By: Jacqueline Kirby Zonkowski
A Day in Cinque Terre
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Cinque Terre was definitely on my “Italy Bucket List” before we left the states, so when we had 2 spare days with our car, I immediately started looking for hotels. We ended up staying in La Spezia as it was so last minute there were no rooms in Cinque Terre.
La Spezia is a cute little port town close by that most people go through anyway to get to Cinque Terre. When you get to the train station in La Spezia, make sure you go to the Cinque Terre Info room. This is where you can get the train / hiking ticket that allows you access to unlimited train rides between the 5 towns, La Spezia and Levante, as well as hiking the paths between towns and free access to the public bathrooms in all of the train stations.
The train runs along the coast line so as you ride, you can catch glimpses of the ocean through breaks in the tunnels. As we were riding I was getting more and more excited. There are 5 towns (get it, Cinque) called Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore.
We wanted to go to the furthest town, Monterosso, and work our way back. It is exactly how it looks in the photos. A beach with multi colored umbrellas, crystal clear blue seas, and people everywhere. I mean I was seriously like a kid in a candy shop. We found the closest bar and got a table along the rail looking over the water, ordered 2 Spritz and relaxed.
After a quick bite we were ready to get our toes wet. While a bit weary of leaving our stuff just on the beach, we went to the tourism office next to the train station and checked our bag with them for 6 Euro. Turns out we probably didn’t need it but it was our first beach and we thought better safe than sorry.
We swam for a bit and then continued on to the next town, Vernazza. As soon as we turned the corner from the train we saw a little cave with a peak of beach through it and a sign that said “No Trespassing.” Well, everyone else was down there so we ignored the sign, walked through the cave and found this incredible little slice of beach. Mike stripped down and was in the water before I could say wait. I went to join him and the water was just fabulous.
We continued on to the marina and found a spot easily enough. This time we ordered Limoncino Spritz. Oh.My.God. It was heavenly. So refreshing and went down wayyyyy too quickly.
Now both a bit buzzed, we decided to skip Corniglia and went to Manarola. Now Manarola is NOT to be missed. This is the one you see in all of the famous photos of the town up on the cliff and the people posing across the bay. There is a huge rock formation in the middle of the marina section and so many people were climbing up and jumping probably 30 feet down into the water. There was a bit of a cliff walk and I suggested to Mike we walk around it. Good thing we did. We found a much less populated cove and I did my best belly flop into the water.
The water has so much salt that you practically bob back up after getting in. We floated for ages it seemed like. The water was so serene, so few people in the area and just an incredible way to spend the afternoon. Mike went back to the cliff walk to take a photo of me floating and it may be my new favorite picture.
To our dismay we still had one town left to visit and it was almost dinner time. We reluctantly took our last photos in Manarola and went on to Riomaggiore.
This day is going to be ingrained in my memory forever as one of the best days of my life. Mike is not a beach person at all and the next day he said to me what an incredible time he had and how glad he was that we went.
My suggestion would to book in advance, find a hotel in one of the towns, and stay 2-3 days that way you aren’t rushing from place to place. There were paddle board rentals and kayaks from campingfunzone.com, all kinds of water equipment that I wish we had spent more time and enjoyed.
I don’t want to discredit La Spezia though. It is a beautiful town, full of energy and places to go. I think if there is a significant price difference in hotels from Cinque Terre to La Spezia, you will not be bored in La Spezia!