I was really glad we visited in spring (when it was still fairly crowded), I can only imagine how crazy it'd be in summer.
You can travel between the five villages by train, hiking tracks (very popular) or boat (would love to do this some day without the kids).
We had disembarked the ferry at about 8 am and within a few hours made it to Riomaggiore, the north-most village of Cinque Terre. I had chosen this village to visit because the hiking trail between it and the next closest village, Manarola, was the least difficult (and suitable for the little ones).
The first order of the day was to have an early lunch, before places got too crowded. We walked down to this little cove:
Then up around the corner to a terrace cafe to order some pasta (of course).
Very humourous to see the waitress, after taking our order, walk to a large freezer stored on the terrace and pull out four frozen pasta meals.
But as the mister said, you don't come to places like this for the food. (It actually wasn't that bad, truth be told).
Once refuelled, we walked back past the cove to start our hike to the next village. They really have no right calling it a hiking trail, the whole thing is paved and has plenty of benches to sit on along the way while pondering the spectacular coastline.
There are also plenty of rocks to climb along while pretending to be a seahorse and a shark, if that's your thing.
There's even a bar along the way, which is my idea of a good hiking trail (sadly it wasn't open when we passed through).
The trail is called the Via Dell'Amore, or the Walk of Love. I'm not sure which came first - the name or the declarations and symbols of love that adorn the walkway.
Even the cacti weren't safe.
But not all love stories have a happy ending. I think Arnold Schwarzenegger had paid a visit with his bolt cutters.
The walk was only about 900m and toward the end we could see Manarola. (You can also see the train that operates between the villages on the right there.)
We strolled through Manarola's streets, ice creams in hand.
Down at the cove the kids found some more rocks to climb over under the mister's supervision. I headed up and around the bend a bit to take some pictures of Manarola from afar.
I would've loved to stay a week and explore all of the villages and complete all the hikes, but unfortunately we only had a day to spend in Cinque Terre. We headed back along the Walk of Love and then started our drive to our accommodation in the heart of Tuscany.
I'm glad I didn't know then that our 2 hr drive to Tuscany would take almost 4 hrs thanks to crazy traffic around Florence. That might have taken the glow off what was a fabulous day. Cinque Terre gets a hearty recommendation from me - kids and grown-ups alike will love it.
Some quick tips:
- Info on Cinque Terre can be found here.
- Don't forget your hats, sunscreen, water and money for tickets (depends on which towns you hike between, but for us it was 5 euros an adult, young kids free).
- Sometimes it's just easier and quicker to use the paid parking garages. They are close to the action, safe and beat trawling the streets for 20 mins to find a free park. Not to mention how long it'll take you to walk to and from your 'cheaper' spot.
- While having lunch, try not to think about how you're paying 10 euros for a 2 euro frozen pasta meal. Just enjoy the view!