Cinque Terre (translation: five lands) is made up of five towns along the coast of the Ligurian Sea. It's really popular with tourists who love to hike from town to town, and it's a great spot to take a break from too much sightseeing! We stayed in Corniglia, the middle of the five towns, which is perched on a cliff above the sea.
When we were planning our trip, I was unsure of which town to stay in; many people prefer Vernazza, Riomaggiore is the largest, Monterosso is right on the sea. I read that Corniglia was the hardest to get to (because you have to hike up 385 steps to get into the town!), was the only town that wasn't right on the sea and was quieter than the other four towns - AND that it was for wine lovers - so, of course I booked it. There were vineyards everywhere in the hills and the wine was delicious. And there were fewer tourists. Cinque Terre can get super crowded during the summer and we were even surprised at how crowded it was so early in April - although it was the Easter holiday so that played a big part.
We arrived last Wednesday afternoon and, after a long travel day, we walked down the steps to the old marina - which has since been washed out - and watched the most amazing sunset.
On our first morning, we hiked on the main coastal trail from Corniglia to Vernazza...
...and then from Vernazza to Monterosso, where we sat on the beach and had lunch.
The main coastal trail is relatively easy hiking - although it can get CROWDED because it's very narrow. The next day though, while hiking in the other direction, we got off the beaten path (not by choice; the coastal trail has been washed out in various floods and was closed) which was much harder, more rewarding and even more beautiful.
We ate lunch at a seaside cafe looking down on Manarola before continuing on to the last town (or first, depending on how you're hiking), Riomaggiore.
In Riomaggiore, we rewarded ourselves for hiking to all five towns with some local white wine and amazing views on the terrace of A Pie di Ma.
On our third day, it was pouring - all the lights went out on the main street in Corniglia! - and we were sore from hiking, so we took advantage of the local train which runs frequently between all five towns and went back to Vernazza for lunch and then on to Monterosso for a wine tasting.
We loved poking around the towns, exploring, drinking local wines, gazing out at the sea and trying local dishes: LOTS of fresh seafood, obviously, but anchovies in particular - prepared every way you can imagine! Also pesto, focaccia bread, olives and lemons.
Cinque Terre was a great start to our travel month and we would definitely recommend a few days there if you're passing through the area.
And now...on to Rome!