All over Pinterest, you can find “Day trips from ___” posts. When I had started looking into Italy for our honeymoon, I kept seeing “Cinque Terre – The Perfect Day Trip from Florence”. But it wasn’t until my boss asked me if we were going there that we really started to even consider it. He and his wife had done a similar trip a couple of years ago, so he was my go-to when trying to figure out where we should go, what we should do, etc. As I began to research Cinque Terre (which is pronounced “chink-way ter-ray by the way, not “sin-que terre” like my 1/4 Spanish brain wanted to keep saying), I fell in love. There are so many pretty pictures on Pinterest of the five coastal towns and immediately I was like “we have to go.” So we did!
We woke up in Florence and headed to our favorite cafe for one final cappuccino and croissant for breakfast. And then we headed toward city-center to find the shop where we had been looking at the Moka pots (espresso makers) the day before. We ended up purchasing one of the “bigger” ones that make “6” “cups” of espresso. It really wasn’t too expensive and it is such a nice and practical souvenir for us because now whenever we use it at home, we will think about our time in Italy on our honeymoon. I’m really glad we decided to get one.
We went back to our Airbnb and packed our stuff, “checked out” (aka left the keys in our room because that’s what you do in Airbnbs) and headed back for the train station. We took the same bus we took to get to our Airbnb and had no issues so that’s good! Hey, we finally got it figured out.
We took a train from Florence to La Spezia and then changed trains to a regional train that took us to Corniglia (pronounced “Cornelia” like the name) which is the middle town of the five and was the town we would be staying in. I have added a map of Cinque Terre so you can reference where we were (if you want, or you don’t have to, I don’t really care. I just thought it might be helpful).
I cannot explain to you how breathtaking the train ride was because you literally go through a tunnel in the mountains and then all of the sudden you’re outside RIGHT NEXT TO THE OCEAN! It was BEAUTIFUL! I literally gasped so loud the first time that Ryan asked me what was wrong lol.
We got off the train in Corniglia and headed to our Airbnb which didn’t seem like it’d be that far so we walked instead of taking the shuttle. We ended up having to climb 657489264 stairs to get to the top of the mountain where the town was located, all with our luggage in hand. Poor Ryan carried that 50 lb suitcase up all of those stairs… I offered to carry it but he wouldn’t let me. We stopped and rested a few times because there were a lot of steps! And our legs were sore from the day before… but we powered through. Eventually, we made it up to the top, huffing and puffing like we only had one lung to share, but we made it.
We walked to where our map said we were supposed to walk to but we couldn’t find the house number for our Airbnb. This man walking by could tell we were lost and he offered to help us. He called our host for us and she came to meet us. He told us to come to “his place” for dinner “at the yellow house” that night if we didn’t have any other plans. We weren’t sure if “his place” was a restaurant or if he was inviting us for dinner with him and his family. We asked our host about him because she seemed to know him and she told us he owned a restaurant and it was in a yellow house-like building, so that’s why he said it like that. We were relieved that he owned a restaurant and wasn’t just inviting us to come for dinner at his house..but also we thought it would be kind of cool if he had been inviting us to his house. It would have been a neat experience to have.
We had to go up 3 more flights of stairs to get up to our room at our Airbnb. Our host commented on our luggage.. “your suitcase is very big.” Yeah, Valentina, we know. We’ve only carried it up 768924672389 stairs. And by we I mean Ryan. I carried the carryon suitcase and our backpack, so realistically I was probably carrying 30 lbs or more but not quite as much as he was.
Our room at the Airbnb was really nice. We had a quaint room and our own private bathroom which was really nice. The other two places we stayed at had shared bathrooms so it was nice to have our own for once. We felt more like we were staying at a hotel instead of an Airbnb. The reason we stay in Airbnbs is that they are cheaper than staying in hotels or hostels and they often have more amenities in the fact that they have furnished kitchens that you can cook your own dinner in if you want to, and they can be more private. Not always, but they can be. It just depends. It was a nice change to be in one that felt like a hotel for a couple of nights instead of a shared apartment.
After we got settled in, we decided to explore Corniglia for a little bit since it was already about 4 PM. We headed to find this terrace bar for a Spritz or two while we watched the sunset and then found somewhere for dinner, but when we got to where the bar was supposed to be, we found it to be closed. Actually, we found that a lot. A ton of restaurants and shops and bars were closed for the “off-season”. It was very frustrating for us because we would pick somewhere to go for dinner via researching and reading reviews on Trip Advisor and then we would get there and they’d be closed. It happened way more than we would have liked. And so we had to just wander around until we could find somewhere that was open and then we didn’t know what we were getting ourselves into and if it’d be expensive or if it was decently priced or if it was all seafood or if they had some pizza and pasta options for people like me who don’t like seafood.
We found the terrace, without having to be at the bar, so we took in the views of the Mediterranean and of the other towns from afar. We were a little early for sunset but it just felt nice to feel the sun on our faces for a little bit. Then we walked around to try to find an open bar for beverages. As we were wandering around Ryan said, “It’s like my own little Sully but in Italy” because the town itself was so small and everyone knew everyone there, or so it seemed.
We found a bar that was opened and so I got a Spritz and Ryan got a beer and we sat and enjoyed our drinks and some free potato chips for a little while. But we finished before dinner time (7 PM) so we went back to our Airbnb to relax for a little bit. Then we walked to the restaurant because online it said that it opened at 6:30 but we got there and it was still closed. So we decided to just wait outside because it wasn’t too bad temperature-wise. Ryan went back to the Airbnb to get his sweatshirt and I sat on some steps that went down the mountain next to a vineyard and watched the ocean and listened to what I could of the waves before it got too dark to see it anymore.
We met the town cat. Or we met one of them. He came up to us as we were waiting for the restaurant to open, probably hoping for food but all we could give him was love. We named him Cornelius. He was very sweet and enjoyed the pets we gave him. Then we headed up to the restaurant because it was finally 7 and we were starving and there was a lady with a basset hound waiting also, so we pet her dog (because it walked up to Ryan and it was absolutely killing him to not be able to pet any dogs so far on this trip, so he/we pet it for a second.) The lady looked slightly annoyed but oh well!
For dinner, Ryan had penne scampi and I got spaghetti pesto because Italy is the land of pesto and I hadn’t had any the whole trip. Ryan loved his dinner, mine was alright. It was so pesto-y though that I couldn’t finish all of it.
We noticed that everything closes early in the evenings and opens late in the mornings in Cinque Terre. Maybe it’s just because we were there during “off-season” or maybe it was because they are just that relaxed there. Either way, it was frustrating for us because finding somewhere for dinner at the alleged dinner time was difficult and finding somewhere for breakfast was difficult because we were waking up decently early to try to get a good start to our day and have more daylight to see things but nothing was open yet.
I also noticed that Corniglia smelled like campfire every night. I’m not sure if that was because someone had a wood-burning stove or was having a fire in their backyard or what but each night smelled like campfire and then in the morning, the birds chirped a lot. It reminded me of when I was a kid and I would go camping with my grandparents. The smell of campfire at night and the birds chirping in the morning while you sit outside and drink your coffee but it’s still chilly out because the sun is just coming up. That is what it reminded me of. Special memories.
The next day was our first full day in Cinque Terre. We got up on decent time and got ready and tried to find a cafe for breakfast but almost everything was still closed at 9 AM. We finally found one just off the “city center” and ordered due (2) cappuccinis and due croissants. They had a little table and chairs out on their front step, so that’s where we sat and enjoyed our breakfast while overlooking the ocean. At one point, Ryan asked me “do they even have milk here?”………honey, you have had a cappuccino every morning and gelato every day. What are those made with?? Lol, I love him.
One of the things that brings a lot of people to Cinque Terre, besides the fact that it is absolutely gorgeous, is that you can hike between the 5 towns. There are various trails with various difficulty levels connecting the towns to one another. We didn’t come to Cinque Terre necessarily to hike but we figured we could hike from Corniglia to Manarola, which was the first of the other four towns we were wanting to visit since we basically saw all of Corniglia the evening before. (Yeah, it was that small.) I had read online that the hike from Corniglia to Manarola took about an hour and a half to two hours to complete, but we didn’t really have anywhere else to be and it was a GORGEOUS day out so why not?
We got about halfway there and couldn’t go any farther because the trail was closed. It looked like the trail had literally been washed away. Like a storm had hit and destroyed the path and everything around it. There was a giant sinkhole, so it was a good thing we couldn’t go any farther. Turns out, we were on the “easy” path that runs along the coast and if we wanted to we could hike the other “more difficult” paths to get to Manarola but by that point, we said screw it and decided to take the train. We were starting to get hungry for lunch and we were a little frustrated that we had walked halfway there and then had to walk back because it was closed. So the train sounded like a much better idea. We purchased the day pass for the train which was 13€ (each) and that day pass also included a personal username and password for the train station WiFi (to use while you wait) and granted access to public restrooms that costed money to use. Yes, that’s right. Public restrooms but you still had to pay to use them. Except we didn’t have to because we had access thanks to the day pass. It was also a really smart thing for them to do to include the WiFi on those passes because sometimes you wait and wait and wait for a train and so the WiFi helps pass the time. That particular morning we waited and waited and waited for what seemed like forever for another train to come and take us to Manarola. Eventually one did, but it took forever.
Finally, we got to Manarola and decided we were going to eat lunch first. We were hungry and it was something we wanted to get out of the way before exploring Manarola. At the restaurant we went to, Ryan had pizza (shocker) and I had probably the fanciest (and healthiest) hamburger I’ve ever had in my entire life. The burger patties (2) were placed on top of a bed of lettuce and then the plate was decorated with pieces of diced green and red peppers. There was no bun. I did get french fries, but no bun, no pickles, no onions…I got some ketchup packets but they didn’t have much in them so I saved them for my french fries.
After lunch, we went down to the harbor and took some photos. We climbed up this huge rock to try to get the best angle we could of the town behind us without having to take a selfie from below that would show our double chins (or mine at least, Ryan’s beard hides his). It was kind of scary going up and down the rock but this nice couple of young adults about our age helped me get down because Ryan had already walked away lol.
Then we headed up to Nessun Dorma. Nessun Dorma is one place I had read over and over and over about on Pinterest. It was a MUST-DO according to each blog post I read about it. They were not wrong. Nessun Dorma has a PERFECT view of the majority of Manarola, a town built into the side of a mountain that looked like it could fall into the ocean at any moment. Nessun Dorma is an appetizer bar. Literally. All they serve is appetizers and drinks, no meals. Since we had just eaten, we went just for drinks and the view. Ryan and I both had Spritz’ to drink but Ryan got a lemon spritz and I just got an Aperol Spritz. The waiter asked if we wanted anything to eat and we said no thanks, just drinks because we had already eaten lunch. But he brought us a plate of appetizers anyway…for free. At first, we didn’t want to eat them because we didn’t order them so we didn’t want to have to pay for them, but Ryan looked at the ticket and it said they were free! So we enjoyed some bread with olive oil and herbs, salami slices, potato chips, and olives with our drinks. (Well, we enjoyed everything but the olives because we don’t like olives lol.)
When we had finished our drinks, we decided we had finished our time in Manarola and were ready to move on to another town. We went to Monterosso next because I had read that they had a big beach. It was too chilly to lay out or go swimming in the ocean, but I still wanted to see it, so we went. We hopped on a train and headed to Monterosso. We walked around the town, stopped for an espresso, found some “delft” or what appeared to be delft to us built into some of the walls, watched a man attempt to fish, and walked on the beach for a little bit. We also went to a grocery store because I needed some deodorant (TMI?). Ryan got a beer because open containers are legal and I got water. We drank them as we watched the guy attempt to fish. Once Ryan finished his beer, we left Monterosso to head to Vernazza. However, the train we got on didn’t stop in Vernazza….it didn’t stop at all until we got to Riomaggiore. We didn’t stay in Riomaggiore. We just hopped on another train and headed to Vernazza.
The first thing we did when we got to Vernazza was get some gelato. It was weird gelato though. We got chocolate and a nut kind… I wasn’t a huge fan of it but it was alright. We saw a cat across the street and then Ryan says “Do cats in Italy say ‘meow’ or ‘me-caio’?” Hahaha.
We walked to the harbor and just chilled for a while. We took some photos and then sat and watched the ocean and listened to the waves crash along the rocks for about a half hour. We were waiting for it to be dinner time so we could hopefully find something to eat in Vernazza since there weren’t many options in Corniglia. Ryan found one online that we could try that would be SUPER pretty for dinner at sunset, but it was on top of the mountain and then looked down over the town. We climbed all the wayyyy up to the top to La Torre restaurant, but it was closed. Due to it being off-season, they were only open for lunch. 😦 We still got to see some of the view though and it was beautiful, which almost made it worse because we couldn’t dine with that view like we were hoping to.
We hopped a train back to Corniglia and took the shuttle up to city-center this time instead of climbing all of the stairs. We tried to find somewhere for dinner but we really struggled because almost everything was closed already at 7 PM. We eventually found a restaurant near our Airbnb (which isn’t hard since the town is the size of one block in America). I got gnocchi gorgonzola and Ryan got salmon gnocchi. We ended up sitting next to a couple from New York City. They were super nice and funny. The guy works for Bleacher Report (which I thought was cool) and she was just about to start her new job in veteran’s care. We talked to them for about an hour. They shared their meat platter with us and convinced us to get dessert. We got a lemon tart thing that Ryan really enjoyed, I didn’t care for it too much but it wasn’t bad by any means.
The next day was chilly and rainy. We walked to the cafe we had breakfast at the day before and it was closed for some reason, so we went to the bar we had drinks at the other evening and had breakfast there. Then we walked to the train station in the misty rain.
We decided to do Riomaggiore this day because we did the other four towns the day and a half before. We bought another train day pass and caught a train there. When we got there, we were super underwhelmed. It felt like there wasn’t really that much to see or do and that it was more of a town that people live in, not really a tourist town. We climbed up the side of the mountain and eventually it opened up to be the actual Riomaggiore. What we had been seeing/walking through was just the backside of the town and the main part of town was on the other side of the mountain. By that time, it was time for lunch. Ryan got three different kinds of gnocchi and I got a pizza. We ordered a tiramisu for dessert (inspired by the couple we met last night at dinner) and it was delicious. It reminded me a lot of the chocolate eclair my grandma makes every year for our birthdays (me, my brother, my dad, and my two younger cousins) minus the graham crackers. I would definitely get more if I could.
We walked down to the harbor but there really wasn’t anything we could do but take some photos. It was rainy and windy and definitely too cold to go swimming or diving or snorkeling, which seemed to be what Riomaggiore was known for, so there wasn’t much else for us to do.
We ended up going to Levanto, a slightly bigger town that is not considered a part of Cinque Terre (the 5 towns) but was still accessible with our train pass. We walked from the train station to what we thought would be the downtown area/near the ocean. However, there was this really creepy guy who kept following us. It was like no matter which direction we decided to go, he was going that way too and he was walking way too close to us. For a while, he disappeared but then all of the sudden he was there again and that really spooked us. We just kept walking (not stopping to look at stores) to avoid any possible pickpocketing opportunities. In fact, we didn’t even stop until we got to a cafe for espresso because there were other people around. He eventually went away but for a while I was really creeped out.
After our espresso shots, we walked to the beach and walked along the shore. The tide started to come in so we had to walk up the beach more than we would’ve liked but we didn’t want to get wet and/or swept away so we kept a safe distance. We found some large rocks to sit on for a little bit and just sat and watched the waves crash. And we watched this girl play with her dog. Ryan wanted to go play with them so bad but he knew he probably better not so we just sat and watched instead. Then he looked down and found some sea glass and that got us searching for more sea glass. I really wanted a blue piece but we were struggling to find one. We found green, white, and rust colored but not really any blue. Finally, he found one small blue-ish piece and I was satisfied because I knew that was probably the best we were going to find. Something I don’t really understand is when beaches say/have signs that say “please don’t take the sea glass”. I don’t get it. You’re technically helping get rid of some of the glass that would be going back into the ocean so I don’t get why that’s a bad thing? Who knows. Here, there were no signs so I definitely took some home with us. Free souvenirs!
After being on the beach for a while, we walked to a local bar for a Spritz and a snack while we waited for a certain place to open for dinner. Funny enough, the bar was called “The Salty Dog” which is a bar in the Ozarks that my family used to visit when we would go down there when I was younger. I sent a photo of their business card to my mom. It was nice to feel like there was a little piece of home while we were in Italy. Granted, the Ozarks isn’t really home for us. I haven’t even been down there since I was like 5 or 6 years old…but it was close enough that it gave me that “home” feeling.
We waited for almost 3 hours for a restaurant to open for dinner that had rave reviews on Trip Advisor (which was across the street from the bar we were at) and it was…you’ll never guess…CLOSED. 😦 At this point, we were feeling so defeated. We were tired and hungry and just wanted to eat dinner and head to the train station to try to make it back to Corniglia before 9 PM so we could catch the shuttle back up to city-center and not have to walk up all of those stairs. Ryan found another place that looked good to try but that one was also closed. So we just went back to the place where we had gotten espressos earlier because we knew they had food and it was decently priced and it was near where we were anyway…and we knew how to get back to the train station from there.
Ryan was pumped because we sat at a table out on the patio that was next to a big, old dog. The dog had his owner trained just like my dog, Maggie, once had my mom trained. He would growl at the lady in order for her to give him some food/part of a treat. He would eat it and wait a couple of minutes and then growl at her some more to get more treats from her. It was funny to watch. I miss Maggie a lot. For those of you that do not know, Maggie went to Heaven not too long after my wedding. She had been our dog for probably 10 years or so and had been there for me through middle school, high school, college, and wedding planning. Letting her go has been hard, and I miss her a lot, but I know she’s in a better place now. Anywho, I couldn’t help but think of her begging and begging and driving my mom literally insane before my mom would get up to get her a treat (this would happen multiple times….a day).
Ryan got salmon penne for dinner and I got penne with a homemade tomato sauce with onion and garlic and red pepper flakes. It was decent but some of the noodles weren’t completely cooked and I’m not a huge red sauce person but it was alright! The bread they brought to our table though was incredible. It wasn’t hard like all the other bread we had. It was soft and was almost like it was buttered and had some garlic salt in it or something. They were so good that I accidentally ate them all and Ryan didn’t get any but he ate the other hard bread and he was fine with it so it worked out. The restaurant didn’t charge us a cover fee, which was nice and they didn’t charge us for the bread either!
We walked back to the train to try to make it back to Corniglia by 9 but we had just missed the train and the next one didn’t come until 9:15. (-_-) So we had to sit and wait for the next one. Luckily, we could use the WiFi to pass the time and I could finally listen to the new Jonas Brothers song!! (Wait, did I really just say that? What year is it??)
When we got back to Corniglia, we got excited because we saw the bus sitting by the train station…but it was just parked there for the night. So we had to climb the 1.5 million stairs up the side of the mountain to get back to city-center and then up about 50 more to our Airbnb.
Don’t get me wrong, Cinque Terre is beautiful but I don’t know how people spend more than a couple of days there because we were ready to move on halfway through day 2. We did almost everything (that someone can do during the off-season) in one day. I’m sure if we would’ve gone during the summer or some of the busier months, it would’ve been more exciting. We could hike and swim and go snorkeling…… maybe this just means we need to go back someday (but during the summer obviously).
Overall, we enjoyed Cinque Terre, but like I said, we were just frustrated with the lack of things that were open for us to visit/do. We did get informed though that we came at a “good time” because literally a week later the prices of everything would be doubling because it would be the beginning of their “in-season(?)” but it still would’ve been too cold to go swimming or cliff jumping (I really wanted to do that but it didn’t happen obviously) so we would’ve just been paying more to have basically the same experience we did. So I guess in a way, we did “luck out”.
On to Pisa and Naples!