I visited Italy as a child with my family but you never truly remember all the details of those trips and your memories get distracted by kid’s camps or games. When we were looking for somewhere to visit this summer, my boyfriend and I both had seen photos of a beautiful region on the coast of Italy which offered sun, sea and walking opportunities. I was craving a break from my busy London life and this was a fantastic excuse for a holiday. I was excited for the opportunity to explore the picturesque trails of Cinque Terre.
On the Italian Riviera, Cinque Terre (which means Five Lands) comprises of five coastal villages and an area of national park. The villages are called Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore. They are constructed on the steep edges of the cliff side and are made up of complex terraces squeezed into the small spaces available. The villages are each connected by trains and boats but what attracted us to this region was the ability to walk between each village in a couple of hours.
We spent four days in Cinque Terre exploring the villages and local area. We stayed in Riomaggiore, the most southern village, and walked between all five villages on trails that varied from 1 hour to 3 hours. The villages are a beautiful collection of multi-coloured buildings however the walks allowed us to escape the tourist filled villages themselves, which are popular day trip locations from Pisa and Florence. The trails elevated us out of the valleys and provided great views of the each village individually and the stunning surrounding scenery.
I have to admit the trails were hard work in the heat. We planned to get up early each day to miss the high heat of the day but something would always delay us whether it was the trains or just the comfort of our beds. Each walk started with an intense climb straight up the hillside however the rewarding scenery was worth the effort.
The region is known for a couple a couple of local delicacies. We made sure we sampled each. Firstly its sea food, in particular the anchovies. I always try to eat a lot of sea food at the coast as it is so fresh. We tried fried anchovies in Vernazza when we asked the waiter for his recommendations on the menu. He proceeded to pick out our whole dinner and it was definitely a good choice as the food was fantastic. Pesto originated in the region. Freshly made with local ingredients it tasted nothing like the products we get in jars here. And of course the wine. We spent all day walking along hillsides covered in vineyards and therefore it was only right that we sampled the local produce in the evenings. In particular ‘Sciacchetra’ is a prized local desert wine.
It was a great trip and I would recommend Cinque Terre to anyone who is looking for a true escape. You can’t and don’t want to plan each day out. Each day we surfaced, looked out the window to check the weather and then grabbed a map and roughly plotted a route for the day. The trains were often late, the boats sometimes didn’t run because the sea was too rough and sometimes it was too hot to even consider climbing a massive hill. If this was the case you just changed your plans or waited, knowing that whatever happended that day, Cinque Terre would have something stunning to offer. We were never disappointed.