About three and a half hours from Florence lie the small villages known as Cinque Terre Riviera. Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, and Monterosso each have their own picturesque charm. These towns are beautiful and a must see for anyone who is traveling to Italy. The english translation, Five Terraces, are hard to get to by land, and therefore they have remained relatively unmarred.
They are the perfect image of what you would expect from a Mediterranean town, and they emit a fairytale aura.
How to Get There
Leaving from Florence, I generally recommend hopping on the 6:08 train which will put you in Riomaggiore around 9:45, depending on connections. The ticket there costs €17, and if there is just a few of you, I recommend buying your return tickets at the train station in Cinque for more flexibility. The return ticket will cost about the same. This helps if you need to leave earlier due to bad weather, or if you're just having so much fun you want to stay later!
Begin With the Challenge
Start your day with the hike. Trust me when I say THIS IS A HIKE. If you're not into climbing 57 flights of rugged terrain for one of the most amazing views you will ever see, you might want to reconsider these trails. I'm not trying to scare anyone off, but I've seen many people opt out of climbing it before, and no judgements held if that's your decision.
Keep in mind it is 100% worth the pain for a view this amazing.
To get on the trails the cost is around €7.50, but you can usually convince them to give you a student rate at €4.50 a person. Other options are available for unlimited train and ferry rides as well, which is great if you're going to be visiting each town.
I've done most of the trails (be sure to check before you go to make sure there are no landslides), and my favorite trail scenic-wise is the trail from Riomaggiore to Manarola. This offers the view of the perfect colorful Italian homes set into the side of the hill that everyone craves to see. This is definitely one of the more straight uphill climbs. This will take you around an hour, as it isn't one of the longest trails.
The other trail I recommend that is usually open tends to be more convenient for people since you end up in the largest city. This is the hike from Vernazza to Monterosso. Equally as beautiful in it's own right, the more challenging part of this hike is making sure you don't slip on your way down. (The trail going down is STEEP, so don't reverse your path and go Monterosso to Vernazza!)
This trail is a little bit longer than the others and is around 4.5 miles, and generally takes me around an hour and a half to complete.
If you're a true hiker and love to exercise (YGG), the entire trails will take around 6 hours. This isn't something I have personally done yet, but plan to in the near future, once the weather cools off a little bit.
So then what?
You're on a beautiful Italian beach, that's what! Go buy a panino, change out of your hiking clothes and into your swimsuit.
When you get off the trail in Monterosso just keep walking past the first beaches you see. Go through the tunnel and keep walking until you get near the train station. Here is where they sell fried calamari and squid, you can get sandwiches, and also giant margarita buckets the bar has named "Drunk Ass Buckets". They aren't wrong.
If you opted to do one of the other hikes just take the train or ferry from whichever town you're in to Monterosso. The trail will cost you around 3€ and the ferry will cost a little more and you can purchase those at the ferry pier of each town.
If you can't find a place to put your blaket on the public beach, head over to one of the beach chalets and buy a chair to sit in for the day. A chair generally costs around €12. With an umbrella it can be around €16-18. Tourist season can get pretty crazy in Cinque, and in August its filled with Italians on vacation.
Swim in the crystal clear waters, and enjoy the beautiful Italian Riviera.
What to pack?
Keep it simple and light. Remember if you're doing the hike you're going to have to be taking your bag with you pack everything in a small comfortable backpack.
What to wear:
Wear athleisure clothes, for the hike, I usually end up in bike shorts and a tank with my nikes, sometimes adding a flannel to make it a little more fashionable. Hats my good sunglasses with UVA protection complete the ensemble.
In your bag:
- large blanket or towel to lay on
- bathing suit
- deodorant/chapstick (you will be smelly)
- portable phone charger
- extra change of clothes so you don't have to put your smelly ones back on
Bonus points if your phone has a lifeproof case on it!