For my first trip in Italy, my friends and I decided to go to Cinque Terre, a set of five coastal villages on the Italian Riviera. Its name means “Five Lands,” and it is an UNESCO World Heritage site. Instead of booking a pre-planned trip with a tour company like Bus2Alps or Smart Trips, we decided to plan this trip all on our own: we read tons of travel guides, found train tickets, and booked our own Airbnb!
We took the 7am train from Santa Maria Novella in Florence, to Pisa, and finally to La Spezia, a town just south of Cinque Terre. At the extremely crowded train station, we waited to buy our day passes for unlimited train and trail access. A 2 day pass was €29. Then we took the train to our first Cinque Terre village Vernazza. We were blown away by how beautiful, quaint, and picturesque it was. It was a cute little town with narrow streets, stacked pastel houses, and matching green window shutters; it was also packed with tourists. We stopped for lunch at Lunch Box, a cute little Italian/Mediterranean fast food place and coffee shop.
After exploring the village, which included a church, shops, and port, we set off on a hike to the next city, Monterosso al Mare. The views were some of the most beautiful I have ever seen, with lush greenery at every turn, and expansive views of the pastel houses and turquoise waters. As it was midday, it was quite hot, and with the strenuous inclines and steps, we had to take many rest stops. It was well worth it though, and at the end of the about two hour hike, the path lead down through some vineyards, where a local old man and woman were playing tunes on an accordion and flute.
Upon arriving in Monterosso al Mare, we were quite hungry, so we picked up some snacks and drinks at a supermarket. We brought it to the beach and for the first time, dipped into the Mediterranean Sea. It was absolutely surreal and incredible. I kept looking at my friend saying “Is this really happening?,” and I could not stop smiling as I looked back at the beach, the lush hillside dotted with houses and stores, and the shimmering water.
We then went to a second and larger beach, known for its beach chairs and colorful umbrellas. There was a cool shack where you can order gelato, snacks, and drinks and bring it on the beach! We swam and jumped off a big rock in the middle of the water, and filmed some cool underwater footage with GoPros.
After spending some time on the beach, we headed to Manarola for dinner. This village is perched up on a cliff with restaurants looking out onto a cove. We ate up at a restaurant called Marina Piccola and got to experience the stunning sunset over the water as we dined. I split a Risotto alla Frutta di Mare, with clams, shrimp, prawn, and squid. Other plates that my friends ordered were Tagliatelle (a wide noodle) with Sword Fish, and Trofie (hand rolled pasta) with Pesto. Incredible!
After the meal, we headed back to La Spezia to check in at our Airbnb. And get this, our Airbnb was a night on a yacht in the port of La Spezia! It was a beautiful boat, with sleeping quarters, bathrooms, and a top deck. It was also in a great location with a view of the city, water, and a large bridge. After getting settled in we hung out until late on the top deck, and then finally drifted off to sleep as we were rocked by the gentle Mediterranean waves…
Trip journal to be continued in the next blog post!