Italian Road Trip (Part 1): Cinque Terre

Where: Cinque Terre
When: June 2015
Hotel: ‘La Perla di Rio’ (Or #6382844 on VRBO.com)
Why Cinque Terre: Last year, when my friend Karyn was here – while we were in London – we talked about going to Italy if she was able to come back for a 3rd visit. So when it was determined she was coming back, and seeing as she had experienced most of Germany on her first trip here, we decided on an Italian Road Trip. And honestly, every trip to Italy should include a visit to Cinque Terre…probably the most magical place in Italy. (Even if hordes of American tourists have discovered it…thanks Rick Steves.) I’d been dying to go back since John and I visited in 2013, and it seemed the absolute best place to start a vacation through Italy.

The Cinque Terre coastline

The Cinque Terre coastline

The Trip:  When driving in Italy, it is imperative to find the most compact car you can – so we left our cars behind and rented a cute little VW Golf for our adventure. It takes about nine hours to get from Stuttgart to Cinque Terre, but the drive flies by thanks to the stunning Switzerland and the excitement of being in Italy. (I will say this though…more often than not, Italian drivers are terrifying! Lanes and blinkers are suggestions only.)

Pretty Switzerland

Pretty Switzerland

If you visit Cinque Terre, it is necessary to stay in one of the five towns. Lots of people talk about Monterrosso al Mare or Vernazza, but I’ve stayed in Riomaggiore twice, and I definitely think it is the best!

View from Riomaggiore to the Mediterranean Sea

View from Riomaggiore to the Mediterranean Sea

Our apartment was the yellow building with the white sheets drying.

Our apartment was the yellow building with the white sheets drying.

View from one of the side windows...love the little alleys!

View from one of the side windows…love the little alleys!

View from the apartment porch

View from the apartment porch

Here’s the thing about Cinque Terre – this is not the place to make plans or an itinerary. Explore, relax and enjoy being in this beautiful locale! On our first day, we decided to start in Monterrosso – the farther town, and work our way back to Riomaggiore – the first town. In what turned out to be a great stroke of luck, the trains were on strike so we had to take the ferry between the towns. HIGHLY recommend doing this! It was so great to see the towns from the boat.

Waiting for the train that never came...but the boat was so much better!

Waiting for the train that never came…but the boat was so much better!

View on the boat

View on the boat

Riomaggiore from the water

Riomaggiore from the water

The only things I did know was that we had to eat Pesto Pizza in Vernazza and we had to swim in Manarola (it is the best for deep water swimming and jumping off the cliffs!) However, swimming can be done everywhere and anywhere – so while waiting for the ferry in Vernazza, we followed suit of a couple of individuals and jumped in the water to cool off. It was fantastic, until while climbing out, the coral got me! But there are worse things than having cuts because of coral in the Mediterranean. We also discovered two great restaurants in Riomaggiore – Bar Centrale and Il Grottino.

Monterosso

Monterosso

The waterfront in Vernazza

The waterfront in Vernazza

Ouch! One of the cuts on my foot is still recovering...but oh well!

Ouch! One of the cuts on my foot is still recovering…but oh well!

Best swimming hole in Cinque Terre - Manarola!

Best swimming hole in Cinque Terre – Manarola!

Also, Manarola has one of the best places for a photo op..

Also, Manarola has one of the best places for a photo op..

The delicious food - the best pesto I have ever had!

The delicious food – the best pesto I have ever had!

The best for sure, was finding a great spot to sit and watch the sunset just up the street from our apartment. It was the perfect place to end our last night (although it was almost my last night with my left eye thanks to a crazy cork on the bottle of prosecco that decided to pop off on its own…thankfully, my head was turned or it would have been ouch!)

Riomaggiore at dusk

Riomaggiore at dusk

More dusk pictures

More dusk pictures

Cheers to Cinque Terre - you are the best!

Cheers to Cinque Terre – you are the best!

Final Impressions: Cinque Terre is one of the best places I’ve ever been. It lived up to everything I remembered about it the second time around. Do NOT hesitate to put it on your list of places to visit in Italy…you won’t regret it!

Until next time, Cinque Terre!

Until next time, Cinque Terre!

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