For the second half of our time in Italy, we decided to drive north to Cinque Terre to meet up with some friends who were starting a 2 month Euro/Asia tour and were in the area. We rented the cutest little airbnb together right in the center of Vernazza, one of the 5 little fishing villages that you can explore along the Cinque Terre coastline. Our balcony overlooked the beautiful Santa Margherita di Antiochia Church and the local fishing boats docked in the small harbor below. It was the perfect town to base our adventures from for the next few days. We loved trying some local cuisine at the restaurants down by the port. My favorite was fresh pesto gnocchi! We ate breakfast on our balcony each morning before heading off on the hiking trails heading either north towards Monterossa al Mare or south towards Corniglia.
Our favorite hike between the villages was the trek from Vernazza to Corniglia. It is the greenest of all the hiking trails, lined with vineyards which were in full bloom and colored the steep mountainside as it dropped into the sea below. We stopped to eat our picnic lunch in the middle of the most gorgeous vineyard where we could dangle our feet off of the terraced farmland and enjoy the scenery. The trail between these two towns offers stunning views looking back over Vernazza and of beautiful Corniglia perched atop a cliff in the distance. It is of moderate difficulty and took about an hour and half, but well worth every step!
Corniglia was a little quieter than the other towns, I believe due in part to the fact that it is the only village in the Cinque Terre without a port. It is perched high on a cliff overlooking the sea. We were told by our airbnb host to find the restaurant in Corniglia where the sky meets the sea. It took us a little while to find, but we were thrilled when we turned the corner to Bar Terza Terra. Offering incredible views and a laid back atmosphere, you can sit for a meal or enjoy some local wine to refresh you before continuing on your next hike.
Chris and I returned to Corniglia for a date on our last day to the sweetest little wine bar called the Terra Rossa. The elevated terrace can sit about 15 people and has the cutest décor--hanging flowers, lace table cloths, a chalk board menu, and a stunning view. After sharing a sandwich and drinks, we wandered down an unmarked path on the other side of the street which led us to a tiny vineyard in the valley and the most picture perfect lemon tree I've ever seen. We just had to snap a few shots!
We loved Manarola. It felt so Italian to me--boats parked along the streets instead of cars, Italian men in their speedos ready to jump into the deep blue sea, laundry hanging from every window, and families enjoying the summer sun along the rocky coast. Manarola had a personality of its own. It sort of felt like stepping into an impromptu summer beach party that you just couldn't pull away from, We found our own little rocky corner and parked ourselves for a few hours to enjoy the warm sun and crystal clear water.
The busiest and most northern of all five towns is Monteroso Al Mare. It has the largest beach which stretches from one end of the town to the other and is lined with bars and restaurants, shops and hotels. Off the shore just a few minutes’ walk is the center of Monterosa old town, which is fun to explore for an afternoon as you discover hidden treasures among its cobblestone streets. One of our favorites was the beautiful church of Chiesa di San Giovanni Battista. Built between the 13th and 14th century, the facade features two-tone white and dark serpentine facing with an intricate rose window of white marble. Another favorite was a Farinata Pizzaria on Via Gioberti, which we stumbled upon by following our noses to the incredible aroma wafting from their shop. Their speciality includes Pizza Al Taglio, which is simply pizza cooked on larger rectangular trays and is generally sold in large squares by weight, and focacce ria top, a light dough sort-of pocket sandwich filled with the most incredible cheese and baked to perfection.
This trip was originally published on A Road Less Traveled.