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Wanderlust: Cinque Terre, Italy

Hello again!  I took a week off for fall break, and now I’m publishing on a Saturday instead of a Sunday. So basically two weeks off. College, dude.  But now I’m back with another great destination for you to add to your travel bucket list: Cinque Terre, Italy! Huge shoutout to my sister for allowing me to pick her brain and her photo album from her trip here.

Cinque Terre is actually a six-mile coastal stretch that encompasses fixe (chinque in Italian) cities. Vernazza, Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, and Monterosso may be geographically grouped, but each town has its own Italian dialect and charm.  Looking for a bumpin’ nightlife? Monterosso is the resort town with drivable roads and an actual club scene. Not big into the beach? Corniglia is the only town not on the coast.  Enjoy thrills? Riomaggiore features a winding trail on the edge of a cliff, and cliff jumping (!) is an attraction at both Vernazza and Manarola.  Sure, Rick Steves has a website blurb on these beautiful cities, but only adults like him, so instead, I’ve made my own compilation of the best things to do in Cinque Terre!

1. Hiking/walking ALL THE PATHS

Something important to know about these towns is that, because of their old history and relative exclusivity, people don’t really drive in or between them.  They have a train system between towns, but why take the train when you can walk?! This hike, riding from Riomaggiore to Monterosso or vice versa, is difficult but rewarding.  Tripadvisor (please sponsor me) reviews advise packing your walking shoes and maybe a rolling mat for your calves, because there are some serious sections of steep stairs.  Some of the trails close when it rains, so watch your step and get prepared for some amazing coastal and urban views.  Some routes are more populated and touristy than others, so be ready to pace through some crowds if you want to do them all.  If you’re planning on hitting all the cities, this is a great way to go.  Just looking for a one day excursion? Hike to the next town over to get a change of scenary and pace before heading back for your main stay in whichever city you’ve already booked.  Hint: between Riomaggiore and Manarola is the Via dell’Amore, where couples have secured locks with their initials on the fences for decades.  Super cute.

2. Church of San Francesco

Once you’ve walked to Monterosso, stop at this historical, hilltop church.  A small-town building that now houses a Capuchin Friars Monastery, the Church of San Francesco features yet another small hike.  Because the building is at the top of a coastal cliff, the views after you trek to the church are worth writing home for.  Monks living in the monastery chant and pray regularly, helping to maintain the quiet, pensive atmosphere.  Don’t expect any elaborate stained glass or wall-wide frescos, but there is a lot of culture in the area.  The church abuts a cemetery, where Monterosso’s history and lineage can be traced back over a century. Also, sorry but this isn’t actually a picture of this church… because my sister didn’t go there. Oops.

3. Borgo Antico

It seems that I just really like Monterosso (which was also in #2), and this old Italian village is essentially the downtown of the city.  With typical Italian architecture and winding streets and alleys, Borgo Antico keeps alive the feeling of age and history within a slowly growing tourist destination.  Wander down the narrow pedestrian streets (no way a car can fit here) and fight the barrage of tourists to shop in local boutiques, have a pint in family-owned bars, or grab a cup of coffee in quaint cafes.  Craftware and locally picked fruit is available at the regular farmers market here, and wine-tasting is more of a right than a privilege.  The old town melds into the new closer to the train station, and, at any time, you can detour in some direction and find yourself at the ocean. 

 

Doesn’t this place seem awesome! Yes. Yes, it does. Thank you again, wonderful sister, for the pics and the recommendations! Wanderlust be regular again soon, so I can get back on schedule with the rest of my life. In the meantime, schedule your summer trip to study abroad in Italy (like my sister) and go visit Cinque Terre. And let me know… so I can come crash at your place.

 

Cultural enthusiast. Certified cheapskate. A great combination.
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