The Best Summer Ever | Spending time in Cinque Terre

Cinque Terre

View from hostel balcony
As part of my summer series, I am guiding you along the path that I took earlier on this year through Italy! If you have not already read my introductory or Milan posts then go check them out now! 

The next destination on our journey was Cinque Terre, located in the Cinque Terre National Park, on the beautiful Ligurian coastline. 'Cinque Terre' in Italian translates as 'The Five Lands', and it is composed of five special villiages which have radically become popular tourist destinations, even though most of its visitors cannot pronounce its name; 'chinkweh terrreh'. The five villages are only accessible by boat, train and pathways which contributes to its rustic attraction.
Our lengthy train ride from Milan took us all along the shimmering rocky coastline of northern Italy on a beautiful day. With the sun blazing through the window for the whole journey, I had a feeling I wouldn't need the raincoat which Milan required, and we were soon to be whipping out the bikinis!

We arrived at the first of the five towns called Riomaggiore, where we had booked a hostel for four nights with a company called Cinque Terre Holidays. We had read reviews about the hostel that warned us about the prompt closure of the company's reception at 4pm each day, so at about 3:45 we were legging it up the hill through the village so to not miss check-in. After a stressful, sweaty and strenuous drag up the hill, two very out of breath English girls finally found the office and were greeted by the opposite of a happy, short, fat and welcoming Italian man. This guy was pretty scary and had no time for the fact that I was panting and sweating all over the place. I attempted some small talk in Italian to get him on our good side, and he simply replied how he hates money and tourists.... Bit of a bad job to be in then, mate!
After waiting about an hour for the 'porter' (if you can call him that), we were shown to our room, which turned out to be over t h r e e h u n d r e d steps away, up a mountain. Me, being the lovely friend that I am, gave Louise my small suitcase in exchange for hers as we lugged them up some questionable steps. Finally, we reached the hostel and I seriously felt like I had ran a marathon, or at least I looked like it. We were greeted by some lovely Australian travellers who gave us the low-down on the area which we appreciated.

Our hostel was more of an apartment with two big rooms, a living room, bathroom, kitchen and a balcony with the most incredible view. Most of our hostel companions were either American or Australian for the first few nights and then we had two lovely Italian girls staying in our room on the last night and we had a great time with all of them. The Italians left us a cute note when they left! 

Leaving note from Deborah and Valeria
We had about four days to explore the five towns, which is definitely ample time to do it in. We even came across people who visited them all in one day! We left that to the hardcore backpackers who didn't mind waking up before 10am, unlike us. We had heard from other travellers that the town of Corniglia was a little boring, or at least it would be the one to miss if you didn't have time for it. So we visited the other towns of Manarola, Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza and Riomaggiore. Each town has its own little special something, so it was fun to explore these and try to find some spots less-discovered.

Each day I would wake up feeling a little less than fresh after spending the night before (every night) indulging in red wine and crostini with a pinch of salt and the best olive oil I've ever tasted. After pottering around in our lovely hostel, we would finally make it down the million steps to the main part of town in search of food. One day we discovered this lovely fresh pasta shop where you can choose your pasta shape and sauce and they cook it in front of you, all for €5! So, as normal people do, we had this for breakfast and dinner on more than one occasion... It was SO GOOD. On other days we grabbed a freshly made pizza and went to the beach front and sat in the beautiful sunshine and had pranzo.

Pasta fresca

Nomnomnomnomnom FRESH PASTA
After our craving for cheesy carbs subsided, we would set off on the train to visit the neighbouring towns. Now. I would like to warn anybody who suffers from claustrophobia to re-think using these trains in August. A journey that should take no more than 10 minutes can take up to 50 minutes- as we found out on Ferragosto (a public holiday celebrated each year where EVERY ITALIAN IN THE WORLD goes to the beach for the day.) We experienced a little moment on the train on this busy day where waaayyy too many people were trying to get onto an already packed train. One fiery Italian definitely did not appreciate being stopped from getting on the train and almost swang at the poor tourist who was only speaking for the rest of us poor buggars, sharing sweat and God know what else with every other passenger..
BUSY station!
Monterosso al Mare is the only town with a proper sandy beach, as the rest of them are more rocky/ cliff edges. Again, we made the mistake of visiting this already highly demanded beach on Ferragosto so we really struggled to find a place to settle that wasn't on an old Nonna's lap. Eventually we were able to put our bags down and get into the sparkly awesomeness of the ocean. This decision almost led us, but especially Louise, to an early death. The sea was really choppy that day and we thought it would be a great idea to go out past the nasty shallow waves and simply bob along with the tide. Or not. If anyone on that beach that day hadn't already seen enough, they were treated to the sight of me and Louise getting dragged around the undercurrent and getting washed up on the shore in not a very presentable state... Any girl who has worn a bikini and been strewn across the beach will know what I mean. But the best bit about it, was seeing the sheer panic and fear on a now sunglass-less Louise's face as she was bleeding from her scuffed knees with a little bit/ a lot of escaped snot down her chin. This absolutely brilliant memory will remain with us for a very long time, i'm sure.
Il mare
One lovely day was spent in Vernazza with our new American pals Erin, Vicky and Katie from the hostel. We ate pizza, swam in the sea and walked along some beautiful cliff walkways, as well as simply having a good laugh with these awesome girls. Vernazza has some of the most beautiful views out of the five villages and what's a better way to view them than by laying on the ocean walkway in front of them for half the day in the sunshine? It was pure heaven! We also went for a walk along the edge of the cliff and saw the most beautiful view, and it was lovely to share the moment with our new buddies!
Bella Vernazza
Bella Vernazza
La Spezia is not within the 5 towns but it is just outside Riomaggiore, but still within the National Park. One day, Louise and I became a little confused on the train and somehow ended up there so we had a little look around. It is a shame that visitors to Cinque Terre do not go to La Spezia because it really is a lovely place! We actually preferred it to some of the 5 towns because we had a LOT more space there, with less tourists and many more things to do! Including shopping ;) So, if you're in the area I would really suggest popping into La Spezia. We spent a fair while sitting in the sun at the harbour watching the odd boat coming in or out, and reading our books. It was nice to relax in peace :)
La Spezia Harbour
So, that's some of my story from Cinque Terre. I'd like to thank my Italian teacher Ugo for the recommendation to go there because it really was a pleasure! When we were in other parts of Italy after our visit here, we came across many travellers who said they were planning to go there and it was a great feeling to say we had already visited it. It is definitely a place to visit during your lifetime and you even have my recommendation now! 

I'll leave it here with some more pictures from our time in Cinque Terre. Keep your eyes peeled for my next post on our time in Sanremo!

New American pals


What a view....

I hope you enjoyed this post as much as I enjoyed writing it!

A presto!
Olivia xx

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