DISCOVERY INTERN: EXPLORING CINQUE TERRE
This place has it all.
When someone says they’ve had a dream escape along the summery coast of Italy, most of us think of the Amalfi Coast. But north west of Rome lies five coastal townships which are just as beautiful, and make for the ultimate European summer destination.
Translating to “Five Lands”, Cinque Terre is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the Ligurian region, and I’ve been lucky enough to have spent the last two days exploring its uniquely constructed fishing towns, etched into the rugged western coastline of Liguria.
Upon arrival, the first thing that stood out to me was the lack of modern development; there were no factories or apartment blocks, just these colourful, multi-tiered houses looking out towards the stunning Ligurian Sea.
My partner and I stayed in a town to the north called Levanto, otherwise known as the gateway to Cinque Terre. We parked our car and didn’t used it once during our stay, the five villages are much more accessible by either catching the train or hiking the “Blue Trail” along the coastline. You can hike the entire Blue Trail in six hours, passing through all of the five villages, or take the train and hike parts of the trail like I did in my trusty Kathmandu boots, which allows for more time in each place. Our first stop was Riomaggiore, the southern-most village of Cinque Terre.
Here we were welcomed by a peaceful, romantic atmosphere. Couples were everywhere and all the shoreside restaurants had the most amazing view of the sunset. The locals warmly greeted us, and there were also quite a few tourists along the cliff face soaking up the views. At the base of the village, there is a small marina where you can take a dip in the warm waters of Riomaggiore, or enjoy a bevy from the famous Dau Cilla wine cellar along the rocks, where you can catch a full-frontal view of the entire village.
Next, we enjoyed Manarola, my personal favourite. There was a completely different vibe to this village; it was a lot more upbeat than the former and hosted a younger demographic. There were bars right at the beachfront playing loud Hispanic music while travellers were seen cliff jumping from a big rock face in the bay!
You can veer to the right of the village and head up the stairs around the cliff side where you will find a peaceful cemetery for the locals. Here you will find unobstructed views of Manarola and views of Vernazza in the distance. For dinner I would recommend the pesto pizza from one of the pizzerias. They also serve some of their local wines made from the vineyards in their own backyard. To the north you’ll find the beginning of a trail known as Lovers Lane, which connects Manarola and Vernazza. Here you can catch views of fishing boats as they head out to sea along this 1km hike, or head up to the farming lands where you’ll find an overview of the entire village.
Finally we explored Monterosso, the northern tip of Cinque Terre. We found this village to be the most populated as it’s the only village with an actual beach. There were a lot more tourists and street vendors here and the setting wasn’t as relaxed or romantic as the former villages, though the beach was stunning with long chairs and beach umbrellas sheltering beach goers from the warm sun.
We had a dip at the beach. The water was turquoise blue and the clarity was amazing. A couple of bars below the station offer seafood such as deep fried fish and calamari rings with chips wrapped up in a cone, a must try! We ended our Cinque Terre adventure here and caught the train back to Levanto as we said farewell to my favourite coastline in Europe. If you’re searching for a European getaway, I would hands-down recommend Cinque Terre. Take a dip in the blue Ligurian Sea, enjoy unique local wines or hike from town to town using beautiful cliff-side trails. This place has it all. Whether you’re looking for romanticism or adrenaline, the five vibrant coastal villages of Cinque Terre have it all tucked away in their mountainous, colourful shores.
It’s now my second-to-last day in Italy. Admittedly I’ll be sad to farewell this beautiful country and all it has to offer, though I’m equally excited to soon be exploring London! Ciao for now.
– Ben Mikha
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