By Erika Land
Cinque Terre holds much more behind the meaning “Five Lands.” Within this rugged portion of the Italian Riveria lies breathtaking views, mouthwatering cuisine, crisp local wine, and a lifestyle that is hard to stray away from. These five small fishing villages are laced together by six miles of hiking trails. Each step you take is a journey through the untamed Italian landscape with views that open up to each unique village filled with laid-back locals and sun-kissed travelers. Imagine this…
You awaken to the smell of crisp ocean air and the sounds of faint voices from the shops below. You open your terrace doors to warm morning sunshine with views of pastel homes and the clear blue sea in the distance. Mornings in Monterosso are the calm before the storm. Beach dwellers flock here once afternoon hits, for the white sand beach and crystal waters are hard to resist. So for now you enjoy a relaxed morning with a cappuccino and biscotti overlooking the ocean.
Early afternoon you are prepared to begin your Cinque Terre trek. You are excited to escape the fast-paced crowds and enjoy one of the most beautiful hiking trails in Europe. The incline hike to Vernazza is the longest and most difficult. However the views of the never ending Mediterranean sea to one side and the vineyards to the other distract you from your fatigue. You are rewarded at the top with one of the most photogenic spots of Cinque Terre, the views over Vernazza.
As you enter the bustling town of Vernazza, you walk along the cobbled streets into the charming piazza lined with restaurants and bars. You explore the medieval buildings that hold onto the past of Vernazza and give it even more character than it already has. You discover a small cave that opens up to a pebbled beach. The waves subtly crash amongst your bare feet as you enjoy a prosciutto sandwich and take in the beauty of the Ligurian Sea.
You leave Vernazza and take off for the highest point of Cinque Terre, Corniglia. After sweating your way to the top of this landlocked village you feel accomplished and humbled. The views are inevitably taking what you have left of your breath away. Green and blue is all you see. Steep hillsides covered with grape vines and the multiple shades of blue in the uninterrupted horizon. You’re thankful for the work it took to get here because it has deterred others from coming and you feel on top of the world in peace.
It’s time to head for Manarola, the oldest of the five villages. Upon your arrival to the charming village, it’s no wonder why it is said to be the most romantic. The narrow streets are steep and filled will flowers leading to views of the ocean over rocky cliffs. At night the village transitions into a state of being beautifully lit. You decide after a day hiking through vineyards it’s finally time to indulge in some Italian wine. Manarola is famous for sweet Sciacchetra’, a rare, local wine. A glass of this and the area’s prized pesto sauce has your taste buds jumping.
The sun is on its way to the horizon so you hop on the train to your final destination, Riomaggiore. You make your way through the tall colorful buildings down a steep ravine where you find a tiny harbor. You take a seat on the seaside rocks and wait for Riomaggiore’s best hour, dusk. You watch as the sunset works its magic and amplifies the beauty of the ocean and colorful Riomaggiore. With each moment becoming more beautiful, you think to yourself how grateful you are to have experienced a place that has created such beauty in harsh terrain and, most importantly, refuses to let go of its ancient roots.