Cinque Terre

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

This past long weekend I traveled to Genoa and Cinque Terre Italy! It was my first time in Italy and I loved the country very much. I'm so fortunate to have been able to visit during my time studying abroad.

Camera in hand // Mediterranean Sea // Sunny day //Happy me

My perspective on Cinque Terre: The 5 villages
In order of my favorites (5 least - 1 most favorite)

Overview:
Like most people, until you start researching, you don't know that Cinque Terre is actually just the name of a collection of 5 cities. Researching about each place on Pinterest and bloggers sites was so fun, gave me great advice and tips, and overall got me very excited to visit. I felt ready to tackle the place in my own way but with the wise words of travelers before me. 

To get between the villages you can either take the train or hike. For both you need to have a Cinque Terre pass. For 2 days it was 29€ which gave you unlimited rides on the train, access to the hiking paths, and free wifi at the train stations. It was absolutely worth it and gave us no hassle. When we were visiting, 2 of the coastal hiking paths were closed off due to recent floods. Therefore when visiting Riomaggiore and Manarola we utilized the train system and we hiked Corniglia-Vernazza and Vernazza-Monterosso. I preferred hiking between them because you got more views and I love being outside. The trains however are very quick, efficient, and easy. 

5) Monterosso: 
This village was the least exciting because it's merely a flat village with a long, sandy beach. Had it been summertime and not the end of October I probably would have enjoyed the beach more. I arrived to this town via hiking path and as we got closer, the views were pretty nice featuring the typical painted houses.



4) Manarola:
Manarola is the typical picturesque view of colorful houses on the cliff side. It was absolutely beautiful to see and the weather the day we visited was hot and sunny. There was one main street with shops and nice places to sit by the sea. We stopped for lunch at a restaurant with perfect views and it was quite enjoyable despite the fact the heat was beating down on us. The gelato place we ate at had amazing amareno cherry gelato, the best I've ever had. It was a gelateria called "5 Terre" featuring homemade products. I also bought soft lemon candies since I'm a huge lemon fanatic and also since this region is known for their lemon products. I didn't find that there was much to do in Manarola besides the one viewing spot. Also I found it much too touristy which made it less enjoyable and authentic.




3) Corniglia:
This village was one of a kind. I thought it was very unique and quaint in its own special way. When you get off at the train station you have the option to walk stairs, a paved path, or take a bus up to the town. We took the long set of stairs (I read it was 277) and the views were very pleasant. Corniglia does not feature a port so no boats come in and the town is high up on a cliff. I loved visiting an old church in the town and wandering through the narrow alley ways. There were countless shops, cafes, gelaterias, and near the end of the cliff restaurants featuring panoramic views of the sparkling water. It was a gorgeous lookout and you could see parts of all the other cities! We originally were going to visit here at sunset which I think would definitely have been beautiful. I bought a wonderful sweet bread at a cafe that I snacked on during our hike. We took the coastal path from here to Vernazza, which happens to be my next favorite town.




2) Vernazza:
This town was so amazing and the biggest reason why I loved it so much was because there were countless different viewpoints. From the hiking path as we entered, to being in the town, from the Doria Castle tower, and as we left to go to Monterosso, there were so many great spots to feast your eyes on. It was stunning and there was also lots to do. For only 1,50€ we got to go up the castle tower and it was also a relaxing place to sit and view the enchanting Mediterranean Sea. In town there's one main street and it was packed with people. There were numerous Foccacerias featuring Foccacia bread that is a very popular food in Italy. Also plenty of fun shops to stop in, restaurants, and alley ways where the locals lived. I couldn't imagine living in a place so touristy. We stopped for lunch at a restaurant where I got a reasonably priced and delicious seafood pasta. Of course after we got gelato and the "Gelateria Vernazza" had the most outstanding flavor ever. It was yellow in color with white chocolate flakes and fruit. I had high expectations for this village and it definitely lived up to the hype.






1) Riomaggiore:
Vernazza and Riomaggiore were almost tied as my favorites but Riomaggiore was in my opinion the best place to explore. I'm an adventurer and to me that factor is important! Riomaggiore also had a main street like the others but there was so much more than that. As we walked uphill there was a beautiful church we visited and even farther up was a nice viewing point of the town and the ocean. I got lots of great pictures. We ventured through the narrow streets and closer to the coast we went out on a rocky outlet up high. It was lovely and so picturesque. Back on the mainland, as you walked further out by the water you got the best view of Riomaggiore. To me, it was perfect and I loved this town!






Journey Details:

We had 2 full days in Cinque Terre and it was a perfect amount of time to see everything. We stayed in a town called Levanto which is next to Monterosso. I read that staying in Levanto was a nice idea since it was easy access to the 5 cities without the tourists. Levanto turned out to be a favorite for us. It was a very cute town, with friendly locals, and featuring its own beach. The hostel we stayed at was super cheap and clean. We stayed in a big room with 9 other travelers, one being an older gentleman who was so personable, sweet, and from Verona, Italy. His name was Joseph and we called him "Grandpa Joe." Right after we checked in at our hostel we went swimming at the beach less than 5 minutes away. We loved the weather as it was the end of October and we hadn't expected it to be so nice! Levanto had many sights to see including a striped church, a castle, a bell tower, and a yellow dome. I loved walking through the streets and seeing the locals doing their daily activities. There were a few shops that sold local products where I purchased Genovese pesto and orange flavored biscuits. We had dinner three times in Levanto and were pretty impressed. At nighttime it got chilly and we never wanted to venture too far out so I'm glad this town provided us good eats in a very close proximity to our hostel. My favorite was the last night we were there where we ate at about 9:30pm in this genuine Italian restaurant. It was small and you could tell who the owner was who walked around all night chatting with the guests. I loved the Italian hospitality that I witnessed here. The food was spectacular, like it's seriously the best ever. 



I've managed to eat lots of pasta on this trip allowing me to try different types of dishes. From creamy pesto, to nutty almond, to meat and ragu, I've certainly treated myself through the quality flavors this country offers. The morning we left, we stopped in an Italian pastry and cafe shop. It reminded me a little of the scene in "Eat, Pray, Love" when she enters the Italian cafe. There are lots of people trying to order their hot coffee and sweet pastry. It's a big, Italian fiasco but it's also so cool and full of energy. I loved the vibes I got here and the atmosphere. Also, I'm surprised to love the Italian pastries so much after being in France which is known for pastries. In Italy, there are powdered croissants with jam inside, sugared donuts with a light cream inside, biscuits and cookies, sweet cake, and brioches. It's so delectable and just the right amount of sweet. I am certainly getting in touch with my heritage if I like Italian pastries better than the French ones! Italians are wonderful, heart warming, great people. They have a beautiful language, hospitality, kindness, fantastic food, adorable kids, and a love for life. I love that I have Italian in me, even if it's only 50%. I knew I always had to come to Italy. It's been waiting for me and as I am leaving now, I know I'll be back many more times if life allows me to. I could easily live the Italian lifestyle which feels close to home and my heart. Italian is in my blood, it's how I operate. I relate to their ways and norms. The French are very serious people, who don't have the same passion and enthusiasm for life. They may have the best bread (they win there hands down) but I find Italy more appealing in other ways. I so wish I could study abroad a second semester in Italy. I would travel to all the main cities and smaller towns that I've heard so much about. I could live the lifestyle that is quite possibly the key to my happiness.