout, we ventured down into the marina, kicked our shoes off, and spent some time dipping our feet in the water and marveling at the unique stones on the beach.
Finally, to our last village of the day (we skipped one village- Corniglia). Like many other tourists, we saved Manarola for last as we heard there’s no better village to watch the sunset from. Manarola was, once again, just as picturesque and lively as its fellow Cinque Terre villages. After a good bit of exploring Manarola’s paths and people-watching, we were ready for dinner. We climbed up MORE stairs to Trattoria dal Billy, a restaurant overlooking the village that serves fresh seafood. We were seated outside but disappointed to see that the tarp was still up to shield the sun, preventing us from having the perfect view of Manarola. However, the food definitely made up for this! I ordered a seafood spaghetti that came with housemade spaghetti, clams, mussels, and shrimp- it was heaven on a plate.
At the end of the day, tired but content (and having conquered 132 flights of stairs), we gazed at the sunset as we waited for our train back to Florence. No doubt about it- we had a perfect day in Cinque Terre.