Are we losing access to the five towns of Cinque Terre?
With global warming and the increased number of tourists that visit these five towns, the Italian municipalities have started to restrict the number of people that can access the towns so that may prompt you into visiting sooner than planned.
We visited Vernazza in June last Summer and had a fantastic time! I always want to go and explore more of the beach towns in Italy. This summer we were in Tuscany and the right option to go to after seemed to be Cinque Terre.
From Tuscany we drove back to Florence, jumped on a train to La Spezia, which is the main train station on the Mediterranean side, just a few miles north of Pisa. And then connected to a local train coming from La Spezia to Vernazza.
Once you get to La Spezia train station you can buy your local ten-dollar ticket to jump on a tiny old train to go through the five towns of Cinque Terre: Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso - in that order from South to North. We stayed at Vernazza which is the quaintest town out of the five, also the smallest one. Once you disembark the train, you are right in the middle of town, walking distance to the port and seashore. Ah! The Mediterranean…beautiful.
Accommodation is really hard to find in these towns, as no major developments have happened and only small accommodations are available such as B&B's, small hotels and room rentals. I found Cinque Terra Riviera from a local travel agency that manages rentals in the area and they were fantastic, hopefully this will save you some time. We had the Casa d’ Oro apartment, which had an unbelievable view of the Mediterranean as it crashes against the rock formations on the coast. Once we checked-in we decided to explore the town and to our surprise it only took us less than an hour, seriously!
Summer is a very popular time to visit the area, many Italians take their Summer vacation and go to these towns, so be prepared for crowds. We were there in late June and it was hot and busy, I can only imagine how busy it gets in the months of July and August. What’s great about Vernazza is the architecture, homes built into the rocks and defying gravity by sitting on tops of cliffs and steep hills. Its residents are just so welcoming, gracious and happy.
These five towns were hugely devastated back in 2011 by a cyclone, you can still see traces of it and the locals remember those days by posting pictures on the walls. There has been definitely tons of work into recreating these medieval towns and bringing them back to their splendor, which is very impressive. Great restaurants, the best one in Vernazza is sitting on top of the tower by the water with the best view anytime of the day, but try to go there for sunset, it was spectacular. The sea is so impressive and rough breaking against the rocks below you, so unique, so medieval and still incredible to think that this town has survived centuries of wars and fighting Mother Nature to stay alive, against the sea, wind and cyclones.
While there we had the best Italian food, pizza, pasta, cannolis, prosecco and more… and the shops around sell all the different things that you need for a day at the beach, from beer to wine, to fresh-cut cherries, prosciutto and you create your own organic menu for the day.
The five towns can be explored by boat, train, foot, and people try all these different methods for sure. We ventured out to Monterosso first, to the North, and hiked for about one hour to get there. Bring hiking and comfortable shoes as these hikes are pretty demanding, steep steps, rough surfaces and sometimes slippery. Once you get there is like finding another jewel in paradise. Definitely bigger than Vernazza, with more resort-type accommodations but still charming and quaint. L'Ancora della Tortuga was the name of the best restaurant we found in town. Our plan there after eating a tasty lunch by the water was to buy a couple of beers and venture out to the public beach, it was packed, and they charge about $20 per person for lounge chairs and umbrella, as the beach is rocky this is a must-do. Spent the day by the sea, jumping in and out of the water to cool down. We were lucky enough to find a daiquiri and frozen drinks spot right next to the train station.
The shops are much nicer in Monterosso, so shopping is better there than Vernazza. The next day we hiked again, this time heading South, to Corniglia, the hike was fantastic, so much you get to see from walking these steps by the Mediterranean. Once we got there we walked around the town but they don’t have a beach access, so we decided to go back to Vernazza and spend the day at our beach, steps down from our apartment.
It was a very unique trip, colorful, tasty, fun and we met so many interesting happy people which made me wonder about the purpose of working in an office environment instead of one of these towns and enjoy the Italian Vita!