One of my favorite stops along my recent trip to Europe was Cinque Terre, Italy. We flew from Paris to Pisa, then took the train to the town of Riomaggiore, Cinque Terre. When we arrived at the station the owner of our B&B rental, Lorenza, was there to greet us with her miniature car. We drove up a hill for about five minutes to get to the house, winding through a road so narrow there were no more than 6 inches on each side between the car and two buildings! After settling in, Lorenza brought us ice cold Italian beers and potato chips. My wife and I enjoyed our snack on the balcony while listening to the ocean and taking in all the sights. We then ventured out to explore Riomaggiore: there was one Main Street with maybe 10 shops and 6 restaurants. The town is quaint, quiet and beautiful, with colorful buildings set on cliffs along the Mediterranean.
Our second day in Cinque Terre is when the real adventure began. The area is known for hiking trails that connect the "cinque terre", or five villages. Although two of the hikes were closed due to recent landslides, we were able to hike the two most difficult hikes. Our first hike started from Corniglia, which is up high on cliffs, a few hundred stairs up from the train station. The stairs were worth the trek: Corniglia is a beautiful town, also overlooking the ocean with picturesque, winding roads through beautiful buildings. We walked through the town and visited the local church, which was unexpectedly ornate with beautiful, old architecture. For lunch we got a focaccia pomodoro sandwich with tomato, mozzarella and basil - a perfect treat to fuel us for our first hike from Corniglia to Vernazza.
After a pasta lunch at a cafe along the water, I took a few photos of the town but the sun was too bright, so I scouted locations for later. We hopped back on the local train and headed to Monterosso to explore a bit more.
We stepped off the train to the largest of the towns, Monterosso, famous for its beautiful beaches. We explored the main strip of hotels and restaurants, and enjoyed an excellent dinner at Via Venti: gnocchi with crab, seafood risotto, and a local white wine from a Cinque Terre vineyard. After dinner we went back to Riomaggiore to capture shots at sunset.
I'd seen pictures of this trail online and knew I wanted to hike it early to grab a photo for my portfolio. As we wound our way up into the hill I saw the shot. We were looking directly down into the bay with Vernazza in perfect sight. The composition was amazing and the light was perfect. I love the organic view of the coastline without tons of people in the shot.
We continued on the winding trail up and down several paths through the mountain along steep cliffs and a few waterfalls. The views were amazing but this hike was a lot more nerve racking than our first. A few sections of the trail were no more than 2 feet wide with a 10 foot drop off. We finally got to the final stretch on our way into Monterosso: about 300 steps straight down a hill. The hike was exhausting but a great experience. The rewards for an almost 2 hour hike were the gorgeous view of Monterosso in the distance, an amazing lunch of lemon marinated anchovies and salmon salad by the water, and a relaxing afternoon on the beach. Instead of taking the train back to our house in Riomaggiore we took the local boat which stopped along each of the five villages. The evening weather was great for a boat ride and the photographs were even better. I was able to get some of the shots I was waiting to take of each village. I ended the day with a few more sunset photos from Riomaggiore followed by another delicious dinner of local seafood, pasta and wine.
We made it back to Riomaggiore for lunch at our favorite restaurant, Il Grottino where we again indulged in the lemon marinated anchovies, shrimp gnocchi, our favorite seafood spaghetti and of course a bottle of local wine. After lunch we visited the town church and the castle at the top of the village. The clouds hovered over the top of the mountain and made for a beautiful sight. On our way home we visited local shops and bought dinner to eat on our balcony: fresh tomatoes, prosciutto, cheese, fresh-baked focaccia and Italian beer - a great feast to celebrate the end of our trip to Cinque Terre.
We definitely fell in love with Cinque Terre and can't wait to go back. Each town has a unique charm and serene vibe. I would highly recommend anyone visiting if they have the chance.