The Trip So Far – Day 1 In Cinque Terre, Italy with My Wife and Three Kids
Welcome to the latest installment of our European travel series! In this blog post, we’ll take you on a whirlwind journey through Cinque Terre, Italy. Join me, my wife Erika, and our three kids as we navigate the picturesque villages, enjoy the stunning coastline, and provide you with some valuable tips and insights for your own adventure. If you haven’t already, be sure to check out our Previous blog posts on Paris, Venice and the high-speed train journey from Venice to Cinque Terre.
Located in the Ligurian coast of northwest, Cinque Terre (Italian for “Five Lands”) is made up of five picturesque coastal villages: Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore. This region is known for its stunning cliffside landscapes, hiking trails, fresh seafood, and is a must visit if you’re ever touring Italy.
Starting Our Day in Monterosso
We started our day bright and early in our hotel room in Monterosso, one of the five towns that make up Cinque Terre. We resolved to have an early breakfast and leave our hotel to explore as much of Cinque Terre as we could in a single day.
Travel by car in the winding narrow roads connecting the five towns of Cinque Terre is difficult – the best way to explore the area is by train. Initially my plan was to travel between each town by water-taxi, unfortunately the waters on the day we arrived were too choppy to allow for safe travel by boat. We bought a family travel pass for the entire day which let us board all the local trains that stop in each town. It also let us use the local shuttle buses and even offered free access to the paid public restrooms at the train stops.
We had to rush to catch the train and luckily, we made it just in time. It can be difficult to explore all five towns in a single day, but possible with some planning. Be aware of train schedules and budget yourself enough time to explore each town before moving on to the next.
Cinque Terre Travel Tip – Prepare for Contingencies
Prepare for contingencies and be flexible with your planning. When travelling, circumstances beyond your control can change at any time – flight delays, bad weather, local holidays, etc. If something you had planned doesn’t work out, don’t let it ruin your holiday! Be adaptable and come up with alternative plans to make the most of your day.
Cinque Terre Stop #1 – Magnificent Manarola
Our first stop was Manarola, where we explored the narrow cobbled streets and marveled at the quaint painted buildings. We made our way to the coast and were rewarded by breathtaking views of the village, the sea, and the rugged coastline. The choppy waters of the sea did not diminish our enjoyment of the amazing cliffside views.
After a quick stop at a roadside cafe (Erika and the kids got some fried calamari) we headed back to the station to board the train for our next stop. I was a little surprised by the appearance of a freight train, which zoomed through our platform at full speed – scary when you’re waiting for your train with two hyperactive boys.
Cinque Terre Travel Tip – Mind the Gap!
When travelling to bustling places like train stations, roads and docks – keep an eye on your kids! Especially if they are younger children who are full of energy and can’t stand still. Not every tourist hotspot, not matter how picturesque, has the same safety health and safety standards you may be used to in your home country. Keep well within the safety lines and make sure your kids don’t get too close to the road/railroad tracks/water.
Cinque Terre Stop #2 – Rugged Riomaggiore
We boarded the first train that came along and got off at the next stop. Initially I wasn’t even sure where we were, but the street signs outside the train station helpfully informed we were in Riomaggiore, the last of the sequence of towns that make up the “five lands”.
Much like our whirlwind tour of Manarola, we walked through the charming old buildings and cobblestone streets and made a beeline for the coast, where once again we were greeted by enchanting views. The village’s colorful buildings nestled along the cliffs were picture-postcard perfect. Even the kids were impressed!
I should point out that we’re doing our tour of the five lands in reverse. We started off in Monterosso, which is the first of the five towns that make up Cinque Terre, but instead of working our way down, each town, we started off at the very end and made our way up back to Monterosso. Why do this? We wanted to avoid the cruise ship crowds who would be taking the more tradition route down the five towns. Were we successful? I’d like to think so – my wife Erika would probably disagree!
Cinque Terre Travel Tip – Be Spontaneous!
Sometimes the best part of travelling is to wing it! Board the first bus or train that comes by and see where it takes you. Have a vague plan and outline of what you want to do and where you want to go, but don’t be a slave to your itinerary! Explore, get lost, find your way again. The best travel memories come from unexpected stops and unplanned events.
Cinque Terre Stop #3 – Craggy Corniglia
We rushed back to the station and took the local train to the next stop in our whirlwind Cinque Terre tour: Corniglia. Unlike the other “five land” towns, Corniglia does not directly face the sea, but is built on a hill some ways up the train station. The two options to reach Corniglia is to hike up winding trails or take the shuttle bus. Since our day pass gave us access to the shuttle bus we opted for the latter – unfortunately so did everyone else who were visiting the town with us. The bus ride up the hill was picturesque, but crowded – we had about 40 people crammed into the tiny shuttle bus.
Cinque Terre Travel Tip – Buy the Day Pass
The Cinque Terre Card is a must when travelling across the Five Lands. It gives a family of four access to a variety of public transport options without having to buy tickets each time, saving time and money. With one pass you get access to the trains, shuttle buses, hiking walkways and even get free use of the train station restrooms. Prices vary by season, be sure to check the website for current pricing.
We explored the tiny town and took in the sea views – which were nice but not as spectacular as the ones in Manarola and Riomaggiore. I’m reluctant to say this but if you are short on time I would consider passing on Corniglia. It’s a charming little town and we are happy we visited but if you are on a cruise or have a limited amount of time I would consider other villages in Cinque Terre over Corniglia.
I say this based on our situation with kids and the limited time we had to see and experience everything. If you have the time and ability to hike there are some really cool trails to check out and explore around Corniglia.
Cinque Terre Travel Tip – Careful on the Hills!
The towns of Cinque Terre, while lovely, are built on hills and can be quite steep in places. A lot of the streets are on an incline and the narrow streets have steps built in for foot traffic – you don’t want to fall down any of them!
Hiking Downhill to the Corniglia Train Station
We decided to skip the bus to skip the bus and ended up walking back down to the train station. The line for the bus was huge and the entire walk down the hills was only about 15 minutes. One nice thing about hiking back to the station was that we were able to enjoy the countryside a lot more. The hills around Corniglia are covered in greenery and vineyards. We saw an old (presumably abandoned?) rail tracks used for hauling good up the hills.
We made our way back to the train station, tired but happy. Our Cinque Terre adventure continues in the next blog post – be sure to check it out! For more of our travel vlogs, click here.
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