Cinque Terre - The Italian Riviera
There are five breathtaking constructed fishing villages, set amidst the coastline in the Italian Riviera that we fell in love with: Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore. It is no surprise that the coastline and the surrounding hillsides which make up the Cinque Terre National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The rugged, steep landscape interacts with the cliffs where some homes and farms are built. These amazingly unique builds are lovingly affectionate with colourful façades facing the mediterranean sea. We hiked, took a train ride, drove and even climbed through the beautiful adventurous cliffs. With not a museum in sight, you will find every excuse to blend in with the locals and enjoy the sun, sea, sand, wine, hikes and go for a dip in the sea. Call it a ´lazy´ holiday, but we have never seen more relaxed, happier travellers enjoying their vacation so much.
The Cinque Terre's natural and cultural wonders did it all for us. There are no chain stores, which we are always glad to skip and made us really appreciative of the cute little stores and handmade products. It was surprisingly impressive how each of the fives villages speak a distinct dialect and have their very own proud heritage.
We have a soft spot for the small village of Vernazza for its artisanal goods and beautiful sea views. The Vernazza sandals captured our eyes for having cork footbed and jersey lined leather which is known worldwide for it's well-fitting flip flop style in the market. There are plenty of bars and restaurants here and we found this town to be overflowing with local art work. We also found the sights and sounds near the harbour joyful while soaking up the sun's rays.
The beautiful town of Corniglia has a relaxing main square and quiet atmosphere. Being the only one of the five towns to not be on the water, it is best known for going up the hiking trail. The legend goes that a Roman farmer originally settled in this town, naming it to his mother Cornelia.
The town of Riomaggiore, which is the closest to the port side of La Spezia, is said to date back to the 8th Century; when the inhabitants of the Vara valley, searching a milder climate to raise grapevines and olive-trees without the fear of pirate raids, moved towards the coast. The town overlooks the sea and it is characterised from the typical stone houses with coloured façades.
It is argued that the Italian Riviera invented pesto, the type that truly represents Italian cuisine and we witnessed lots of people buying jars at a time. People in the past cooked with what they grew near home as no roads or cars were presence 50 years ago. Pesto symbolizes that: basil, pine nuts, garlic, olive oil, grated cheese. Local pastas, trofie and trenette, are served with pesto, and in some restaurants, with green beans and potatoes. Be sure to try the anchovies as they are fished off of Monterosso. In the gulf of La Spezia they grow mussels in large quantities, best tried steamed with olive oil, garlic and parsley or bread stuffing. If you are like us, you love your fried fish then be sure to order the street food crazed mixed fried seafood as they come in paper cones for 6 - 8 euros in any of the five towns. The mixed fried seafood has fried anchovies, small octopus, little cuttlefish, prawns, scampi, sole and more. Eat them with your hands and make sure to take some extra for the road.
Cinque Terre is a must visit indeed! We flew to Pisa to make our way up, but you can also start from the top of the Italian Riviera by flying into Bologna. There is always a way to head back!