Five Reasons to Love the Cinque Terre

And the countdown begins of my cinque favorite things!

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5. The Water. Exiting the Monterosso al Mare train station, the sound of crashing waves is enough to lift the stress of even the worst day of travel. These Mediterranean waters IMG_0391are the star of all five villages: Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore.  The ferry connecting four of these villages is a great way to get around.  Side note—when waiting in line for a ferry, no matter how hot it is, please do not put your shirt like this! P1050746 It is the best way to NOT look like a local.  If you need to cool off in the water, the best spots are the lagoon at Manarola and the beautiful beach of Monterosso.  When we left the ferry in Manarola and headed into the town, we stopped to watch the divers from the rocks and as we stood there sweating and filled with water envy, my sister-in-law suggested, “Why don’t we just go back to the beach at Monterosso?”  It was the declaration of what we all must have been thinking and without a word, we ran back toward the ferry we had just left.  It was already starting to pull away, but we were able to jump on and within 25 minutes we were swimming and lying on the gravelly shore.  Whatever your preference, there are two beaches in Monterosso—the “free” beach where people’s towels are scattered right on the pebbles and the private beach where 25 euro will rent you two beach loungers and an umbrella until 7 pm.  I know this because on our first day there, we spent nine hours in these chairs, after which we made the beautiful walk back to the hotel through…

4.The Streets. P1050688Coming to the Cinque Terre from the hustle and bustle of the larger Italian cities, it doesn’t take long to appreciate all of the pedestrian alleys and lanes. P1050691Around every corner is another picturesque street begging to be photographed.  It’s also great for strolling, as the coast forces a person to slow down, and the lack of Fiats makes this lot easier.  Many of these streets snake through residences with doorsteps and balconies filled with flowers.  P1050689Other streets in the town centers are livelier with a mix of locals and visitors.  It doesn’t hurt that many of these streets are dotted with cute shops like the Pesto Lab and great restaurants, which brings me to…

3. The Food! It’s no secret this is a highlight of most of my trips and the Cinque Terre with its fresh seafood is no exception. As with many meals on our Italy trip, we loved to start off with a tureen of mussels and those at La Grotta in Riomaggiore were some of the best.  I think I soaked an entire baguette in the sauce.  Food coma!  If you find yourself in Riomaggiore, you will be surrounded by passersby eating some of the greatest street food since gelato.  I can only refer to this as a seafood snocone!  P1050736It seems like every other person we passed was eating one of these creations.  However, I prefer my calamari to be eaten at a table with a nice bottle of Dolcetto like we did at La Grotta.  Another standout restaurant was Ciak http://www.ristoranteciak.net/ in Monterosso.  Always packed, it is a great idea to make a reservation, or like us, luck out and snag the only unreserved table outside.  Our group started with a fantastic seafood antipasto and then my brother-in-law and I shared the seafood ravioliP1050763served tableside in a steaming clay pot.  After our waiter served us our first helping, my brother-in-law stepped in and dished out our seconds, looking like the owner of the place in his all black attire.  P1050772I don’t think our waiter shared his tip with him.  Another food experience that bears mentioning is our hotel, Hotel Marina http://www.hotelmarina5terre.com/ . Most Italian breakfasts consist of some coffee and a croissant, but this place owned by chef Eraldo sees to it that all guests start the day with an extravaganza.  Besides a layout of pastries, fruits, juices, and coffee, guests have their choice of an enormous cooked to order omelet or fruit or chocolate crepe.  P1050777Starting the day on the breakfast terrace with this feast and then letting it settle by relaxing up on the lemon tree terrace overlooking the sea is my idea of heaven. P1050572 But after thinking about all of the food consumed in the last 24 hours, a person starts to think about taking…

2. The Hike. All five villages are linked by a hiking trail that was previously a goat path. P1050606Be advised that some sections of the trail may be closed due to conditions and some sections are much more strenuous than others.  My poor husband Russell had hurt his knee the night before we left on our trip so hiking the whole stretch was out of the question.  We did, however, tackle the most difficult leg between Monterosso and Vernazza.  Most of this stretch consists of uneven stone steps that never seem to stop ascending finally followed by the descent into Vernazza,P1050662 all of these steps like a bad dream to someone with a knee injury.  P1050626As for me, a person with no ailments, the hike was no easy task.  Even though we left at 8 am, about two hours later as we walked into Vernazza, I was a sweaty mess.  Some advice—bring water, a handkerchief, and a bathing suit because you will want to jump in the water when you are done.  This section is best avoided if it is wet or rainy as the steps can get very slippery and the trail is very narrow in places. P1050624 The hike is an excellent way to burn off some of those calories, but the greatest thing about it is…

1. The Views. It doesn’t matter whether you are walking the trails, sitting on the ferry or the beach, or just enjoying your evening wine on the lemon terrace, magical views are everywhere. The colors are just exploding whether it is the sea, the vineyards, P1050614

the flowers,P1050680

or the rainbow of buildingsP1050724 that make up these towns.  The Cinque Terre is a photographer’s dream, with every click a work of art.  Visiting here is like being inside of a painting you never want to leave. P1050667 In fact, the only negative thing I can think of about the Cinque Terre is when you have to get back on that train and leave.

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