Cinque Terre has been a dream destination for the longest time now. And ever since Pinterest, it became an unhealthy obsession and I knew I had to visit this place soon! When I told friends and family about this destination, a lot of them hadn't even heard of it. And when I showed them images, they were completely bowled over. Cinque Terre, to those who don't know, is a UNESCO world heritage site and is a protected place. Cinque translates to 5 and Terre is earth or land. So "5 lands" is basically a collection of 5 quaint little towns - Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso - spaced out in almost equal distances from each other on the Ligurian coast each packed with it's own cute little charm and amazing postcard views from every damn angle!
I spent 2 full days in 4 of those villagers, wandering around and discovering places. Because it's peak season, there were a lot of other tourists as well, and I managed to get my cellphone stolen in Monterosso as well. But that didn't get me down, because I was in my dream destination and couldn't be happier. I honestly wish I had more time here, and I hope to return soon in the future!
Getting there and around each town
All the towns are easily accessible by trains from La Spezia. It's a better idea to stay in La Spezia instead of any of the 5 towns, since you might be paying a lot more and La Spezia is a cheaper option. Once in Cinque Terre, you can move from one town to the other by train (the same one that connects from La Spezia) or boat; which I really would recommend at least once, for a beautiful scenic view straight from the sea, and lastly my favourite, the hiking trails. I love walking and I could not wait to hike those amazing trails! But since I was pressed for time, and the fact that I would "waste" time with hiking, I had to skip the town to town hikes. However, I did manage to hike the smaller spaces including the panoramic view hike for Manarola.
To access the trails, you'll have to buy a pass for a day which will cost around 7.5 euros for an adult. There are a few perks with the purchase of the card like free use of public lifts and restrooms as well as WiFi access (to name a few).
To take take the boat trip, you might end up paying a lot more, and if you're on a budget, I'd suggest visiting the next town instead of taking an entire tour. So I took 2 different boat trips, one from Riomaggiore to Manarola and another from Monterosso to Vernazza, both which cost me around 3-4 euros each, instead of the 10-15 euros per other destination.
What to do
Apart from drinking in the magnificent views - vast stretches of blue skies and water, the striped umbrellas, beautiful floral arrangement planning and bright and pastel houses - you could sample the lovely Ligurian seafood and indulge in their amazing gelatos. Or just snag a fantastic seat in a restaurant that faces the ocean and sit with a book and a cocktail. I preferred walking around, and it got very tiring as well, but I kept rewarding myself with gelatos.
If you're lucky and the season permits, catch magnificent sunrises and sunsets. Since I picked the end Spring to travel, my sunsets were between 9-10 pm and by then I already had to head back to my b&b because of public transport timings. I also missed the sunrises for the same reasons. But if you really want to see the towns after dark, accommodation in either of the towns is better.
If you have a lot of free time to spend, you can rent a private boat or just go swimming along the coast. While Montorosso is equipped with a beach where you can go paddle boarding and have other fun activities, Riomaggiore and Vernazza are also packed with swimmers. In fact you can go snorkeling and diving in Rio as well.
Important tips and reminders
Chalk out an itinerary before you head here. It can be an overwhelming place, and with a fixed schedule, you can make sure you can tick off most of what you planned to do.
Wear comfortable shoes and clothes, especially if you plan to hike the trails.
Beware of your belongings. Like I said, I managed to get my phone stolen after a walk in a crowded street.
Try and sample a bit of each kind of transport to get the proper experience, from the walking to the ferries as well as the train.
Remember it's a world heritage site, so don't try to deface any property with your initials (surprisingly a lot of people think this is normal behaviour!)
Lastly, this goes for without saying, but, take lots of pictures!
I booked via Airbnb and picked a spot that was not in either of the cities, nor in La Spezia, but in Sarzana, which is 2-3 train stops away from La Spezia and I had the loveliest commute to and fro for both days.