Best Weekend Getaway: Cinque Terre

For a lovely getaway from Genoa, look no further than Cinque Terre. These five colorful villages, each hundreds of years old and perched on rocky outcroppings, are connected by gorgeous hiking paths, boats, and a straightforward train system. Come to drink wonderful wine, hike along the stunning coastline, and sun on the beautiful (and sometimes hidden!) beaches.

Via Guidoni, 19018 Vernazza SP, Italy
Any meal served in an eleventh century castle overlooking the sea has to be good. But dinner at Belforte in Vernazza (Cinque Terre) is an experience to be rivaled by few others. Daniele can tell you about the most recent catch, the housemade pesto, and the choice half-carafe of local wine. Come early. And just linger. Enjoy all the courses. You will pay mightily for the food, but the sunset over the Ligurian sea is simply priceless. (You can also rent the castle apartment for that extremely special occasion!)
Piazza Rio Finale, 8, 19017 Riomaggiore SP, Italy
One of the highlights of my trip to Italy was walking Cinque Terre. I would travel back to Italy just to do this walk again. My favorite part was the Via dell’Amore, or Walk of Love that went from Riomaggiore to Manarola. This is a picture of one of the many tunnels built into the mountain. The walls were covered with this amazing grafiti. The colors were so vibrant and bold. Right after this tunnel is where you start to see the thousands and thousands of locks couples in love would add with their names on them. Such a romantic and spectacular walk.
19017 Riomaggiore SP, Italy
Sometimes it’s nice to get off the beaten path. You can take the normal pathways around Cinque Terre (and they are spectacular in their own right) but you can also veer a bit off the normal journey and take the ‘high road’ to catch a glimpse of some breathtaking vistas. Leaving Riomaggiore through the back road on foot, keep walking up hill until you see a small set of stairs under the main road that lead down to a grass path. Follow this path under the stone bridge, and begin your ascent up through the vineyards and terraced gardens. When you reach the top, soak up the unrivaled sea views. From some out-perches, you can see four of the five villages at one time.
Hiking the Cinque Terre is an extraordinary way to explore the Ligurian Coast. Five villages connected only by hiking trail and rail with breathtaking coastal views and colorfully quaint villages. The trails can be challenging at times and it is recommended to wear proper footwear (I felt terrible for those in flip flops). Also allow for 1.5 hours of trail time between the villages. You also will need to procure a hiking pass 5 euro for one day 8 euro for a two day pass. Passes are available at tiny huts at the entrance from each trail (outside of the respective villages).
Via Guidoni, 56, 19018 Vernazza SP, Italy
I was hungry and wanted to see the sunset. As a solo traveler, getting to do both -- eat well at a table with a view -- was tough. They wanted to save the best for duos. So after being given a lame table at a chic-chic (read: super expensive) spot near the breakwater, I raced against the setting sun back up the trail toward Corniglia where I remembered seeing a lovely restaurant overlooking the sea. Upon arriving all sweaty and gross, I got the table -- and the good eats. These were by far the best mussels I’ve ever eaten: stuffed with bread crumbs, mortadella cheese, herbs and, of course, mussel meat. Bellisima!
19018 Vernazza, SP, Italy
If you find yourself on the Mediterranean Sea or in Italy then be sure you make your way to Cinque Terre. Cinque Terre, or “The Five Lands” (in Italian), is composed of five villages: Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore, which make up the Cinque Terre National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There is little or no “corporate development” here. The place has changed little over the past few hundred years and it is picturesque to say the least with turquoise blue water, dramatic sea cliffs, and terraced hillsides full of grape vines and olive groves. Hiking is the best way to experience Cinque Terre and to get the feel of the five distinct villages. I enjoyed the first hike so much that I decided to do it again a few days later. The vistas are magnificent and I would suggest stopping to spend time in each village to sample their distinct wine, have a snack in one, lunch in another, and gelato at the end. You are in Italy after all! Plan on the hike consuming your day so that you have time to take in the views along the way, spend time in each village, and swim a few times along the way. I also recommend starting in Riomaggiore and ending in Monterosso (and take the train back to whichever village you are residing in during your stay). Plan on a five-hour hike that can be rather strenuous at times. Wear comfortable shoes (not flip-flops) and wear sunblock. You can buy food and water along the way and bail to the train anytime.
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