THE SPONTANEOUS ITALIAN ADVENTURE
A very last minute travel decision was made last month. My partner Key and I would accompany his sister on a short trip to explore some of Italy. She was due to attend a wedding in Tuscany and kindly asked if we fancied exploring a little beforehand. The next day we were in Italy. This fast-paced start (as well as nearly missing the flight there) was to set the stage for the chaotic and hilarious whirlwind of a trip that saw us visit Genoa, La Spezia, Cinque Terre, Pisa, Florence and Spoleto in just four days. There was a heap of unbelievable, magical moments and the funniest of memories made that would not have existed had the trip been perfectly planned. I should have expected no less travelling with crazy, adventurous Key and his even crazier sister Rachael who are both keen believers in 'making the minutes count'. We definitely made them count. We headed to Cinque Terre for the first few days of our trip and had the most beautiful time hopping from village to village.
Riomaggiore is the biggest of the 5 villages that make up Cinque Terre. We travelled here in the late afternoon of our first day in Italy and spent the whole evening wandering around the little cobbled streets looking up at the pretty pastel buildings. Riomaggiore is quite literally postcard perfection. Walking along harbour with the teeny tiny boats floating by and the sun setting over the water was the dreamiest way to start our time in Cinque Terre.
MONTEROSSO EL MARE
On our second day in Italy, we hiked through most of Cinque Terre. The trail goes alongside the sea, leads through the greenest of trees, makes you climb up steep stairs, crosses vineyards, citrus orchards and stone bridges. Despite moaning most of the way round, I honestly believe it is the most beautiful and rewarding way to explore Cinque Terre. We started our trail in Monterosso but first toured the village. It is the only of the five that has a proper beach where you can spend all day sunbathing and dipping in the sea if you so wish. We opted to wander around the old town popping into the quaint little shops, whilst snacking on cannoli's and olive bread. Monteross0 is known for its abundance of lemon and olive trees, as well as beautiful wine and so it would be rude not to stop among the quirky streets and try some of the goods. Heading out on the trail toward Vernazza also gave us the perfect view of Monterosso below. Even if you don't do the trail, definitely climb up to higher ground so you can marvel at the beauty!
After about an hour and a half into the gorgeous (and steep) hike from Monterosso, we spotted pretty Vernazza in the distance, with its peeling pastel buildings stacked high above the boat-filled harbour. We took photos for what may have been considered an unacceptable amount of time before meandering down into the village to find cold beer and even colder Gelato. Vernazza is just gorgeous and I could have spent hours just sat at the harbour taking photos of all the boats and the swimmers jumping off the rocks. We spent some time in the little shops and watched the locals hanging their laundry out to dry on windows (quintessential Italian scene right there) before jumping back on the hiking trail toward Corniglia.
Next up was Corniglia, the only of the five villages without direct sea access. It sits up on the hilltop surrounded by vineyards and lemon trees and may well be my favourite of all the villages. This might be because it was much quieter than the neighbouring villages or that the atmosphere felt especially charming and timeless, but Corniglia had a little extra 'something' that melted my heart. We visited a surprisingly empty Chiesa Di San Pietro church upon arrival which really added to the feeling that we were in another era entirely in that moment. Corniglia is full of tiny little streets that lead up and down to the cutest shops and restaurants and I was just completely in love with this colourful village.
Our last destination of the day was Manarola. We skipped the hike and caught the train there instead from Corniglia (my feet were very grateful!) Having lusted over iconic photos of Manarola for a very long time, being able to sit with an Aperol spritz in hand and gawp at the same view in person (at the beginning of the sunset I may add) was a bucket list dream come true.
WHERE TO STAY
We stayed outside of Cinque Terre in La Spezia. We were very lucky to find a beautiful apartment up in the hills called Agriturismo Cerrolungo, with a balcony which overlooks the vineyard. The hosts offer fresh breakfast daily using produce grown on site and they even have a chef for the evenings. The trains leaving La Spezia travel directly to the five villages of Cinque Terre and take only a few minutes which made La Spezia perfect as a base to see the villages from.