Daydream Vacation: The Cinque Terre

Today, I’m visiting my happy place.  Would you like to come along?

blue water rocks

Welcome to the Cinque Terre. It’s a special world, set apart from the regular world, where time slows down, the people are friendly, the sun always shines, and cars don’t exist.

manarola from corniglia

The Cinque Terre is composed of 5 towns, each with its own character, all sitting next to the Mediterranean.  Their other similarities include their car-free living, hilly terraces, pesto, wine, fruit de mare (seafood caught in the morning and served that night).

antipasto fruit di mare edit

Let’s visit the first town, our home base.  It’s called Riomaggiore.


Riomaggiore is the southernmost town.  It’s steeply vertical orientation makes it a challenge to walk, but it’s well worth the splendid vistas at every turn.

The harbor is a wild and sometimes fierce place, when the wind blows in, and daredevil rock jumpers swim in the deep waters.

riomaggiore harbor

Around 5:00 p.m., the locals all come out to walk the streets, sit on benches, and chat with each other.  The children gather at the church to play football.

soccer in front of the church

Walk down the main street, and you’ll see the several restaurants, all advertising the catch of the day, two grocery stores, jewelry and beach gear vendors, and the local fruit stand.

coop riomaggiore edit

At the bottom of the main street, take a right, and walk the long tunnel to the train station.  But we’re not taking a train.  We’re walking the Via dell’Amore.

dark blue wather view from via del amore

This famous walk is called lovers lane for a reason.  You don’t find views like this just anywhere.  For years, lovers have come here to place a padlock all along the route, a symbol of the strength of their love.


In about 20 minutes, you’re at the second town, Manarola.

manarola from harbour full

Little Manarola boasts the best deep water swimming around, with easy access ladders in the harbor, and little boat traffic to get in the way.

manarola swimming harbor

At this point, you have a choice, continue the hike from the Via dell’Amore or take the train.  I advise the train because the hike from here is pretty rough going.

Arrive at Corniglia, the town on the hill, far above the water.


To get to the town, take a small, highly packed bus that leaves the train station about every 30 minutes, or walk up the steep stairs, which will take you what seems like forever, to get an incredible view of the land below.  Corniglia has a rocky beach below the train station for swimmers equipped with footwear.

Hop back on the train, and see Rick Steves’ favorite town, Vernazza (you can hear him gush about it here).  It has a lot to offer, for sure.  The only town with a natural harbor, there is a modest sandy beach with easy access and shallow swimming areas.

vernazza sunset

Climb to the top of the castle and look out over the ocean, or eat at the restaurant, which has you perched overlooking the most beautiful stretch of coastline in Italy.

lovers walk tall

And your final stop on this daydream will be Monterosso del Mare, the town with the incredible sandy beaches.  Leave the train station and walk the strip along the water, taking a break at a gelato stand if you get tired.  And keep walking until you pass through a large tunnel.  On the other side, find the quieter beaches, filled with more locals and less tourists.

monterosso beach

Keep an eye out for the “coco” vendors, selling fresh pieces of coconut to chew on while you’re basking in the sun.

And this ends our journey to the Italian Rivera.  Thanks for being my travel companion.

Published in: on October 20, 2009 at 5:46 pm  Comments (5)  
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5 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. It is so beautiful…and the cliffs look so much like my home town of La Jolla.

    AL: Wow, I need to visit La Jolla! It is funny how no matter where we go, we can always find something that reminds us of home.

  2. Delightful! Thank you for taking me along on this little tour. Yes, I’ve watched those Rick Steves episodes more than once…I just love those little towns with their steep streets and homes piled one upon the other. Maybe someday I’ll get to see them in person, like you and your hubby did.

    AL: I’m a Rick Steves addict, I admit. He helped me plan that trip to Italy, a lot. Loved his mp3 tours of major museums and monuments. Dan and I plugged into my Itouch and walked around listening to them, tethered by the same mp3 player (made for some interesting moments when we each took off in a different direction). I also recently learned that Rick Steves is a local guy, and he has a huge store just north of Seattle in a lovely little town called Edmonds. We made a couple trips there to listen to speakers about Italy and buy a lot of his travel gear. Highly recommend the store if you’re ever in the Seattle area.

  3. Amy,

    Your description is just as I remember it. Good job on Town 3, I was too lazy to get to it.



    AL: Did not know you’ve been there! We’ll have to compare notes some time. It’s actually surprising how many people have been there, when it’s such of an out of the way kind of place. The Rick Steves people say they take most of the blame for “letting the cat out of the bag.” In fact, he’s got an interesting reputation over there. Some businesses love him for bringing all the people, but some are annoyed that he’s been the cause of too much tourism that tampers with the pristine nature of the towns. I say, a good thing like that was bound to eventually be found. Hard to blame just one person (well, one with a national TV show).

  4. Thank you for bringing me somewhere I haven’t been before. If I had been sitting under a heat lamp smelling a salt-shaker, I might have actually thought I was there with you. Great photography!

    AL: Thanks Mindy!

  5. The only thing missing in this post is some audio from you, like some of your videos. You have an interesting voice.

    AL: Thanks, I think! Maybe I’ll do some more video editing soon, so I can share more of the videos we took in Europe. Most of the time, it’s me whipping the camera around so fast that everything is a blur and babbling incoherently about what I’m looking at!

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