What to do in Cinque Terre… you mean apart from swim in the gorgeous Italian Riviera, explore the pastel coloured buildings and spend your evenings drinking Italian wine and seafood?
Sound good? Believe me it is!
Here are my top things to do in Cinque Terre:
1. Take a boat ride from Manarola to Riomaggiore
We contemplated getting a ferry ticket which takes you to each island but everyone was packed in like sardines and it didn’t look that relaxing!
Instead we got a private boat to take us on a little tour from Manarola to Riomaggiore. Our skipper gave us a little history on Cinque Terre and used his nifty boating skills to take us up close to the cliff face and some of the natural caves that had formed.
If we had more time, we would’ve loved to charter a private boat. They will take you out onto the ocean and let you bobble out to sea while you pop a bottle of champers and eat your fresh focaccia with some prawns! Unfortunately there are thousands of people and only a handful of skippers so make sure you book your ride early!
Boat ride: €20 for two. Book here or go to the harbour at Manarola.
2. Hike from Monterosso to Vernazza
Lets be clear, I’m not a ‘hiker’ by any stretch of the imagination. However, given one of Cinque Terre’s best known features are its hiking trails, we decided to hike the Monterosso to Vernazza walk. Of all the walks that are currently open, this is apparently one of the nicest, mildest walks to do.
We got the train to Montetosso and then followed the teeny tiny SVA signs up into the hills. The trail is quite steep in places and the path can be a bit rugged at times. I did the 2.5 hour hike in my sandals but I’ve advise putting on some trainers!
If you didn’t bring enough water to keep your hydrated then there are farmers along the path selling fresh lemonade and orange juice. Also look out for the grape vines, an outdoor cattery and some brooks to splash yourself if you get hot!
If you don’t want to do this two hour walk then I would suggest walking from Vernazza to the second outlook spot about 20 minutes up the hill. That way you see some fabulous views without the need to walk for 2.5 hours!
Price: Included in your Cinque Terre Parks pass
Note: There are shorter, flatter walks like the Lovers Walk from Riomaggiore to Manarola but that one is currently closed. Try to avoid the peak temperatures from 11am – 2pm because it can get up to 35 degrees in the peak of summer!
3. Swim at the northern boat ramp in Manarola
The boat ramp in Manarola was my favourite place to go for a dip in Cinque Terre. If you read my last Cinque Terre post then you would have seen that there are two boat ramps in Manarola. The first is at the front of the harbour, whilst the second is hidden around the northern cove.
The ramp offers interrupted views of the sparkling ocean (bar a few people sunning themselves). It also comes complete with a dainty little ladder to get into the water instead of slipping and sliding over the rocks.
The afternoons were the nicest time to swim down at the boat ramp. The sun wasn’t too intense and you could lay out on the warm rocks like a lizard and watch the golden light shimmer over the water as the sun went down.
4. Eat seafood on a stick, focaccia… and as much gelato as humanly possible
Ligurian specialities include focaccia, pesto alla genovese and ravioli. I feel like you don’t know what fresh food tastes like until you’ve eaten food in Italy! So much care and effort goes into the food but it is the ingredients that speak for themselves. The basil drifts up into your nostrils, the seafood is incredibly juicy and you truly understand what ‘al dente’ means after you’ve tried Italian pasta.
Gelato: Gelateria La Scogliera. We went back here twice which is saying something because there are A LOT of gelato places in Cinque Terre! My favourite flavour was hazelnut (hello nutella in an ice-cream) and Mr TUQ loved the pistachio!
Seafood on a stick: Batti Batti Friggitoria
5. Lay out on a deck chair in Monterosso
We hired some day beds one afternoon and read our books under the shade of our blue striped umbrella. While I do like sandy beaches, I also equally love that you can lie on a sun lounger without getting covered in sand or jabbed by rocks.
The lounge areas don’t have bars however there are a few strong Italian men hauling around eskys full of beers. If you ask politely, he’ll even make a special wine delivery for you!
6. Watch the sunset at Nessun Dorma Bar
The best way to enjoy it?
Walk down to the Nessun Dorma Bar and order yourself cocktail, sit back and relax! The food is simple but it’s full of fresh, flavoursome ingredients. We had a huge cheese and meat platter to share but there are bruschetta, burgers and salads available too!
Manarola Sunset bar: Nessum Dorma. You can’t book but the line moves quite quickly. Remember to bring cash as there aren’t any card machines up there!
7. Get up early and experience the towns to yourself
Yes you’re on holidays and you want to have a lay in but trust me when I say that early mornings in Cinque Terre are well worth missing out on a few hours of sleep.
Admittedly we only got up early twice during our week in Cinque Terre. The first time was to take photos at sunrise in Vernazza. The town was so peaceful and it felt completely different to the town that was heaving with people during the day! We loved this experience so much that we got up early another morning so we could enjoy a swim in the harbour.
Bar a few locals going for their early morning swim, it was perfectly serene. I can still remember feeling completely relaxed. I’m not sure whether it was the smell of the crisp air in the morning or the sound of the waves washing in the harbour but goodness it felt wonderful to be there!
If you missed my first blog post about Cinque Terre then the hop on over here first to read my tips and travel guide.
Next stop? Roma!