Cinque Terre: Riomaggiore. A not-so hidden gem of Italy is the coastal area of Cinque Terre. I had been to Italy twice before and missed out on this area, but in my last journey, I managed to make it happen with a group of amazing friends! Cinque Terre consists of five villages that are connected up by a train and hiking trails. We stayed at Locanda Ca’dei Duxi in the first town of Riomaggiore. To get to our cute room, we had quite a journey up the hill with our backpacks in tow and another journey up multiple flights of stairs, but the place was pretty nice and had a decent continental breakfast (which we burned off every time we headed back to our room). The town is quaint, and the first stop on the train line – which allows for the proper exploration of the other towns. Riomaggiore is small and consists of hotels, restaurants, and a few touristy shops. We enjoyed all the restaurants we dinned in, especially when an local Italian’s birthday party engulfed our group and shared their birthday cake as well as their singing and overall merriment.
Cinque Terre Lover’s Trail: Viva dell’ Amore or the “Pathway of Love” connects the towns of Riomaggiore to Manarola. This paved trail follows the edges of the cliffs, providing a great view of the Mediterranean below. For the more adventuresome, there are stairs off the main trail that lead down to the jagged rocks in the water. We just had to see exactly where these stairs lead and as a result, throughly enjoyed hopping around and taking in the view. Back on the concrete trail we found it to be covered in graffiti and locks. Apparently, attaching a lock to the trail somewhere with the love of your life is supposed to represent the permanence of your love. My friend even decided that you had to throw your key into the water, which wouldn’t surprise me if that was part of the lock tale as well. After taking our time due to some epic picture taking along the trail, we headed off on the train from Manarola over to two of the other villages – Corniglia and Vernazza. The train just doesn’t compare to the walk along the coast on Lovers Trail. I truly did fall in love, too bad it was only with a trail and not a hot Italian!
Cinque Terre: Corniglica. The middle village of Corniglica didn’t have much happening for tourists outside of a few restaurants and a little trail towards the water. It was cute and worth wandering around for a bit since the train stops there anyway – that is, if you don’t mind walking up some steep hills and stairs! I like to think of it as a great way to burn off future desserts AND get to explore a new place. You can’t go wrong.
Cinque Terre: Vernazza. Cinque Terre was hit by the flood of October 2011 and the lowest lying towns of Vernazza and Monterrosso were affect the most. When we were there in March of 2012, the train wasn’t even running to the town of Monterrosso. From what I’ve heard about Vernazza, it is typically hopping, but unfortunately the flood destroyed many of the buildings and shops. We did eat lunch here and snacked on some ice cream (trying to boost the local economy) and construction was well underway to recovery. Considering how the town was not up to full speed, there were still a decent amount of people sunning on the beach and milling about. For more current information on the flood, my homeboy (yes, that is literally what I have called this guy for years) and all around travel guru Rick Steves keeps an up to date blog on the recovery efforts.