About a year ago, I saw photos of one of the most beautiful places on Earth: Cinque Terre. I had no idea where it was and assumed that it was located in an impossibly remote area that I would only visit when I’m retired. So you can imagine how excited I was to find out that it was actually not too far from Florence, where my friend and I were staying for a long weekend.
A word of warning: when I say “not too far from Florence”, I mean not far by car or by bus tour. If you decide to go at it alone by public transport (train or bus), you may or may not find yourself coming back at 3am after five hours of train hopping. The trains don’t come very frequently, so it’s important to plan ahead, especially in the evening.
Despite the hours it took us to get there and back, this day trip was the highlight of my weekend! Cinque Terre is actually made up of 5 villages nestled on seaside cliffs. The views are beautiful and there are even beaches to swim in (although the one near the first village, Riomaggiore, is a fairly tiny pebble beach so it’s not the most comfortable place to sunbathe).
This was early October and the water was quite warm by my standards, although all the Italians preferred to tan on the rocks rather than swim. The few that did venture in looked horrified at how “cold” the water was and it was mostly the pasty white non-Italians (like myself) that were enjoying a swim.
You can get to any of the five villages by bus, train, boat or walking. There are many trails to hike, although it’s better to check which ones are open since the area is prone to mini landslides. The prettiest village in my opinion, is Manarola, which is the one that is on most postcards (and the top of this post). The best view is actually from the hill opposite the village where there is a nice little restaurant that serves great wine and meat/cheese platters. Surprisingly, there was almost no one there, so we got to relax and watch the sunset before running off to catch the last train.