The Cinque Terre is a fascinating and beautiful part of Italy. Being only 2hrs from Genoa or 3hrs from Milan it makes a great short break from the UK or Western Europe and is a fantastic place to take a break from a busy touring holiday in Italy. While it is famous for its hiking trails, there is still plenty to tempt the non-hiker whether you are looking for a girly getaway, a romantic rendezvous or just a relaxing break.
Orientation to the Cinque Terre
The Cinque Terre is made of up of five villages. The first village, Monterosso al Mare is the only one with 4 star hotels and anything much in the way of nightlife. It is also the only village with any sort of beach. The other four villages are quieter, and more authentic, with Nonnas hanging up their washing on their balconies and fishing boats in the main street.
Is definitely relaxed and low key. This is not high end resort or rowdy party territory. This is where you take a chill pill, pull up a comfy chair at a bar, order a local wine and watch the world go by. Join (or watch!) the task-oriented French and German hikers on the trails above the villages. Wait for the train to take you between villages, and don’t panic if it’s late.
Here you have two options – either a small, quaint family owned hotel (with the odd, larger 4 star in Monterosso) or private camere (rooms), some of which have self catering facilities. Two and three star hotels are basic, but are a good way to get in contact with the Cinque Terre vibe. At my modest 13 room Manarola hotel, the owner made the morning cappuccinos in the breakfast room, his daughter manned the desk, and their dog was the star of the show.
Food & Wine
Seafood is king – and is delicious and cheap.
It goes perfectly with the local white wine – seek them out on wine lists in local restaurants. Leave room for the local dessert wine sciachetra. Served with biscotti for dunking, it makes a dessert all of its own. Delicious!
Touring the villages: each with their own character and charm, all are worth a visit.
Head up out of town and wonder at the fabulous views: even if you are not a hiker, do head up into the hills and admire the view back over the villages to the sea.
Ferry rides: to the villages themselves or further afield to Portovenere. Late afternoon from the ferries is the perfect time to admire the villages looking their best. If you are lucky, your ferry will be accompanied by a pod of dolphins.
Enjoy the simple things: watch the gulls wheeling around over the sea, enjoy the wild flowers along the walking trails, and savour a locally made gelato. Breathe and savour the moment.
Day tripping to Portofino: the definitely-5 star resort town of Portofino is well worth a day trip. An hour by train, then either a short bus ride (or flat 45min spectacular walk) and you will be in the Cinque Terre’s wealthy cousin. If serious retail therapy is what you need, here is the place to do it.
Portofino has the distinction of being the only genuine fishing village I’ve seen that boasts a Louis Vuitton, Hermes, Missoni, Pucci et al.
What to pack
Casual is key. The Cinque Terre is not dressy. Leave the statement heels at home – the streets are too steep and you will look like you are off to a fancy dress party. Stick to simple (rubber soled) flats or trainers. Trousers or floaty skirts are best for hopping on and off the train or ferries. A hat and plenty of sunscreen are essentials in the summer.
A place to forget your cares, relax, talk to the locals and bliss out on the simple things in life…….
Jo Karnaghan has spent the last 25 years travelling in Europe, during which time she has honed her travel philosophy of frugal but first class. Her dream is to be able to travel in Europe fulltime, and to always turn left upon boarding the plane. She is currently writing her first book (on travel of course). Jo believes the best parts of any trip are often those that cost nothing. When she is not writing, planning or thinking about travel, Jo has a busy career as a medical practitioner, wife and mother, and student of French. She lives in Sydney, Australia. Jo is the author of the popular blog www.frugalfirstclasstravel.com and can also be found on Twitter @jokarnaghan1 and Facebook at www.facebook.com/frugalfirstclasstravel
Jo is also a guest blogger for the women’s business travel network www.maiden-voyage.com