I only had a few MUST DO things on my list for this adventure to Italy. One of them, I completed this past weekend: hiking through Cinque Terre. It was the perfect weekend! The weather was amazing, the tourists were few, and the gelato was delicious. I met up with other American teachers in Italy and had the best weekend with them. I found a few tips online before setting out on this journey and I have a few of my own to share.
Worth Every Penny- I almost hesitated on visiting the “Italian Rivera.” I was supposed to be staying much closer to Cinque Terre. Originally, I was going to be somewhere around Torino, but now I’m staying on the opposite side of the country. My train ride got expensive quickly and now takes 5.5 hours. But I regret nothing. I saved for months and months so I would have enough to do the things I really wanted to do. Like this.
Cinque Terre Pass- We all bought one day passes at the train station for 12Euro. Which included unlimited train access to the towns, access to all the hiking trails (more on that later), usage of the public bathrooms (more on that later too), and free Wi-Fi (which I never got to work, but I wasn’t really trying to use it much anyway). I’m not sure if we did end up saving money by buying it but it was worth the convenience of not having to buy tickets for everything, I think.
Bathrooms- As much as I needed it, I tried not to drink a lot of water so I wouldn’t have to use the bathroom. Italy has a weird bathroom situation in general which I have mentioned before, but ALL of the public bathrooms we came across were squat toilets. I might as well just have been outside. And, the one I used didn’t even have toilet paper. However, this just applied to the public ones. When we were at dinner, it was like Christmas morning when we discovered a real toilet, toilet paper, and a working sink at the restaurant.
Closed Trails- A HUGE part of why I wanted to go was to hike the trails. They go from town to town and vary in difficulty. Luckily, the rest of our group was on board with this too so we all went! A fellow teacher warned us that one of the trails was closed. However, we found out the hard way that TWO (out of 4) trails were actually closed. If you are going, make sure you ask! When we bought our Cinque Terre Pass we were handed a pass and a map but no indication anywhere that any of them were closed and there were no signs on the trail or in the town about it. We were looking for one trail and came to find out that it has been closed for THREE years and no one told us! It ended up working out well for us though but it would have been nice to know.
Difficulty- I had read a little bit about the trails and we took the advice that I found to start with the hardest trail in the town furthest away. We stayed on the blue trail, which is a more direct route to each town, though there are other trails that go further up into the mountains. Let me just say, we all grossly underestimated how difficult it was. It was a workout!! Luckily, overall, we are in pretty decent shape. We all wore proper attire and shoes. But some parts were definitely a little scary, with no barriers on the side and/or narrow pathways, stairs that went on forever, etc. You wanted to look around at the view but also had to carefully watch your step. I would imagine that falling off the side of a mountain is no fun. The first trail we did, from Monterosso to Vernazza, took us about 2 hours. But we were rewarded with amazing views, especially as we got close to Vernazza.
The only other open trail was the one from Vernazza to Corniglia. It was a little bit easier, not as many stairs, but still challenging in parts. The map said it was estimated to take an hour and a half to finish. But we are proud to say that it took us under an hour. I was a little bummed that we couldn’t do the other trails but we still had a lot of fun AND got our workout in for the day!
Cash- This is NOT a place to rely on your credit card. Considering a lot of tourists do go there, I was surprised but there are MANY places that don’t accept cards, or if they do, there is a minimum purchase amount. Even the day pass that we bought at the train station was cash only. I had to go to the ATM 3 times in 2 days. But after spending some time at some of the bigger cities around Italy (Milan, Torino, Venice, Bologna) I will say that Cinque Terre was cheap in comparison. My most expensive meal was 7.5 Euros.
English– Not only did I not have to speak Italian at any point during the weekend, I barely heard it from those around us. Nearly everyone we encountered spoke English.
FOOD- I don’t eat out much here in Treviso. Mostly because my host family cooks every meal and we all eat together. And when I do eat out, I feel like its just to survive….I would rather eat at home with them. The food is better. That’s how I felt with every place I’ve been to in Italy so far…EXCEPT in Cinque Terre. The food was incredible!! The region of Liguria is known for a few things, pesto and focaccia being two of them. I made sure to have PLENTY of both while I was there. The Trofie al Pesto is a local specialty that I had at La Scogliera in Manarola and is near the top of my list of best food Ive had in Italy so far. In addition, Ive made it my mission to try gelato in every new place I visit. The gelato I had in Vernazza is also a top contender.
Pesto- Like I said, pesto is something this region is known for. So I wanted to buy some to bring back to my host family. Let me just say, that if you ever find yourself in Riomaggiore, please buy your pesto or wine at Enoteca D’uu Scintu. And tell the very nice, Bob-Marley-loving employee that the 7 Americans that barged into her store and taught how to whip and nae nae, say hi. It was easily the best and craziest experience Ive had in any store, ever.
Dont Follow Your Waiter Home- After our dinner in Manarola, we had to catch the train back to where we were staying. We were standing on the platform when our waiter from dinner showed up to catch the same train. We said hello, of course. When we got to our stop, he got off the same one. And as we were getting closer to our AirBnB apartment building, we see our waiter going into the same building. I’ll never forget the look of terror in his eyes when he thought all of us were following him home. Im still not sure if he really understood what was going on but I bet he made sure his door was locked when he got to his place.
After 12 miles of hiking and adventure, we were happy and exhausted. I had some time briefly the following day so I went back and explored Manarola and Monterosso a bit since we spent the least amount of time in them the day before. All in all, it was an amazing and memorable weekend. Cinque Terre is highly recommended!!!
Up next for me: Sicily and a half marathon in Verona!! Stay tuned!