Hiking the trail between Vernazza and Monterossa was one of the most rewarding experiences.
For some relaxation and fresh air while still taking advantage of traveling, beach destinations can be the perfect solution. Cinque Terre, on the northwest coast of Italy satisfies the adventurer, sun-soaker, swimmer, and, of course, eater in you with ease.
Cinque Terre is one of those places that you see photos of and immediately want to know where it is. The colorfully stacked beach houses straddle the green waters and white sands, and walking through the town you can’t help but picture yourself carrying one of the small boats on your head with a friend down to the water.
Coming from La Spezia train station, you can also take the train from each of the five villages, but hiking at least one of the paths between two towns is vital to making your Cinque Terre experience adventurous instead of just a pampering beach trip that can be duplicated anywhere.
The five towns, Monterossa, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore all have different personalities. Riomaggiore is the first and perfect welcoming town, Vernazza is great for jumping off the rocks into the green water, Corniglia is the highest point well worth the step-climbing, Manarola has colorful and less tourist trampled neighborhoods, and Monterossa is the tourist and beachgoer destination.
The towns, especially Monterossa, can get overcrowded in the summer, but choosing the right activities and paths can make for a more private and unique experience. Hiking the trail between Vernazza and Monterossa was one of the most rewarding experiences when I went, because the trail wasn’t paved over or necessarily easy, but involved a lot of makeshift steps and narrow paths. Though it takes over an hour, the views from the path are unparalleled of the surrounding towns and sea.
Another way to make sure that you don’t fall for the made-for-tourists flavorless gelato or pizza is to look for fresh seafood, especially anchovies. Though the beaches are lined with restaurants all catering to tourists, some obviously take the time to cook great cuisine while others just look to make money. Walking further down the street that parallels the beach is worth it to see all of your options.
Perhaps the biggest advice is to know what the usual tourist does in each town, and choose what things seem essential while adding on some of the more rare experiences. Though the hike may cut down on your beach time, it is more valuable as an activity.
Most of all, it is important to realize that even if a place is very tourist-heavy, everyone’s experience is different. Know what you like to do and tailoring a travel experience to your own style is what makes it memorable. Don’t be afraid to go somewhere that everyone else is going, but don’t be afraid to mix it up either.
Article & photos by AJ Kiyoizumi.