Let me get this over with. I love Cinque Terre. It’s where Italians spend their vacation- it is that great. Don’t make the mistake of many visitors and book one day here- spend at least three days. Some, like myself, have taken substantially more time. We come for the weekend and just neglect to catch the train back out of town.
What is it about the Cinque Terre that has everyone buzzing? It’s morphed from five sleepy fishing villages on the Italian Riviera to a must visit destination. Is it the picturesque colored homes gouged into the steep hillsides? Is it sipping a perfect white wine on your ocean view patio in the vineyards. Is it the relaxed beaches and pack-your-own-lunch vibe? Yes,it is all those things and more.
When I travel I don’t need to know the history of a town so I can find a great place to eat dinner. That’s why I love distilling the highlights of an area to give visitors a leg up. Here is my smokin’ hot list on where to save, where to splurge and what to skip in the Cinque Terre.
Where To Save: Entertainment
Entertainment comes cheap in Cinque Terre. Tips for maximizing your experience and minimizing your expenditure while having a blast is something I love to talk about.
1) Hiking: 10 euro. That includes connecting trains in the area and all the trails for a day. These amazing trails connect all the villages and the scenery and views are epic. You’ll shoot postcard-like photos here.
2) Beaches: Free. You may be surprised to see that you must pay for many beaches in Italy. Here, no. Monterosso is beautiful and sandy, but crowded. Riomaggiorre has my favorite beach. Pick from large flat stones or rounded boulders to lounge away the day.
3) Sightseeing by Ferry: 12 euro. Using the passenger ferry is an opportunity to get out on the ocean and indulge in a panoramic view of the five villages. It can also be a great way to skip train travel and go farther afield to bubbly Portofino.
4) Via dell’Amore: 5 euro.This paved section of trail runs between Riomagiorre and Manarola. It is suitable for strollers and small children. The fifteen minute trip down Lovers Lane is stunning day or night. I suggest a night time stroll with the sun setting as you head out for dinner.Walk home by starlight. This is Cinque Terre perfection.
Where to Splurge: Eating
Unlike many places in Italy where you can have a great meal for a very reasonable price, Cinque Terre isn’t that place. Average prices for under average meals abound. There are a few haunts, however, that serve outstanding food. I’ve dined at all three places listed and have been more than happy to shell out the extra coin.
1) Trattoria dal Billy in Manarola: My friend from this village recommended we eat here. This fantastically fun environment has outstanding eats. It is carved into the hillside and gives an impressive view of the terraced vineyards and the sea. Just go!
2) Ciak in Monterrosso: This is the most famous place in Cinque Terre to eat. It had divided fans: some rave about it, others hate it. If you’re up for the adventure go see what all the hype is about.
3) Ristorante Belvedere in Monterroso: This ristorante situated on the seaside promenade serves up an exciting meal made for sharing. Order the “Amphora” and receive a beautiful clay vessel filled with stewed lobsters, mussels, clams, octopus and swordfish. We took my mom here and it was her top meal in Italy.
What to Skip: Indoor Sightseeing
If you are in Italy then you’ve probably shoved your way through numerous museums, galleries, churches and archeological marvels. I would suggest skipping the architectural highlights of the Cinque Terre and focus on its abundant natural beauty. Agriculture and fishing were the driving preoccupation of Cinque Terre’s past. Save your indoor sightseeing for Italy’s historic cities and towns, filthy rich with artistic patronage that provided for frescos and gilt in practically every church and museum. The Cinque Terre is best when you concentrate on her assets. Stay outside and love every minute.
Written by Bianca Gignac for EuropeUpClose.com
Bianca spent a weekend in Cinque Terre and ended up living in Italy for a couple years. She plans splendid getaways for people visiting the Cinque Terre and writes at Italian Fix ..her blog about Italian travel and lifestyle…for all your Cinque Terre questions.