Cinque Terre, Italy
Cinque Terre is by far one of my most favourite beach destinations in all of Europe. I have always dreamed about reaching this beautiful destination and it lived up to all my dreams when I was able to travel here. Cinque Terre is located on the coast of the Italian Rivera and it boast 5 fishing villages on the Mediterranean Sea. The Cinque Terre villages are easily accessible from trains running from La Spezia and ferries. The five villages are called Riomaggore, Manorola, Corgnila, Vernazza and Monterosso. You will have to take the trains from each village or hike the coastal trails. The number one thing that people who visit the Cinque Terre do is hike. You can choose to hike along the coast and you will wander past many vineyards. Definitely a once in a lifetime opportunity!
Riomaggiore has many tightly packed buildings that are orientated around the small harbour. You can walk around to the left and find a small beach with large rocks or you can go swimming on the large rocks on the right hand side of the small harbour At Riomaggiore there are tour boats that do day trips out for snorkelling. If you are after local seafood the ‘Mamma Mia’ restaurant is amazing!
Manorola is a beautiful village with extremely large rocks with great rock pools which are popular for swimming. You will be charmed by the cobbled streets and old-fashioned fishing harbour. The path between Manorola connecting to Riomaggiore is known to be the easiest due to flat path along the famous ‘Via dell’Amore’ translated as ‘the road of love’.
Corgnila is a hilltop village with no immediate access to water . When you arrive in Corgnila from the train you will see hundreds of stairs to walk to the village centre, you can choose to walk or wait for a shuttle bus that drives up the hill to the centre. Corgnila doesn’t have a beach but if you follow the signs to the sea and walk down heaps (an Aussie word for a lot) of stairs to a spectacular sea cove. Here you can lay on the rocks, snorkel and jump in for a lovely swim. For the thrill seekers most people go and jump from the rocks on the edge of the cove. Corgnila also has an amazing gelato shop in the main square.
Vernazza boasts a small harbour and a main square lined with small cafés and gelato stalls facing the harbour. There are also smaller streets that run parallel to the main square and you will find colourful houses, hanging laundry and lazy cats. Vernazza also has a church and a castle tower you can visit and provides spectacular views of the town and Corgnila in the distance.
Monterosso is the largest and furthest village from La Spezia. Monterosso is known as the ‘resort’ village with plenty of restaurants and accommodation. You can swim in the 2 beaches on the village and can pay to rent a deckchair and umbrella for the day or you can sunbath on the free sections of the beach which is roped off from the paid sections of the beach. At Monterosso you can also rent paddleboards, paddle boats and snorkel gear.
Wherever you choose to visit in the Cinque Terre you will not be disappointed. Unfortunately Cinque Terre is no longer a hidden gem and very busy during summer. If you have the option of staying on a village you have a better chance of getting away from the day trippers at dawn and dusk.
During my time in Cinque Terre I was able to volunteer with the company ‘Save Vernazza’. This non-profit organisation helps to rebuild and restore the village Vernazza after the devastating disaster in October 2011. My backpacking friends and I helped a local farmer rebuilding walls and doing some gardening on his vineyard. It was an amazing experience. After the work you enjoy a picnic up in the hills enjoying local wine and pesto. If you are looking for something different to do and want to give back I would recommend this!