Cinque Terre, Italy

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

The Cinque Terre wasn't exactly on the direct route to Andorra... but it was on the wanderlust short list and had to be seen before we're outta here in two or three months ("or" because, well, #army...)!

The Cinque Terre, a remote chunk of the Italian Riviera, is the traffic-free, relaxed alternative to the French Riviera. No museums or major sights, just sun, sea, sand (well, pebbles), and pure, unadulterated Italy. This area was first described in medieval times as "the five lands," i.e. the Cinque Terre. During the feudal period the lands were watched over by castles and tiny communities grew in their protective shadows. After the raids from Muslim pirates died down after 1545 the villages prospered on the backs of fishing and cultivating grapes. Until the advent of tourism in this generation, these towns remained very isolated and even today, traditions survive and each village has its own unique dialect and proud heritage.
We found a five-star airbnb ( right in the heart of the southernmost village, Riomaggiore. It was fun to feel and live like a local for a day! As soon as we dropped off our bags we headed out to visit...

Village #1 - RIOMAGGIORE
This is the most substantial non-resort town of the group and is a fascinating tangle of pastel homes leaning this way and that.

Jane, the one and only.

Livin' the Italian life: pasta with fresh pesto sauce (which was invented here!) out on our rooftop balcony.
So charming.
Riomaggiore has a wonderfully sheltered marina area.
Back alleys and back doors.

Looking out to sea.
The rocks around the coast here are awesome. So many cool layers and patterns.
Fox down above the marina looking up to town. The kids were so happy to be out of the car. Okay, I was happy too. Especially with this scenery welcoming us! Also note the fresh basket of strawberries which Fox ate in about .0000237 seconds.
Our family in Riomaggiore, Italy on Saturday April 1st 2017.

Village #2 - MANAROLA

The next morning we hopped on the handy train that connects all the towns and rode one stop north to Manarola, a charming town that fills a ravine and is bookended by its wild little harbor and a tiny church square.
Looking down the town's main drag towards the coast.
How could you not love all of the color?!

More color. | Piazza Capellini. | Hiking along the vineyards. | Pink & green details. | Views.

A long time ago each of these towns was split by a river or stream that ran down their centers. Each village has since covered their rivers with practical modern roads, but this waterwheel recalls the past. Plus, it's an homage to the town's name which means, in the local dialect, "big wheel."
At the top of the town is the church of St. Lawrence. The kids saw a cat outside the church doors and had a heyday watching it two inches from its face.

The vineyard walk above town was immaculate. Check out these views!
She's cute.
Ever since Napoleon, who was the king of Italy in the early 1800s, declared that cemeteries were health risks, the villages of the Cinque Terre have buried their loved ones outside the towns, often on top of bluffs leaving the dearly departed with world-class sea views.
Playground with a view. We always stop when the kids see playgrounds - they love 'em.

More of those cool rocks!


Give me all the colors!
The weather called for rain all day but we totally lucked out, it drizzled for a bit, then cleared right up as we went along.
Our family in Manarola, Italy on Sunday April 2nd 2017.

Village #3 - CORNIGLIA
One more stop on the train north is the only village of the five not on the sea: Corniglia.
This is the quietest town of the bunch with a very mellow and relaxed vibe.
Being up high, it has some great views!
Fox was a wee bit grumpy. It happens to the best of us.
Sweet Jane.
Jane literally screamed, "It's a whale tail!" Lololol. The only two other people up there with us (I'm assuming American tourists - we heard more English here than anywhere we've been yet!) laughed too.
The town got its name, legend has it, from a Roman farmer who settled the area and named it after his mother.

How can one be grumpy eating gelato?!
After enjoying this quiet little town, we hiked back down to the train station and got ready to head north once again for village #4.
Our family in Corniglia, Italy on Sunday April 2nd 2017.

Village #4 - VERNAZZA

With a natural harbor, picturesque castle ruins, and a stout stone church, Vernazza is the self-proclaimed jewel of the Cinque Terre.
I guess everyone else thought so, too. This was by far the most crowded town we visited. That's okay :)

Church of Santa Margherita Pizza on the harbor. | Door.

Fishing boats parked in the harbor.
The awesome rocks! Aren't these cool?
The town is very proud of its heritage and has fought very hard to keep it. They like to brag about how all the businesses are locally owned and families are very tight and go back centuries in the area.
Looking up Via Roma back towards the train station.
We hiked up to the castle ruins. This tower served as the watchtower for the town back in pirate days and was a Nazi lookout in World War II.
Inside the spiral stepped tower.

Views. So beautiful.

Looking down over the town from the watchtower.
Such a beautiful back alley. Pink and green?! Be still my heart.
Fox having fun. | Jane deciding which way to go.
 Our family in Vernazza, Italy on Sunday April 2nd 2017.

The last stop to the north is the fifth and final Cinque Terre town, Monterosso al Mare.
This town has the best beachfront area with a long stretch of flat coast to soak up the sun. In fact, this is the only Cinque Terre town built on flat land.
As we walked along the beachfront promenade we could look south along the coast and pick out the other four towns.
In the heart of the old town on Piazza Garibaldi.

Hiking up and around the rocky breakwater towards the new town.

Can you spot the other towns?
Our kids doing their favorite thing in the world: throwing rocks into the ocean.

At the very north end of town is the cool statue known as "Il Gigante."
Built in 1910 on the edge of the elegant Villa Pastine, the statue quickly became a symbol of the town. It suffered damage from Allied bombs during the war and relentless pounding from the sea, but it still stands watch over the village.

 Chris & Paige in Monterosso al Mare, Italy on Sunday April 2nd 2017.
Video compilation of our day in the Cinque Terre:

It was a little crazy to visit five villages in 24 hours, but it had to be done and it was worth it! The kids were troopers and happily accepted bribes :)
The next morning we drove to Genoa, Italy!


  1. Beautiful photos. Italy is on my bucket list. :)

  2. I'm so happy that you like the 5 terre!! And what do you think about gelato??? is it good???
    Have fun in Genova!!!

  3. My beautiful Country :)
    I visited Cinque Terre, they are just spectacular.


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